We expand on aspects of this “voice” thing, HERE
And while I and everyone else will tell you to develop your own unique voice, nobody really tells you where to find it or how to develop it.
Your voice is largely a manifestation of your personality.
When you watch a TV show, what types of jokes make you laugh?
Who was the funny parent in your household? Usually it’s the dad. What was something you could always say to your dad that would make him laugh, or what was a funny thing that happened that you did that busted dad up?
If you could watch any two or three movies in the entire world that were ever made and snap your fingers and have them be on TV right now, what movies would they be?
Who’s the better band, The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?
Do you care what the Kardashians are doing?
These things add up. Bear with me.
About Voice in Writing…
When you read a book are there certain phrases that jump out at you? Like when Hemingway starts The Old Man And The Sea or The Sun Also Rises, did you love the fun, rambling prose or did you find it intense and terse?
The things that you like and the choices that you make are what will create your voice when you sit down to write things – if you can relax, be yourself, and let them.
I love comedies. When I go to write a comedy, I don’t steal lines from my favorite movies, but the ones that made me laugh are certainly going to be the ones that I’m going to emulate – the same way that a baseball player might want to emulate his favorite pro player. Do you want to be like Babe Ruth or Pete Rose (without the illegal gambling thing, and the whole “banned for life” stuff)?
The idea is, your whole life you’ve been collecting things that make you unique in your personality, and you demonstrate them in lots of ways…
When you’re done chatting with somebody on Facebook for the night, how do you say goodbye? Do you use a thumbs up emoticon to say you’re done? Do you use emoticons at all? (I typically do not because I always hit the wrong one because I have clumsy thumbs and I end up flipping off somebody when I’m trying to wave at them or whatever – I don’t even know ‘cause I don’t use emoticons!)
When you put your kid to bed at night is there something you always say? Or do you always do a prayer?
Do you pray before you eat dinner when you are at a restaurant in public?
Do you sing happy birthday when everybody else is, or do you just kind of lip synch – or are you leading the pack?
Those types of things are what should manifest your voice in your stories
When you go to describe a tree, you’re going to do it the way you love reading it. So if that was Hemingway, you’re going to write it in a Hemingway-esque style.
Same with a sunset or whatever. You may decide trees and sunsets are not worth describing your story. In which case that will be your voice, the lack of descriptions.
People who read my stories typically feel a voice within the first chapter. They will say I love children, I don’t do a lot of describing of stuff, but when I do I take a picture and I put you there like I am placing a beautifully detailed postcard in front your face. As a result, the contrast tends to stick out.
Because I love children, my characters’ interactions with children are unique and memorable, and mainly they’re memorable in that they’re often funny. I think kids say cute things so my characters’ conversations with children tend to emphasize and highlight the cute things kids say.
Somebody else who loves cats might really take a long time to talk about a cat. I won’t. Ever.
The easiest wait for me to tell you to see your voice would be to go into one of your chats on Facebook with one of your close friends. Could be a friend from high school, could be an author friend, it could be in emails, it could be on Twitter.
Grab one of your conversations that goes back-and-forth. If you ever talk to somebody for more than five minutes on Twitter or any other social media, more than likely you started exhibiting your personality in your words.
That is your voice.
What kinds of questions you ask them, what kind of answers you gave, the topics you chose to talk about, the time of day or night that it was, and how open and honest you wanted to be; if you were to take that section going back and forth between the two of you and copy-paste it into a MS Word document, you would see your voice.
You may not even recognize it because it’s so close to you.
On the other hand, I bet 10 of your friends would be able to read it and say that is definitely something Dan would say.
Or more likely something Dan should not be saying.
The point is, we express ourselves constantly as writers – in our voice.
How you develop it is, you practice it. Not every character can or should have your identical voice. They will all have a hint of it, because you are the author, but you can usually have one character who is the embodiment of each facet/multiple facets of your personality. The witty person is going to be the funny you. The sarcastic person is going to be sarcastic you. The thoughtful character is going to be the thoughtful you.
Then of course there will be characters you find the opposite of you, or whose characteristics you despise – that you despise, not that everyone would despise. Because it’s your decision as to what is despicable, and therefore another part of your voice.
Like some people would find the use of the phrase “as to what” despicable, and others wouldn’t use the word despicable. That’s part of my voice, using big words (appropriately).
So while they were all you, they’re also made up; you’re not going to have them embody your most embarrassing aspects, probably – although if it’s rolled into the character you have to be brave enough to do it and put it on display. People will think you made it up. They don’t need to know that you actually did slip and fall on the staircase and break your tailbone and have to walk around like a pigeon for six weeks
And, no, that did not happen to me. As far as you know.
It really didn’t.
It did not!
The more you write, the more your voice will manifest itself until one day you’ll see it in your writing as plain as the nose on your face.
If you ever have any doubts about where to find it, now you know where to look.
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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Check out his other works HERE.