We previously looked at the concept of voice in terms of character. Here, I’d like to look more closely at what voice means from the perspective of the author.
What is “author voice”? Every writer has a voice, even before beginning the work of writing. It inherently and inextricably exists within you. It is the sum total of your experiences and how you bring them to the page. It is the thing that makes you uniquely you in your writing.
When I think about the authors I’ve worked with over the years, I can easily describe their voices by referencing the kinds of stories they choose to write, the prevalent themes of their work, the recurring character types, and pacing patterns, as well as the style of their writing spanning everything from narrative structure to word choice. For example, Jo Treggiari’s books take readers to dark places, ask them to face hard truths, and feature uplifting and positive female friendships. Her concepts are big—the making of a teen serial killer, plane crash survivors abducted by a survivalist cult, a locked-door whodunit at a party-to-end-all-parties—but the strength of her voice is in the multilayered subplots, depth of character, nuanced relationship dynamics, and richness of description. You can give me a random passage and I would be able to tell you, “This is a Jo Treggiari book.”
A distinctive author voice is essential to building your brand. Readers like to return to an author voice that they enjoy. Having said that, just because you have an immediately recognizable voice doesn’t mean you will be pigeonholed into writing in a single genre. Voice goes beyond the boundaries of category. Many notable literary voices write across genres and audiences. Patrick Ness, for instance, writes fantasy, science fiction, and magical realism, for children, young adults, and adults.
Author voice tends to hold a particular tone, mood, rhythm, and flow. Again, these elements are global in nature. An author can still be a chameleon in shifting technical styles to achieve varied and unique character voices through everything from paragraph blocking to syntax and even punctuation. Your author voice is the combination of elements you bring to your writing that is individual to you. It is the way in which you reflect the world in your storytelling. What you say and how you say it. Author voice can be discovered, practiced, honed, and refined, but unfortunately, not taught in the way of other aspects of writers’ craft, such as dialogue, character, or plot. The point is that you don’t have to learn author voice—it’s already a part of you!
Embrace your singular author voice, and show the world who you are with your writing!
And if you need help identifying and understanding your author voice, please do get in touch for one-on-one mentorship.