Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Voice is the last chapter in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King. I haven't gone through every page of the book with you, but touched on the highlights. It's worth purchasing for your writing library.

Here's a quote from the book: "A strong, distinctive, authoritative writing voice is something most fiction writers want - and something no editor or teacher can impart. There are, after all, no rules for writing like yourself. Voice is, however, something you can bring out in yourself. The trick is to not concentrate on it."

We all have unique experiences, lives, and personalities. This shapes and molds us into the people we are today. It's the same with voice. Voice is not how you talk. It's not style. It's your word choices, phrases and sentence composition. While your characters all need their own voices, your writing voice should still come out whether you are writing narrative, action or dialog. And the reader will have the feeling it was effortless on your part (which we know isn't true.)

Voice is developed by writing. Lots and lots of writing. When you begin to write, don't think too hard about how you want to say something. Just write it. A writing partner who is more experienced is a tremendous help.

Let's try something. I want you to write a sentence or two about someone walking in the rain. Let's see the difference in our voices. It will be fun.

On a business note: registration is open for the Greater Phila. Christian Writers Conference in August. I'm on faculty and am teaching the First Timers' Orientation and a workshop on The Hero's Journey for Teens Write. Check out the details here:

I look forward to seeing your sentences!


  1. "I tucked my cap firmly down over my ears, pulled my long coat more closely around my shoulders, and stepped from the inn into the teeth of the cold autumn drizzle."

    I've been puzzling over this challenge for days because much of my (planned and so-far) writing takes place in a country whose founding blessing is, in part, a water cycle that works without rain.

    And though it's true that "While your characters all need their own voices, your writing voice should still come out," and I indeed need to work at finding my own voice as a writer, for first-person and tight-third-person POV (which I'm trying to write) it should ideally be difficult to separate the POV character's voice from that of the author; one POV character shouldn't sound quite like another.

  2. You're right Jonathan - each character needs their own voice ... but even while we create different and unique characters, the choices we make in their voice reflects our own voice.

    Your sentence shows a great example of voice: "stepped from the inn into the teeth of the cold autumn drizzle." Can't you feel the bite of the dampness?

    Who else has a sentence to share?

  3. "I walked along with my hands shoved in my pockets, watching the rain hit the hot blacktop and hearing it hiss as it became a steamy fog in front of me."

    Yeah, that's the best I can do :3 It's been hot 'round here lately XD

  4. The rain poured down in sheets, chilling Starlin to the bone, and engulfing him in a white mist. He struggled to hear through the deafening rush of water. Shielding his eyes, he stayed focused on the whirlpool in the middle of the rapidly swelling river beneath him.

    That's the best I could do!I'm still working on voice.

    Q4u...The protaganist for my upper middle grade fantasy story is a girl (currently), do you think that boys won't read it because of that?

  5. That's a good first draft sentence, Elisabeth. I wouldn't change much - just maybe the hearing to listening. Like this: I walked along with my hands shoved in my pockets as I watched the rain hit the hot blacktop and listened to the hiss as it became a steamy fog in front of me.

    That's a bit long, but you get the idea. Nicely done.

    Rachel - your sentences are a good first draft, too. I might take out the white mist part and leave the sheets of rain. Watch out starting a sentence with an "ing" phrase, though. Your sentence would be stronger like this: He shielded his eyes as he focused on the whirlpool, etc. Nicely done, too. I'm fascinated with the whirlpool! :)

    And to answer your question: a boy would read a novel with a girl protagonist if she were VERY unique. Think Pippi Longstocking. And if you have a great male sidekick, you're in. That's what I'm trying to do with one of my novels. I have a female protagonist, but I also have a male almost-protagonist. My villian is also female. I've got good feedback from a couple of guys who have seen some of the chapters.

  6. I agree--listening does sound better :3 Thanks for your input!

    My MC is a girl as well... It's kind of hard to get my kid brother to read about her at this stage, but I'm trying to define her character and make it appeal to both girls and guys, not by making her a macho-tomboy,but by doing exactly what Pam suggests--making her VERY different :)

  7. Elisabeth - ask your brother to read some of it and give you suggestions about how he would make your protagonist more interesting to boys. You may not want to use everything he says, but it will help you development her to be more interesting to both guys and girls.

    Here are my sentences about walking in the rain:

    Jaycie crawled out of the hole. She stood with her arms raised, allowing the rain to wash away the dirt and horror of the night. She shivered, lowered her head, and ran blindly for home.

  8. Really nice, Mrs. Halter! Thanks for your suggestion. I'm experimenting with a male protag. The relationships are actually coming out stronger that way.

  9. That's great, Rachel! The fun of writing is we can experiment to our heart's content until we find what works for the story.