Understand what voice is
Voice is the personality behind your writing, the thing that makes readers recognize your work even when they don’t recognize the byline. Many things contribute to voice: sentence structure, word choice, mood, tone, and more—so by definition, all books have voice. But not all of them have really standout voices; the writing may be clean, but it lacks personality. But a unique and strong voice is priceless; it can make a book un-put-down-able regardless of plot.
Train yourself to recognize a strong voice
This is easy, like if you read a lot or whatever. I mean, anybody can tell the difference between Ray Bradbury and Doug Adams and Earny Heming-whats-it, even if you throw out the plots. You just gotta know how to listen. Like, Bradbury is real poetic and descriptive and stuff. He can take you right back to summer vacation even if you’re freezing your toes off in December. Adams just thinks the whole universe is a joke, which makes him kind of depressing and really funny at the same time. And Heming…the Old Man and the Sea guy? He cuts out all the fancy words and just tells a simple story, but it’s pretty deep and stuff. I’ll post some little word clippy things next week so you can see what I mean.
Remember, your narrator is a character, too
If you are behooved to write in the first person—telling the tale through, for instance, the eyes of your protagonist—you have certainly delved into that character’s innermost thoughts. But have you skewed every line of narrative with a unique, stylistic flourish?
Worse, a third-person writer may not have dreamed there was another character waiting to be tended to. But even a narrator who never steps upon the threshold of a single scene, is as vital as your hero—nay, perhaps more so. He is the voice within the reader’s ear. The eye peeking over their shoulder. Wouldst thou really let him wallow in commonplace prose?
Naturally, he must come from within you, and thus must start out as a part of you. Mayhaps he is an uttermost extreme version of a one side of yourself. Or mayhaps he is the darkest corner of your mind. Mayhaps he is the wit you wish you were. Ask yourself why he is telling the story. To entertain? To teach? To confront? To rant? Why does he bother himself to write it all down?
You may write in his voice all the time, or you may change narrators, as you would shoes, for each story you write. But whatever you do, do not let him (or, as it may be, her) become a bore.
When write long piece, piece like novel, you maybe accidentally write different voices. Maybe you read this book when you write chapter one, make you write one way. Maybe you listen to this song when you write chapter two, make you write another way. Then you go back, you read different voices, you see one you like, you write again to make all sound like voice you like. But you should try do more.
Take paragraph, write five different ways. Like a different person write each one. Maybe one a scared little child. Maybe one a drama queen. Maybe one a angry man. Or a alien. Or Death.
Find voice you like? Write more. Write whole scene.
We go deeper in voice experimentation in two weeks.
Come on people. You should have guessed this one. Did you not read the title of this website? What is wrong with you? Finding your voice isn’t as easy as changing a word or two. Oh-ho, of course you wish it was. But we can’t all have what we wish for, now can we? You’re going to have to go over that baby a few times, maybe alotta times, before it sounds peachy-keen. You should already know this. Why are you still reading?