Voice is one of those elements in writing that could be a little confusing because it has a different interpretation depending on who you ask.
Some people believe that voice is “Internal” – coming from your emotions or psyche, while others define it as “External” – manufactured and created to fit a topic or subject.
What is voice?
Writer’s Voice is the individual writing style and personality of an author manifested through their writing. Their syntax selection, pacing, tone, sentence structure, metaphors, dialogue, point of view all affect their voice. Writers Voice is usually developed and more identifiable over a body of several works.
Just like a trombone has a different personality than a tuba, an author brings in their life experience, their attitude into their books and their voice adds that special flair which makes it unique.
Voice is what Simon Cowell is talking about when he tells American Idol contestants to make a song their own and not just do a note-for-note karaoke version.
A parallel to branding
Let’s switch gears a little bit into the world of marketing.Coca-cola, Gap, Apple, Target, – these companies focus a lot of time and resources into creating a unique voice for their brand.
Are they trying to project passion, loyalty, fun, bold, authenticity, quirkiness, professional, high-end?
Finding the right words to define the voice will determine their company’s values and how they tell their story.
This same idea can apply to writers and artists.
Can voice change from one book to another?
Some writers have a distinct identifiable voice that shows through all their works. But other writers are also able to flip a switch and change their voice.
Since voice reflects our mood & other personal characteristics at a certain time in our life, as we grow, our voice can also change. Our writing voice when we were 18 might be different compared to our writing voice in our 40’s.
Another thing to consider is that the books themselves might dictate a particular writing voice. A fantasy book might have a different voice than a sci-fi book, a children’s book etc. A dark story that builds tension will be different from fast paced story. The voice from a perspective of a teen will be different from the voice of an elderly character.
How does voice translate to artists?
While writers use words to describe the details of a story, artists use the visual medium to do so. This is where I feel that Art Style is the equivalent of Writer’s Voice.
There are certain artists out there who can be easily identified by their distinct voice. You can do this by observing their use of color palettes, shapes, line thickness and even subject matter.
Just as Dr. Seuss draws in a certain style, Tim Burton also draws in his own unique style.
And just like Writer’s Voice, the artist can grow over time and slowly change their style. And it’s usually only through a retrospective look can we determine the unique style that have lasted throughout the artists growth.
Why is voice important?
Voice is important because it sets you apart from the rest, it becomes an extension of who you are just like your clothes, hobbies, or your favorite color. It adds a flair and a unique personality to what could be an other wise boring read.
When it comes to submitting to editors, agents, or art directors, consider that are also looking closely for a unique voice. Imagine that they spend hundreds of hours looking at various writing and art styles — what can you show them that will set you apart?
Remember that voice is also a subjective matter and what might work for a particular editor, might not be fancied by another.
The most important thing though is having a voice that clicks with the audience. It makes your book easier to read. It allows your reader to connect with the story in a deeper level than just the text or picture on a page.
How to find your voice
It’s a tricky subject because different people will obviously have a different voice. It’s a culmination of our life experiences, our passion, our likes and dislikes.
Like I said earlier, voice is developed overtime and the more confident you are in your writing or drawing style the more prominent and visible your voice will be.
Some helpful tips to find and develop your writing voice
- Describe your core personality
Are you funny, quirky, proud, aggressive, talkative, quiet? Once you’ve identified your traits, ask your friends to do the same. You might be surprised that some of their descriptions might be the exact opposite of how you describe yourself. Try to find out why that is.Does your writing exemplify the same personal traits that you’ve written down? Is it something that’s real to you or are you trying to force a different voice?
- Be conscious of how you talk and words you use
How do the words you use translate into your writing? Do you want to change it or are you happy with it? Depending on what you’re writing, your vocabulary might not be adequate to properly tell the story. Study and collect new words and use the ones you like.
- What are your favorite books?
What genre do you gravitate towards? Are you more of a horror person, fantasy, ya, sci-fi? Each of these genres have a unique voice and figuring out which one you like can identify the voice that you most easily relate with. Once you’ve done that, try to implement that particular genre’s style into your writing and art.
- What kind of art do you like?
Identify how the artist create shapes, use colors and textures. Learn from them and try to emulate them.
- Write down a list of top movies that you like.
Observe the characters you love and find out how they talk and act. Is there a narrator in the movie that speaks in a unique way?
- Think of it like a puzzle.
Artists and Writers are puzzle makers and puzzle solvers. But there is not a single way to solve the same problem. For example, if you ask 10 writers to write the story of Goldilocks, you will most likely have 10 different variations of the same story. The perspective changes, the dialog changes and even the visual description changes. If you ask 10 artists to draw a dog, they will most likely give you 10 different variations. Each of these are a puzzle that the creative person solves in their own unique voice and style.
- Which writers or artists do you aspire to be?
Observe and try to find what makes their voice unique. How does your favorite writer form a sentence, write dialogue or structure a story. Do they like to put a twist in the end? Do they love doing flashbacks? What words or phrases are repeated? Are they obsessed with long dialogue? Does your favorite artist draw the same character in many of his or her works? Do they enjoy using a certain style or color? What tools do they use when they paint?
- Keep creating and experimenting. Try something new every time.
- Who is your audience?
Figure out the most effective voice to connect with them. What vocabulary do they use?
- Get into character.
Some of you may be familiar with Method Acting, it’s when an actor puts themselves in the same situations as the characters, so they can give an authentic portrayal. This same technique can also apply to writers and artists. Experiencing the place or the moment with all your senses will give you inspiration and real emotion to draw from when you write or paint.
- Just Let loose.
Sometimes getting down and dirty, making a lot of mess and breaking a lot of eggs is what you need to do to find out who you really are. Just do it.
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