There has been so much written about writer’s voice that it can sometimes be difficult for a beginning writer to understand. Sometimes even the most successful, published and accomplished authors strive to fine-tune and maintain the writer’s voice it has taken them years to develop.
For many, finding one’s voice in writing is the single and most crucial obstacle that stands in their way of achieving literary success.
Only when one finds the voice that lies within can they begin to write in a style and flow that is unique and easily identifiable as their own, and which will never be mistaken as having been written by someone else.
A perfect example of writer’s voice being recognizable is when you read a newspaper or online column. Columnists and opinion writers can easily be identified by their very own, unique writing style and by the way they convey their thoughts to their readers.
For example, humor columnist, Dave Barry, is famously known for his quick-witted, and hilarious parody on life. Political columnist, Charles Krauthammer, is renowned and respected for his political analysis, and New York Times columnist, Maureen Dowd, is notorious for the way she uses popular culture to enhance and support her insightful commentary.
All of these columnists have one thing in common, which is that they have all developed a voice that is easily recognized as their very own.
Another well-respected columnist is, Suzette Martinez Standring. Suzette is a spiritual and syndicated columnist and the author of the two best-selling books, “The Art of Column Writing” and “The Art of Opinion Writing.” In an interview, I asked Suzette a few questions about how aspiring writers can develop a voice that is solely their own.
“Suzette, how would you personally define writer’s voice?” I asked her.
“Joseph, voice is a writer’s personality in print. It is the writer’s individual style of communicating. Ideally, a reader can identify a writer’s voice even without a byline.”
“Is writer’s voice the same as writing style, or is it a mixture of personality and style?”
“Voice is a mixture of personality and style which is edited to be more concise. Many successful writers insist the way they speak is the same as their writing voice.” Suzette said.
I then asked her about that special moment that all writers say they experience when their writer’s voice begins to break out of its shell.
“Was there a special moment for you, Suzette, when you had finally found your own, unique writer’s voice? How did it feel? Was it an excited, physical sensation that many writers say they felt at that time?”
She smiled for a second, obviously thinking back to that exhilarating moment.
“I first began writing a humor column around 1999, and the positive response was my inkling that readers liked my voice. It was an incomparable high, a moment of recognition! Readers would talk to me at the supermarket or in public as if they knew me personally. I realized then that a writer’s voice is a powerful tool toward connection.”
“Suzette, what is the most important advice you can give an author for when they become frustrated in developing their own writer’s voice?”
“Write to entertain yourself. Stop worrying about how the invisible “they” will respond. Authenticity and being vulnerable in print is key, and it’s scary enough without the added pressure of second-guessing every last word you write. If it moves you, most likely your reader will also be moved.”
If you are familiar with the tone and characteristics of the way someone close to you speaks, then you can understand the concept of writer’s voice.
Writer’s voice is the written translation of a person’s individual and unique ideas, and how they convey it to the reader.
If someone said to you, “Who do you think wrote this sentence? Was it your mother or your father?
“I don’t succumb to my child’s pessimistic views; instead I accept them as a challenge!”
That statement alone conveys intimate, personality traits of one of your parents. Although you have not heard them speak those words, you still instinctively know which parent probably wrote them down.
HOW TO FIND VOICE
Most successful writers will agree that there are three, fundamental ways writers find and develop their writer’s voice.
1. They Write The Way They Speak To Others.
2. They Write In A Way They Do Not Speak To Others.
3. They Write The Way They Speak To Themselves.
I found my own writer’s voice by writing the way I talk to myself – not the way I speak to others. I prefer to do this because that is where the deepest and most intimate thoughts of my subconscious reside. I found that by tapping into those inner thoughts my writing communicates in a more open and personal tone to the reader. By doing so, I am being completely honest and personality-driven by the way I express my feelings.
In addition, by throwing in each article or post a humorous nuance, I immediately add to it a readily identifiable signature that will quickly be tagged as my own.
What Writer’s Voice Should Accomplish
An author wants their words to show emotion, reflect character, and to connect with the reader, in a way, that a bland, academically written post or article never will.
Voice should be an expression, not a lecture.
Readers love to read an article that relates to them on a human level. Leave the academic or expository writing for the proper forums. You want your reader to enjoy your voice, not work hard to understand what it is you are trying to say.
Keep Your Voice Legal
Of course, when one uses their writer’s voice, they should remain cautious of what and how they write. In opinion writing, literary license is a convenient tool, but legal liability issues also need to be observed. Make sure that your voice is expressive, not libelous or slanderous.
Here are 10 ways writers can find and develop their own writer’s voice. Some of these may be helpful to others, some may not. The important thing to remember is that voice is the expansion of your thoughts and feelings to the outside world. It is the way you see the world around you, not the way other people view the world.
10 WAYS TO FIND WRITER’S VOICE
1. Be Original And Creative In Developing Your Style. Try different styles and tones of writing. You can be witty, charming, funny, serious, blunt and to the point or you can speak in an optimistic or controversial way.
2. Put Yourself Out There (Don’t Hide In Fear.) Voice is when you place yourself naked on the page for everyone to see. It is where you transmit not only personality, but also personal fears, experiences, beliefs and convictions. Readers want to identify with the writer who is talking to them, not the one who is hiding meekly in the background.
3. Be Bold, Daring And Courageous. Some people may not like your style, but others may enjoy it and see it as refreshing. When you are willing to edge closer to the cliff without falling off, you will invoke more interest from your readers and gain faithful followers. Readers respect and admire writers who speak their mind and give them something to ponder over. If there is something you want to say – then say it, and do not worry about the person who will view your voice negatively.
4. Emulate Other Writers. If you have trouble finding your own writer’s voice, copy the voice and style of other writers you admire. Voice is not something that can be copyrighted, plagiarized or patented. By taking parts of other writers’ voices, you can eventually integrate them into one of your very own.
5. Bring Something New To Your Reader. Saying the same thing that others have said dozens or thousands of times over will not make your voice stand out in the crowd. In any area of writing, being original and communicating in a new perspective is the best way attract more readers and gain a following.
6. Be Entertaining. People love to laugh, so if you are writing humor always think funny. Did it make you laugh as soon as it came to your mind? Did it still make you laugh the next day? Showing the humorous side of one’s self is a great way to convey originality and transfer it into voice and style. Even if what you are writing about is not comedy, you can still throw humor into the topic with short, comedic quips from time to time. (This trick is my favorite and one that my readers expect from me.)
7. Know Your Audience. Write to your readers on a level they can easily understand. Do not preach or talk down to them. People are reading your post or article to be entertained or learn something that only you can bring them in your own, unique style.
8. Keep Reaction Records. If you noticed that one particular style of writing gets more attention from your readers then use it more often. That may be the winning voice you have been trying to achieve all along. Sometimes our readers see something in our writing that we as writers fail to notice. By paying attention to their reactions, we can develop our voice into a style that pinpoints exactly what captures our reader’s interest.
9. Be Tricky, Cunning And Loud. Have you ever read something and suddenly cocked your head back? That is a writer’s ingenious way of getting your attention. Readers who fall asleep halfway through your article do so because your voice begins to sound boring. They do not care what you have to say anymore. Hit them with shock and awe – they will love you for it and keep coming back for more.
10. Consistency Is Key. Like music lovers flock to a particular artist, readers click to their favorite blog or newspaper column every day. When I lived in NYC, I would buy the NY Post each morning and flip to Andrea Peyser’s column. The way she wrote about politicians, and outlandish celebrities satisfied my belief that all celebrities are egomaniacs and that all politicians are crooks.
There is no winning formula for voice – there is only guidance and the experiences and advice from other successful writers. It is something that if you strive hard enough to find and develop, you will eventually perfect.
Never give up, and remember that your own distinctive voice is something that belongs only to you. When you discover it, do not hesitate to use it and share it with the rest of the world.
Joseph E. Rathjen is a freelance writer, book author, blogger and an Opinion Writer at 1World Online – America’s Fastest Growing Social Research Engine
© Joseph E. Rathjen – All Rights Reserved – 2014