Wednesday, 25 April 2012

V is for Voice

Much is made on writing courses about developing your voice, your unique pattern of using dialogue, syntax, punctuation and vocabulary that is distinctively you. The problem is, we don't always hear our own voice, as distinct from our favourite writers, we just know we don't match up to them. We are influenced by them, but mostly unconsciously. I know if I read something like Emma Darwin's The Mathematics of Love (a five star read, by the way), I unconsciously pick up a little of her style and pace. It's like spending the weekend in Ireland, you come back with a  trace of an accent. Then it fades and a new writer influences your voice. I can almost pick out what I was reading while I'm bombing through a  first draft, where I listen to myself the least.

Then the characters have voices, too. My historical narrators speak to me the loudest, especially as two of them are first person narrators. Kelley's voice, in Borrowed Time, is so loud in my head I write him twice as fast as anyone else. I feel like I've found out about him as the chapters went on, a picture forming in my head that doesn't feel like all mine. Vincent's love for Viola, his brother's child, is so much that of a doting father it shines through his grumpiness. Somehow I have a grumpy old man lost in my head, who can be snappy. The one character who is quiet, is my main character Jack, who would probably not speak much anyway if she was real. She occasionally wanders into the study to stroke the cat, look at the books, and sit in the window looking over the garden. 


  1. Most of us are usually unaware of our own 'physical' speech accent - likewise with my writing, I don't really know what it sounds like.

    I can recognise the differences in other writers, they way they construct their sentences and paragraphs; how they like to use tenses, etc.

    As for me - it's usually just what 'feels' right! I will spend a fair bit of time reorganising a sentence to make it sound less 'clunky' - there, I suppose that's part of my 'accent'!

    Just dropped by on the blog-hop via the 'surprise me' button! Thanks for making me stop and think - now I shall be analysing my 'voice'.....!
    Happy A-Z'ing, anyway!

    SueH I refuse to go quietly!
    Twitter - @Librarymaid

  2. Hi Sue, analysing your voice can make you self conscious, I find! Good to look back sometimes at what really felt right and flowed naturally, perhaps. Love your blog...though I don't knit, I am a crochet ninja...

  3. Hi Reb - hope you don't mind this but I read a blog post today from a debut author about the first year since she got a book deal and it reminded me of you, some of the things she said I thought you might find comforting - especially about the 'totem pole' (will become clearer...) Made me think of the feelings you talked about with having the agent, and the 'J is for Jealousy' post.

    Here's the link anyway:

    1. Thank you Teresa, wow, that sick feeling may not be going away soon, then! I do feel nervous just not knowing what's going on. My agent's been busy with another client, but I didn't know that, and I started to panic. I think I need to grow a way thicker skin. One piece of advice that I definitely took on board - carry on writing, don't just sit and wait. Thank you for the link, which I will pass on to a friend in a similar position! Looking forward to good news from your camp somewhen soon.

  4. I don't write -well, not stories, well, I sort of do but they are all inside my head. I think this is why my 'voice' tends to be pretty much the same as my 'real voice'! But I am hoping I will come to know this mysterious voice you speak day.

    1. Then that is your voice - it's just unconscious. We all write slightly differently from the way we speak, we leave out all the ums and ahs for a start. But if you set out to tell the story of Goldilocks, for example, and so did I we would have the same story, but very different ways of telling it. Which is great!