On Voice

“I’ll be so annoyed if our speaker talks about ‘voice,'” said a writer-friend.

Sort of amazed me. At the same time, I can understand how frustrating hearing about voice can be. It’s like saying a romantic interest has that certain je ne sais quoi.

Turn on a radio. If you’re lucky, the dj will be playing a rockin’ tune by an amazing artist. If you’ve heard that artist before, and if they made an impact, you will know who they are with or without the dj announcement. Even if you’ve never heard that song, the tone of voice, style of music, lyrics and message will tell you who is singing.

In the same way, every writer possesses a unique voice. Literary “voice” means we can read an unidentified paragraph by Hemingway and know it is a paragraph by Hemingway.

Voice allures us into reading stories. It provides that elusive “something” that publishers are looking for. And why not? If I hear of a new Vonnegut or Rowling book, I want to read it, to listen to that writer’s voice between the words. The story has an arc and plot, but they exist only to carry the author’s voice.

So how can a writer empower her voice? It takes confidence and sure, inspiration, but voice comes from within. Remember what you’re writing is only a vehicle for it. But I believe that there is more logic to it than people like to admit:

– Any human has a voice. We all have unique perspectives on life, personal issues we feel strongly about.

– Every writer has a style they write best in. That’s no excuse to stagnate. Like with any profession, writing requires you to stretch, reach for your best, and keep innovating. You also have to keep venturing through life. Those experiences deepen your voice.

– As important as your perspective is the vehicle you choose for expressing it. If you don’t feel some sort of passion for the piece you are writing then your voice will not shine.

Synchronicity between your perspective, the vehicle and style is only half of the equation.

– The other half is relevance. What is it about your unique life experience, your perspective, that the world needs to hear? This comes from outside the author but is also built from within. From refinng yourself, finding th right connection to your READER.

And perhaps that’s the best place to leave “voice,” with a reminder that any voice is only half the conversation. Readers finish the story. 

What do you think of literary voice? 

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