How To Find Your Voice

scared%20momOne of the most unique things about a writer is his or her own unique way of saying the things they want said. Their voice.

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.

Until now.

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.

I can find it, I know I can. I wrote 35,000 words this weekend. IT'S IN THERE SOMEWHERE!
I can find it, I know I can. I wrote 35,000 words this weekend. IT’S IN THERE SOMEWHERE!

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?

Happy birthday!
Happy birthday!

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.

What's not to love?
What’s not to love?

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.

I wonder, would that work?
I wonder, would that work?

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.

I despise you, character!
I despise you, character!

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.

Really.

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.

.

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

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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.

22 thoughts on “How To Find Your Voice

    • Then you’re doing it right. Your readers will like it, too.

      Your post on serials was brilliant. I had a conversation with another author about that very thing a few days ago and I was considering it for my latest story, so we’ll see how that goes. Should be an interesting conversation.

      BTW I never thought much about my writing voice until an author friend said she could pick my story out of a stack. That opened my eyes to the power of voice.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Awesome, I’m excited to read Poggibonsi and hear your voice. haha And I’m really glad you like the idea of bringing back the serialized novel. It does seem to be an opportunity that more writers should be taking advantage of. I like getting back to classic ideas in modern times.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Great post, Dan! And I can definitely spot your voice…It’s very real and unique (in a good way).
    For me, finding my voice as a writer was difficult… until I stopped looking for it. When I started writing as though I were talking to someone, telling him my story, my voice seemed to find itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Linda.

      Usually I come up with “these” posts by reading a story by a new author and doing a critique. They will often thank me for the input and ask me some basic questions in a follow up email, or having read their story/chapter/whatever, I see things they need help with. Many, many things are a mountain until you do them once and then you’re like, wow, that wasn’t such a big deal. Terrifying beforehand, petty afterwards.

      After a while I saw the same issues in the writings of new authors – the same issues I struggled with not that long ago. Some smart, generous people helped me; I try to pass that along. Instead of a new author having to piece it all together from a zillion different places, they can get a lot of it here, and get it in a friendly atmosphere surrounded by friends, many of which want to know the same stuff.

      It’s not that we don’t all have questions, it’s that so many of us are afraid to ask them for fear of being embarrassed.

      So I use the questions, answer them as best as I can, and look for the rest of you to chime in and offer your 2 cents. That way a new author gets a variety of good choices and can pick what works best for them!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Food for thought Dan and an interesting perspective. When I write I am always conscious of the way I present the piece and often beat myself up over repetitive phraseology or over descriptive passages. Now you got me thinking maybe that’s just my voice coming through. I instinctively write as though I am having a conversation imaging the reader speaking back saying WTF are you talking about. Then I have to make sure I got the message across. I hope you see what I mean!!!!!!! Can’t find a suitable emoticon to sign off with. So just thanks I enjoyed the post will have to suffice. James

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, James. NOT using emoticons is definitely an accepted practice, and for people who use them, it’s part of what makes their messages special, too.

      If you read this blog for any amount of time, you’ll see the word “awesome.” Partly it’s genuine enthusiasm, and partly it’s me making fun of my overuse of that word. Just like in my posts I have about 7 pictures I use over and over. I think somebody dubbed them “Dan’s girls” even though two are guys. I like trying to find creative ways to re-use the same pictures, like a game.

      Anyway, if you think you use a phrase too often, you can drop it into one of those free online editing things. (I’d name a few but they aren’t paying me so I won’t.) There are a few that will let you input several thousand words at a time for free. Between that and your friends, you’ll see you crutch words and phrases and can make a list, and then just go through and search/replace. For example, I use “smile,” “look,” “turn” – a LOT – in the first draft of my stories. “Look” can be “saw,” “glanced,” “eyed,” “spied;” you don’t need too many substitutes to remove the repetitive phrase (if it’s a problem).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I just love your blog! All your articles seem to be specially designed just for me 🙂 (sorry but I’m a huge emoticon user so you’ll have to bear with me :-)!!!) I just love the way your write it’s as though you’re right there talking to me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cassandra, I DID design it just for you! (And you can use all the emoticons you want. I just suck at using them.)

      “I just love the way your write it’s as though you’re right there talking to me!” – that is probably the highest compliment a writer can get, don’t you think? (As long as it’s a bunch of people saying it?)

      Thank you! We have some really good ones coming up, too, but be sure to send in any questions you have so we can address them. And by we I mean me, but we’re a team.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks 🙂 I’m feeling a bit out of it all at the moment and have a bit of a writers, social media, blog writing, and facebook posting blockage at the moment but I will let you know if I think of anything as soon as my mind gets back into a more social and writing mode 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Okay, it’s funny that you say that our ‘voice’ tends to be our personality coming out in our writing. Because IRL I tend to be very positive, funny, bubbly. (Annoying, really. ;-)) But in my *writing* – heh, as you can see what I just did there, some 10 words ago – I have a rather snarky edge. So I ask: how the heck did *that* get there?! I dunno, but I see it over and over again in my blog posts. Why, does that mean I have a snarky personality? Hmmm………

    Liked by 1 person

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