Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Finding Your Voice

Starting to write a new series is always a challenge. The initial euphoria of actually having a publisher want your stuff gives way to the cold reality that you have to write it. The good news: I have the concept, setting and my cast of characters. The bad news: I’m struggling to find my “voice.” 

Ask any editor or agent what they’re looking for and the answer is invariably a “fresh new voice.”  

Voice is style, plus theme, plus personal observations, plus passion, plus belief, plus desire. Voice is the way your words “sound” on the page. It has to do with the way you write, the tone you take and the words you choose. Voice is a reflection of experience. It’s very tempting to dash straight into writing your story without investing time in developing your characters and their background. 

With my first series, The Vicky Hill Mysteries, it took me about two years to discover my protagonist’s “voice.” I had never been published before so I had the luxury of time. Now I don’t! So, how do you find your voice? Here are some suggestions.

Keep a voice journal for your protagonist. This is basically your main character speaking in stream-of-consciousness mode. Don’t stop to edit because believe it or not, your character will soon begin to tell you all about him or herself. You can prompt your character by asking the occasional questions. These could include childhood memories, dreams and nightmares, what that character wants most in the world, reliving a first love or bad experience. 

One of my favorite exercises is having my character ( write a letter to my best friend—she’d write about her family, job, colleagues and opinions. The letter is uncensored because she’s my best friend, doesn’t judge me and I can say what I like.  Another exercise is to watch the news or read a newspaper, find a topic that really makes you mad and write your views on what’s happening. Anything, that will get free-flowing writing going. 

When you start to worry about what you write, you lose your voice. Once you capture your voice, then you can plunge into writing your novel. There are great plots out there and wonderful characters but what will make your work sound different and stand apart is … you. 

Suggestions most welcome!


Aline Templeton said...

Some great suggestions, Hannah. It's so true that the characters will tell you about themselves if you let them. It sounds weird, but I think it's what makes writing addictive.

H. L. Banks said...

Loved your post. 'Stream of consciousness writing for protagnoist' is an interesting concept I'm going to try.

Hannah Dennison said...

Thanks! I also find that writing longhand seems to make me more "in touch" with my stream of consciousness writing (if that makes sense) - although it's quite hard to decipher the scrawl afterwards!

Jarvis said...

You can't "find" your voice, but you can sharpen it. You're voice is just you who you are in life, your dreams, and that whisper in your head. Sharpening a voice takes technique, revision and tons of writing, but eventually you'll find that harvesting that voice is just getting out of your own head and just spilling out your thoughts on a page in a tight, comprehensive fashion.