Voice is the unicorn of writing.
Seriously. Everybody wants it, most people aren't sure what it looks like and it's rumored to have all kinds of magical powers.
Such as the ability to sparkle and to fight bulls that are MADE OF FIRE.
Voice trumps almost everything. But for such an important part of writing, it's very difficult to pin down. What IS voice exactly?
Webster's isn't very useful here. The closest definition that it has is this one :
Definition of VOICE
3: an instrument or medium of expression
Wikipedia is closer, but still not much help.
Writer's voice is the literary term used to describe the individual writing style of an author. Voice was generally considered to be a combination of a writer's use of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works).
Could that be more vague? (Answer: no.)
Here's what I think:
When we talk about voice, we're actually talking about two separate things: the voice of the writer and the voice of the character.
The voice of the writer is...well...how you write. How you put sentences together, what kind of words you choose, how much description you use. We'll talk about that later in the series, but basically, it's something that only comes with practice. Much like being a graceful dancer.
|found at flicker.com|
You gotta make it look easy.
The voice of the character is a bit different. It is (I believe) what many agents and editors talk about when they use the phrase "I loved the voice". It's what makes YOUR character sound unique, and therefore pulls the readers in.
The problem with trying to define voice is that it's such an abstract concept. So we're going to make it concrete. I'm going to SHOW you, using paragraphs from lots of different books and different authors exactly what we mean when we say voice.
(Or at any rate, what *I* mean when I say voice. As with everything else on the Internet, your mileage may vary.)
Any questions? How would you define voice?
You can find the rest of the voice series here:
Talking about Voice, part 2: Three authors, three books
Talking about Voice, part 3: One author, three books
Talking about Voice, part 4: Viewpoint voices
Talking about Voice, part 5: Differences in character dialogue
Talking about Voice, part 6: Helpful links