“They have a strong voice,” a critic says. “Beautiful Voice,” says another. “I look for voice,” says an aquiring agent. “If it has voice I’ll look at it.” We all smile and nod. Yes. We will give you voice, even though we haven’t the faintest clue what you’re talking about.
What is all this talk about “voice” and how do I get one?
Voice: noun the sound or sounds uttered through the mouth of living creatures, esp. of human beings in speaking, shouting, singing, etc.
It has been something that I’ve been trying to decode ever since I started writing and I suspect many others are in the same boat, even the professionals. I know this because I listen to lots of successful authors, agents, and editors speak and they all stumble over the term. Voice is…style, but your very, very own. It’s so…personal. It is essence of the story. If your story had a smell, that would be your voice. Voice is…as undefinable as salt in your food. It’s not tangible, or visible, but you know it’s there, enhancing all the flavors it seeps into.
Well that’s helpful. But how does it get in there is the first place? Could I get a voice shaker please? Sprinkle it all over my book?
Voice: verb to give utterance or expression to; declare; proclaim
I am a singer. In that regard I’ve studied voice quite a bit. Each person’s speaking voice is unique. Some are deep and resonant. Others are light and fluttery, raspy, nasal, brassy. You can manipulate your voice, make it loud or soft, head voice, chest voice, belt or opera, but at it’s core your voice has it’s own unique qualities and as the singer improves in technique and style their voice becomes more evident.
Voice: idiom the still, small voice, conscience
In like manner I believe an author’s voice becomes more evident the mores they practice writing. Some writer’s have a very strong voice. We can get so attached to it and say “I want to write like that.” Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it isn’t all that impressive. Some people can imitate other singers voices and it is mildly entertaining, but is it ever as good as the real thing? No. We just applaud you for your ability to imitate so well and then wonder what your voice is really like.
Voice: noun the right to present and receive consideration of one’s desires or opinions
And so after I’ve searched the dictionary, and have searched relentlessly for my own, I finally discovered what I was doing wrong. I was looking at everyone else, trying to decode their voice to define my own. It’s kind of like looking everywhere for your favorite pen and finally you realize you stuck it behind your ear. Duh.
Voice is your soul, written out on the page. And the way to find your voice is to not worry about it. Just keep writing. Just tell your story, paint your picture, dance your dance as clearly as you can and with all the energy you possess. Let the story come from you, from your own soul and no one else. When you do this your voice will come, intangible, undefinable, but people will recognize it and know it is there, enhancing every word and bringing your story to life.