Developing a voice: styling the author’s voice


As writers, no matter what we’re writing about, we need to develop our own style – that is our Author’s Voice. Your voice might be slow and in-depth, it might be fast-paced and generally quite light, or it might be dark and foreboding. Sometimes, it might even be mixed, depending on the nature of the story you’re writing.

Personally I find long-winded descriptions of the surrounds, being told every little detail, quite tedious. For me it doesn’t assist in picturing the world around the characters. I want to see what the world looks like; I want to be shown not told. I also want to see what the characters look like, and I want the story to move forward – but that’s me. Everyone has their own preference, and like it or not, you’re never going to be able to please everyone. It’s something we all struggle with whether we’re aspiring or published authors; at the point of writing I am still an aspiring fantasy author. I’m still working on developing the thick skin that’s necessary for when my writing hits the world.

My voice, I think, has a typical, swift pace and while I try to include adequate description, I endeavour to avoid adding too much. You could say that we write in the way that we want to read, and it has been said many times that if you don’t like the way other books are written, write the kind of story you want to read yourself.

Most friends or acquaintances who’ve read bits or even several chapters of my work in progress have complimented me, and said they’ve enjoyed my writing. A few, however, have had problems with, say, the names that I’d created, claiming they’re difficult to pronounce – I write fantasy. I’m writing in a world completely different from Earth; so my voice needs to reflect that as much as it needs to allow readers to relate. To read fantasy or even science fiction, you need to be aware that strange sounding or awkward names are going to be a likely and potentially abundant occurrence. Some people prefer basic names in fantasy because they feel strange and awkward names impact on their enjoyment, but others like the idea of those kinds of names, saying it allows them to immerse themselves in a world that is completely different from the reality where they exist – and that’s just one aspect of the development of my style.

I’ll admit that when those few people criticised me for names they felt where complicated, I was taken aback and suddenly felt myself wanting to please them, but if I did, I wouldn’t be being true to my world, my characters, or my story. I had to tell myself that my style is my style, and nobody should stop me from being true to myself as an author. So, write in the way you feel most comfortable.

How do you develop this voice though? What if you’re completely unsure of what’s right for you? Read. Admittedly, up until a couple of years ago, I’d spent several years not reading fiction at all. Part of me wanted to, but I didn’t. Why didn’t I then? I’m sure many will relate to this, but a lot of it was down to feeling inadequate; like my work was never good enough. Already published authors made me feel like giving up because they were already published and successful, and I sat there feeling sorry for myself. That gave way to envy, and that’s not good for any aspiring writer. I found my writing actually suffered. When I returned to reading, that all changed. But why did it change? It changed because I was gaining an understanding of different authors’ voices.

In the last year or so I’ve read the work of several different authors. Some I’ve quite liked, some I’ve tolerated, and others have made me groan or want to tear my hair out – but they have all had an influence on my style. I have borrowed some aspects of other authors’ voices; some aspects I knew I would completely disregard, and others to whom I have found myself comparing my own style. Reading the work of other authors is actually more beneficial than you might think, and it’s absolutely crucial in developing your voice. Write, edit, read, and refine, and continue writing, and you will gradually find your author’s voice.





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One Response to Developing a voice: styling the author’s voice

  1. Linda Pollock June 28, 2014 at 4:40 pm #

    Melissa, I like that you’re not afraid to state what’s right for you and sounds like you learned that the usual way – accepting your knocks! I too, have been “taught” several things just in the last two years after jumping from nonfiction to fiction, not among the least, how to take criticism, weigh it against what I envision, then check my vision for accuracy as well. Letting go of some methods, such as over-describing a scene is not easy for any writer. The way it appears in my mind so clearly may be all wrong for others. Now I concentrate on minimal description of the “scene” with just some key words so that the reader can fill in the blanks with his own imagination. Have I gone too far? The answer will be found after publication of my first fiction. Thanks for your article! – Linda

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