Narrative Voice

How to Develop Your Individual Voice As a Writer

Several years ago, when I was editing the newsletter of a local writers' organization, a business trip took me to New York. Seizing the opportunity, I extended my visit by several days and set up interviews with a dozen fiction editors at major publishing houses. Later I wrote up our discussions in a market report for my fellow members.

One question I asked the editors was what they look for in a work of fiction, what qualities would land a manuscript in the "buy" pile. They concurred on four points:

• Characters who come to life,

• An intriguing subject or background, and

"Voice?" I asked. "What do you mean by voice?" They answered with lots of hemming and hawing. Not one of them could come up with a definition, but every one cited it as a major element in the stories that grabbed them. They agreed that voice, whatever it is, makes a story distinctive and unique. A powerful voice lifts the story above the crowd of pages that editors read and makes it linger in memory. One reason editors seek it out is because it can lead to good reviews and stronger sales for the work in question.

Since then I've thought a lot about the elusive quality called voice. If it is so important to a successful story, I want to make it sing in my own stories and also help other writers understand it.

What Is Voice?

Voice, I've concluded, is different from the other four main ingredients of fiction. Character, conflict, plot, and setting, taken together, are the story. Voice is how you tell it.

Voice is the manner in which you combine ideas and language to create a dramatic effect or elicit the desired response from the reader.

Voice is the sum of all the decisions you make, consciously and unconsciously, about words and paragraphs and rhythm and tone and style.

Voice is the way you imbue the story with your singular perspectives, insights, and attitudes.

Voice is what makes your writing sound like you.

0 0

Post a comment