A to Z Blog Challenge

V is for Voice

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Author’s give and are offered much advice on the topics of writing and publishing. The deluge of information on good writing, critical editing, successful marketing, and aspects of proper publishing require an Ark to navigate the waters. But there is one truth we seldom discuss—Voice.

Author’s voice is a difficult concept to discuss and even more difficult to offer improvement advice. Possibly for the same reason we can’t define why we prefer one hair color to another or why one set of eyes is perceived as “warm” and another as “cold.” Perhaps the greatest challenge is to determine if author voice is nature or nurture. Is it something that can be trained or is it an inherent gift?

I have no doubt an author can improve upon that voice through many of the things we do discuss—like education and editing. However, it is also probable that for some authors, regardless of the attention to details, the story line, or the character development, his or her voice is just not well-received.

That is a painful truth. It has to potential to suggest that no matter how well one writes, the work will never be liked. The reader will sense that something doesn’t “work” even when there is nothing technically wrong with the writing. It may be just the voice in one story, but for some, it may be the voice of every story. It might explain why some writers have such loyal fans even when those fans find cause to criticize specific works—in general the readers just like the “voice.”

There are goals we wish to accomplish that are within our power to obtain. We can lose weight through our own actions. We can work to create a positive and happy marriage. We can earn more money through our efforts. There are other things that require some natural abilities and sometimes our limitations will, in fact, make for an impossible obstacle. That is not popular to say in a society where we like to think, “everyone’s dream can come true.” For the most part they can, but often we need to be honest enough with ourselves to choose dreams on both passion and aptitude. I’m too short to be in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean I can’t coach.

Writer’s Voice is one of those things—perhaps the most important of things. I want to be a writer. I write books, stories, and blogs. I try to improve my ability and I seek help on the things that others can help with. The popularity and the reception of that work, however, is largely about my writer’s voice. If you like it, you will read my stuff. If you don’t than you will not. But I remain open to the fact that I may not have a writer’s voice that people will ever enjoy.

I avoid the delusion of blaming the reader or claims that “well my mother likes it, so someone else will.” Much in the same way that although my wife says I am the most handsomest Man she has ever known, I don’t go out and apply for a modeling job. There is a reason that love is blind and when it comes to the writing voice it is also deaf. I believe at the end of the day, technical improvements, interesting plots and even well-developed characters only set the foundation. The writer’s voice is the critical element and no matter how much we wish for it—if we don’t have it then we should pursue another dream.

Please don’t cry one tear for me

I’m not afraid

Of what I have to say

This is my one and only voice

So listen close,

It’s only for today

~ Shinedown “Second Chance”

 

 

15 replies »

  1. I think an author’s voice is a matter of nurture, and as we grow, read more and write more, it changes over time. When I first started writing, my voice reflected my experience: just one kid who thought all he needed to tell a great story was for something awesome to happen to his characters and that they must defeat the bad guys in the end. When I started reading Anne Rice and Stephen King, my voice sounded a lot like theirs. Now my voice sounds like…well, me I guess. I’m not sure what that is exactly, but I think it’s an okay voice to have. Could use some improvement here and there, but I’m working on it. It’s an ongoing and evolving process.

    • Yes I think writing is both nature and nurture. For the former if you have no expectations than by all means pursue the passion because nurture only can mold the clay its given and for all its practice a penguin is meant to swim…not fly.

  2. “The writer’s voice is the critical element and no matter how much we wish for it—if we don’t have it then we should pursue another dream.”

    But what happens if my other dream is singing…and that voice is even worse? Actually, that I take as the perfect example of…well, the same thing. Nature vs. nurture. I can try all I want to improve my singing voice, but if I don’t have it, I don’t have it dammit. Now I need more crack in this coffee. Oh, and your pet monkey that somehow I ended up babysitting wants to make his banana an “Irish” one. In what voice do you speak to your pets?

  3. Wanna talk about
    ME, wanna talk about I,
    wanna talk about

    Number One, oh, MY,
    ME, MINE. I like talkin’ ’bout
    you, usually, but…

    occasionally,
    I wanna talk about ME…

    (Yes, I listen to Toby Keith on occasion. Don’t judge me. He fit the haiku, okay??)

  4. Yes and no. Voice is certainly important, but there are enough people who read that any voice has the possibility of being liked by more then a few. Of course, there are multi-million dollar popular voices like Stephen King or John Grisham or Tom Clancy and obviously every author doesn’t have that, but I honestly believe the main thing is persistence and if a writer doesn’t give up, whatever their voice, her/he will get *somewhere*.

    • Hmm, I don’t know if “any” voice has the possibility–but maybe im speaking more to probability as anything is possible. And yes i agree “somewhere” but don’t you agree most writers have a specific “place” they want to get otherwise one could write without publishing. Just a thought

  5. The voice is important as it what grabs you to make you want to read more but the story or plot is also important…in my humble opinion as a reader not a writer:)

  6. My idea of somewhere is somewhat more conventional then no audience. My main point was there are a lot of different people with a lot of different reading needs; some they don’t even know yet, The second you make any kind of rule about what won’t attract a readership, you are guaranteed to find an exception.

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