Toolbox 20: Say, what?

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.


Does anyone else have trouble finding/sharing/maintaining a narrative voice?

It’s supposed to be familiar. Similar to our speaking voice.

Easily recognized by tone, phrasing, and specific word choices.

Some might recognize our voice by the abundance of profanity—think Margo in The Magicians—or lack of it. Professor McGonagall, I’m talking about you. We may get louder the closer to heart we are, or in some cases quieter.

We might color our language with our own kind of slang. I’m thinking TV’s Buffy and Firefly. Joss Whedon was a master. Some people still use the term ‘Scooby Gang’.

Unless they’re doing a Lemony Snicket, the writer shares as much about their likes and dislikes as the characters. Examples: Love of Scooby Doo, or the colorful addition of human or fairy anatomy.

Whether we mean to or not, our voices can add our assumptions and prejudices. Personal perceptions can be in every descriptor. Pet peeves or favorite outlooks influence our themes. Not intentionally but naturally. The words flow from our fingers like magic because we see the world uniquely and we feel the inner need to share what we believe in.

We feel. We color. We decorate our work.

And it is glorious!

Don’t edit it out. It may bring on feelings of insecurity, a need to pull back, or worry about going too far. It’s natural because if the voice is too close to home, we feel vulnerable.

With our voice out there for everyone to read, it could be criticized. Takes bravery to put our work out there as it is.

It’s hard to stick to our decision when we seek out feedback.

But should their opinions or our inner editor squash the nuance of voice? What would Joss say to that?

“What! No Scooby Gang.”

We may choose not to be the next Joss, or Lemony. Many authors use a more neutral voice. That’s fine too. Whatever works.

You want to use your own voice? Then give yourself the freedom to say it how you see it.

Any other voices out there? How about books on the subject? Feel free to share.

Gleaned from:

34 responses to “Toolbox 20: Say, what?

  1. Ronel Janse van Vuuren

    Great post. I haven’t though about voice in a long time… But I agree that somehow it just happens naturally 🙂

    Ronel visiting on Author Toolbox day 6 Tips to Think Like a Book Blogger

  2. I think voice happens naturally when we get in tune with our character. Happy Hop Day Anna 🙂

  3. I’ve been worried about the profanity in my book and I worry I’ll get criticized for it…but after I read this, I’ve decided to take a deep breath and be brave!

  4. “Voice” is always thrown around, and it seems like this intangible, mystical thing. This de-mystifies it some for me, so thank you!

  5. Great post. Author voice is something I still feel like I’m trying to find. In may be a forest for the trees in my case, but I don’t think I’ve found/tapped into mine yet. Someone that has read my work would maybe disagree. I know I do put life experiences into my characters, but I don’t think that’s the same thing.

  6. I agree narrative voice is hard to maintain. In Mary Karr’s book on writing memoir, she has a chapter that talks developing her voice in her memoir, The Liar’s Club. I highly recommend this craft chapter to anyone thinking about voice, even if you don’t write memoir. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  7. Just be sure all the characters don’t sound just like you.

  8. If anyone knows of any books about voice, I want to read them! Great post, Anna. 🙂

  9. I wish I could be the next Joss. I think I do a neutral voice most of the time.

  10. Oooh I love this post. I really struggled with maintaining my voice during the many rounds of edits I did on my first book, and doing so consistently. This is a great reminder of that struggle, to remain vigilant, as I begin drafting my second book. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Thanks for the freedom to use my voice.

  12. Books on voice? Tough question, because – as you say – we should each have our own unique voice (and so should our characters). One book I’d suggest is Verbalize by Damon Suede which I’m currently reading. He’s got a unique approach to characterisation that could help writers discover their character’s voices.

  13. Great post. I suspect the casual swearing among some of my characters may be due to my own voice…

  14. This one is easy for me! As a memoir writer, I always use my own voice – the sweet sentences and the bitchy bits. Unfortunately, as I had the need to cut down my work with many thousands of words, some of this voice was erased, as it doesn’t always add to the story. Life is about balance, and so is writing. 🙂

  15. Interesting post! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  16. mlouisebarbourfundyblue

    Hi, Anna! I enjoyed your post on voice, especially the paragraph about assumptions, prejudices, and perceptions. It’s hard to grapple with voice. I taught writing to second and third graders, and voice was the toughest trait to teach and to evaluate.

  17. Victoria Marie Lees

    “With our voice out there for everyone to read, it could be criticized. Takes bravery to put our work out there as it is.”

    Every memoir writer’s fear. Especially mine. Voice is like putting your own morals out there for others to possibly pick holes in them. This is why writers are so insecure. Or maybe it is only THIS writer–me–who is so insecure about it. All best to you, Anna!

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