Is Your Voice Shouting?

Are you stylish? I’m not talking about what’s in your closet, but about your narrative style. In Donald Maass’s book, The Fire In Fiction, he goes into the importance of a writer’s voice, how you tell your tale. He points out different ways to make your voice “shout out”.

GIVING CHARACTERS VOICE – This doesn’t mean just taking their dialogue and dialect and making it different, but it means their outlook…their take on life. You need characters who have a unique way of looking at things, without becoming cartoonish. Their opinions need to be heard, however different it is from the norm. Sometimes we make our characters “safe”, when we really should let them be real.

DETAILS AND DELIVERY – Maass asks why we avoid making a hero really different. He says, “Even the most ordinary people have a life that’s unique. The details that make it so are a secret source of what critics glibly refer to as voice.” Details are important. They give a story life and a voice. The way you state things, or the way your character speaks, gives your story its voice. It can be through syntax and/or details of what they say, do, or feel.

DIFFERENT WAYS OF RELATING STORY – Writers need to choose beforehand which POV and which tense to write from. There’s no right or wrong way, but whatever you choose, you need to go deep into it. Make the character real, flaws and all.

I think VOICE is such an elusive thing. While I don’t think your voice can be manipulated, I think Maass has some good suggestions for making your voice come through loud and clear. His ideas give a spring board to amplify your writing and letting you ….the real you…be heard.

It’s not just the words that make a writer’s voice unique. It’s all the little things like details, delivery, outlook, original perspective, opinions, etc, that make an author’s voice shout out.

I haven’t found my voice yet. Not sure how I would go about finding it, other than just writing alot. Just getting started in this journey, I feel I am whispering…a little bit afraid to speak up. Do you think you have found your voice? Is it shouting yet?

17 responses to “Is Your Voice Shouting?”

  1. I'm not always sure if we can “hear” our own unique voice. Sometimes it takes an objective reader to point out to us how they can “hear” it. And maybe we do start out soft, but the longer we write, the more confident we are in the craft, the louder our voice can grow.

    Looks like you're learning a lot from the book! Hope you're enjoying your summer!


  2. Hey Sherrinda! Can't wait to read this book. Some people have told me I have a strong voice, and others have told me my voice is muted. So…. I'm not very sure.

    I just ordered Finding your Writer's Voice on Amazon… I will for sure share the good on my blog! I'm hoping the activities and exercises help me to SHOUT! 🙂


  3. Jody, that is a great point. I think of American Idol and how some people cannot really “hear” themselves and what they really sound like. Of course, that could be bad, but I think you are right in how confidence makes a difference in how loud you are in your writing. With several ms behind you, you speak from experience! 🙂

    Katie! lol…sounds like differing opinions regarding your voice, just like I hear contest judging is sometimes. How do you really know who's right??? Can't wait to read about your new book on your blog!


  4. I definitely worry about my voice, especially when I read a book that has an amazing voice and I run back to my WIP and go – does my work jump out like that? I don't think I have enough distance, and like Jody said it's often other people who can pinpoint the quality of our voice for us.


  5. I don't agree that we have to “find” our voice as much as let our voice be heard. Rather than struggle through the writing searching to phrase things in our voice, I think we're better off just writing naturally and the voice will come through.

    Every storyteller has a distinct way they relate the story, but I think the best ones shine through because the author has broken past their own barriers and just let the work speak for itself, using the voice of the author as a mouthpiece. Great post.


  6. I agree with what Jody said. I don't think we always realize we have a unique voice unless someone points it out. And what appeals to one person may not appeal to someone else. So I think until we find the flow, until we know what works near perfect for us we need to concentrate on applying those things you mentioned. Being strong in our POV. Making a character unique and interesting.


  7. Voice is so difficult to define because from what I've heard, it encompasses EVERYTHING.

    When I try to relay my voice in my stories, I do it by being couragous and opening up who I am more. What weird questions spin in my mind, I try to incorporate in my stories through my character's voice. So hard to explain, but I do think that a strong voice comes from those authors who don't hide who they are from their story worlds.


  8. Megan, I don't think is voice something to worry about, since really, I don't think it is something that we “create”. It is just who we are that comes through. 😉

    Eric, I think you are right! I really believe it is something that just comes through and not something that we “add” to our WIP! Well said!

    Cindy, I know I need to keep working on the “craft” of writing, but sometimes I get too tense about all the “rules” and all the areas I need to concentrate on to the point I don't feel I am being ME anymore! Not good! And I think it muffles the “voice”.

    Eileen, well said, Eileen! We need to let ourselves come into and through our storyworld! I love that!


  9. Great post Sherrinda! I'm not sure I've made my characters unique enough. I think I have voice, though it's hard to see for myself. I think having someone tell you that you have a strong voice boosts your confidence (well, it did for me) and actually allows your voice to get stronger. Does that make sense?
    Thanks for this post! I hope my story shouts. 😉


  10. Jessica, my guess is that you have a GREAT voice, because your voice is unique in your blogging and your comments. You are “real” and approachable and I am sure that comes through in your writing as well!


  11. Sherrinda:
    I agree with Jody; others can sometimes hear our voice better than we can.

    I think I am 'in voice' most when the words fly out of my heart and onto the page, and when I make myself laugh. Then I know it's the Holy Spirit, not my little brain! When I look at something and say, “Hey, I'm not smart enough to think that; thanks, Lord!”


  12. This is something I'm working on cultivating with my characters right now (in my new WIP) I think I get the best inspiration from people I know and their own idiosyncrocies (sp, sorry) 😉


  13. A friend of mine wrote a couple of children's books. When I read her writing, I “hear” her voice. Not that all her characters sound alike – they don't. Yet, she has a distinctive way of phrasing and describing things.

    I'm not sure if this is what voice is all about, but that's the closest I can come to defining it.

    Susan 🙂


  14. Jeanette! I think that getting in the zone and letting your fingers fly would definitely help in getting clarity in your voice. So you make yourself laugh, huh? I love that!

    Oh T.Anne, I am so glad you don't live around me, for I would probably give you lots of fodder for your character's idiosynchrocies! lol My friends call me a dork to my face! 🙂 But then, I like to laugh and make people smile, so…dork I am.

    Susan, I also think voice is one of those elusive things. Hard to put your finger on, but you know it when you hear it!


  15. Thanks for stopping by to visit my blog and leading me to yours.

    Sometimes I think I've found my voice and other times I feel it's muted!

    I find my characters take on a voice of their own at times but I can hear me joining in with them. Even when I've written two of my short stories from a man's POV, I still can hear myself in the background.


  16. Hi Donna! I wonder if our voice is muted if we aren't as “into” our work as we are with other stories. I don't really know, not having written an abundance of stories, but it makes sense. Just a thought you provoked! 😉 Thanks for stopping by!


  17. Great post, Sherrinda! I love these things you share with us. And these are some really good thoughts on voice. It is an elusive thing, but reading these pointers helps me to see that my voice is coming through this last draft of my novel. Thank you!


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