Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Great Voice

Voice is one of those literary terms that never seems to be explained well by anyone.  I've been cruising the internet for over three years, now, looking for a concise explanation as to what agents, authors, and readers mean when they say, "You need to create a unique voice."

Voice is, of course, something very specific, and it's vital to quality writing.  But all of the elements that it encompasses are hard to nail down at once.  Kinda like air.  We need air to live.  We know that air has oxygen, we know we can draw it into our lungs, and we know that without it, all life on this planet would cease to exist.  Of course, it's possible to find out exactly what air is, but it's not easy to do without the proper equipment.  (Remember, the oxygen in air is only one part of it.  There's also CO2, H2O, and many, many particles that could be floating around with the gasses that make up our atmosphere.)

As far as I've been able to discern, voice is that element of the writing that makes the narrator a character.  It's what turns the writing from academic formality to lyrical prose.  The word choices combined in the right pattern to make the reader believe that SOMEONE is telling them a story.  But telling them in a way that makes them LIVE it!

I want to discuss voice for a while, and I'd love to hear what you all think of when you hear that term.  Who can you think of who has a very distinct voice?  What sets them apart from the other authors who are out there?  Can you give an example of how their voice carries through their work in a manner that makes them recognizable, even without knowing that they wrote the piece beforehand?

We'll discuss this over the next couple of days, and then I'll give you my example on Friday.  Stay tuned... :D


  1. John Cusick's GIRL PARTS has an amazing voice. I've heard T. Mafi's SHATTER ME is also incredible, but I haven't read it yet.
    Voice is critical, but very very subjective. I don't love lyrical and flowery language, but many do.

  2. Christa, I know what you mean. If it's too flowery, it just gets boring. Just like simplicity can bore me as a reader, sometimes. "Her eyes looked like little, brown circles with a black dot in the middle" is not as enticing as "her eyes shone like cocoa." But much more than that and the description loses its magic. Kinda like a woman who wears WAY too much perfume. A little is great, too much is... well... too much.

  3. I can't really say that I've latched on to a voice that is distinct enough for me to recognize it by author...just in the feeling I get from the delivery. I've been told that Chuck Pulnachik (sp?) is supposed to have a distinct voice. But I haven't read any of his works to really say that for myself.

  4. Everyone loves different voices.
    That is all :)

  5. I find voice a really hard one to grasp. How do you make your writing voice stand out in a crowd?

    I like so many authors, it's hard to think of one specific voice that stands out to me. Two that pop into my head are Ally Carter and Simone Elekeles. But I couldn't definitely say that if I read any of their other work, I'd know it without seeing their name attached to it.

    A good concept to think about though.
    Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to Friday :)