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What Is A 'Writer's Voice'? (1 Viewer)

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TheMightyAz

Mentor
You see it often thrown around and it's never really quantified. There are lots of different aspects of it of course but I reduce it to two main aspects: A description that is unique to the writer or a metaphor that is unique to the writer. Something only you and you alone would have written. It's not easy though. No matter how hard you try, there's always going to be a writer who has described it similarly. For me, that's not what matters. What matters is the 'pursuit' of it. Reinventing the wheel is still admirable if you had no prior knowledge the wheel existed before.

So, I thought it would be interesting to share snippets of our unique voice. Not only would it help quantify the meaning of 'writer's voice' (and so demystify it) but it would also give newcomers ideas for strengthening their own voice, myself included.

I'm story boarding a new story at the moment (PUNK), and as is always the case, I jot down any interesting sentences I believe I can use. These are not honed sentences but rather structures and ideas I feel I can run with and expand. So, I'll use a couple as an example:

Chelsea looked at the temporary expressions of pain, the bruises, the abrasions, the nips, but it was the cuts that she loved most. The threads of silver in her flesh, always there, permanent reminders of that single, beautifully painful moment of living. Whenever she got lost, she would reach into her sleeve and trace one of them home.

He had always been a needle in the sweet draw
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
So, I thought it would be interesting to share snippets of our unique voice. Not only would it help quantify the meaning of 'writer's voice' (and so demystify it) but it would also give newcomers ideas for strengthening their own voice, myself included.
Sometimes there is a guessing thread for the LM entries when they are all anonymous. Maybe that can be done with this current month.

Can you figure out which writers wrote what?

Can you explain how?

That's voice.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Sometimes there is a guessing thread for the LM entries when they are all anonymous. Maybe that can be done with this current month.

Can you figure out which writers wrote what?

Can you explain how?

That's voice.

That would be great for those who already know writers here, but what of those 'newcomers' who often hear terms thrown around but don't know what they actually mean? Providing concrete examples is the perfect way of 'showing' and not 'telling'. :)
 
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Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Ok, I'll take a crack at it, but mostly I try to create a visual image with my writing. I don't focus on the words too much, just what they portray. That's my voice. (How do you make those quote bubbles?)

Zac looked at Madison making his eyes go very wide in a ‘I’m having a nervous breakdown’ expression, as he mouthed the words. Walking towards her and grabbing her elbow he steered her out of earshot. “Who the hell is this Hugh Hefner look-alike? He’s hitting on all the models. Can you get him out of here?”
[FONT=&Verdana]
Madison hesitated, thought it might be better not let him know it was her father-in-law, and reassured Zac, “yes of course, go check on the models, I’ll look after him.” Zac rolled his eyes, turned mechanically and left. [/FONT]

[FONT=&Verdana]EDIT: Thanks AZ figured out the bubbles. :)
[/FONT]
 
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TheMightyAz

Mentor
Ok, I'll take a crack at it, but mostly I try to create a visual image with my writing. I don't focus on the words too much, just what they portray. That's my voice. (How do you make those quote bubbles?)

[FONT=&Verdana]
Zac looked at Madison making his eyes go very wide in a ‘I’m having a nervous breakdown’ expression, as he mouthed the words. Walking towards her and grabbing her elbow he steered her out of earshot. “Who the hell is this Hugh Hefner look-alike? He’s hitting on all the models. Can you get him out of here?” [/FONT]

[FONT=&Verdana]
Madison hesitated, thought it might be better not let him know it was her father-in-law, and reassured Zac, “yes of course, go check on the models, I’ll look after him.” Zac rolled his eyes, turned mechanically and left. [/FONT]

[FONT=&Verdana]
[/FONT]


Nice stuff. :) Do you see that little quote bubble at the top right? Highlight the text and hit that. Or hit that and paste your sentence in between. Either will work.

The weeping was weak, ripples after crashed waves, fingers digging into wet sand.
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
I'd call it a mixture of word choice, punctuation, cadence, and probably a few other things I'm forgetting, as informed by experience and habit.

One way to demonstrate voice, if falling short of a definition, would be something akin to the thread we had a week or so back where members rewrite a prompt in their own style. Keep it restricted to one general idea so everybody's working in the same ballpark. See how various participants filter a scene and where it goes.


*I can't seem to find the thread. I'll edit a link in if I do.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
That would be great for those who already know writers here, but what of those 'newcomers' who often hear terms thrown around but don't know what they actually mean? Providing concrete examples is the perfect way of 'showing' and not 'telling'. :)
I'm not trying to mess up your exercise, please carry on. I'm just giving an example that if you think about it, reveals something about voice.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
One of Clive Barker's which is why I love him. If you can't find any of your own, just post some greats. The idea is just to offer examples so that beginners and novices (like myself) have a reference point and can understand perfectly what it means:

The great grey beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive. Here he was, buried in the belly of that smothering month, wondering if he would ever find his way out through the cold coils that lay between here and Easter.

The Thief of Always.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
A description that is unique to the writer or a metaphor that is unique to the writer. Something only you and you alone would have written.
That seems much too specific for me, If I were going down that route would say something like,

A use of things such as description and metaphor in a way which would allow one to identify the writer.

I remember reading that one could tell the particular speech writers American Presidents used by the type of rhetorical devices they used, metaphor is only one of an awful lot available to a skilled writer.
 

EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
Part of style is what you like to do, part is how you choose to solve your writing problems, and part of it is the tools you have for solving those problems. You can try to develop a distinctive style too, but you can develop a style just from those.

So, I like how you can sometimes string together powerful images. You might work on that and adapt a style that facilitates them. Or you might go in a different direction.
 
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TheMightyAz

Mentor
Hi Az. I'll be personal. Didn't you say you were kind of just starting out on this writing thing? You seem to like stringing images together, kind of in a collage, and I've seen you do it really well. It's the part that makes your snippets enjoyable for me to read. I hope you stay with that, and enjoying it, and making it important to you. So -- and I have no context here for that passage, but -- I kind of expect you to make "bruises" come alive. If you decided not to, because that would interfere with "threads of silver in her flesh", I will respect that. If you didn't think about that . . . that wouldn't be very good self-awareness, but I'm guessing you did.

I think the comma between adjectives interferes with collaging images. I have no idea how you might discover that (if true!), but I can imagine your style evolving to avoid that.

I think temporary conflicts with permanent, and you cannot expect me to follow the path you want me to. How is a bruise a temporary expression of pain? I want you to take your images more seriously. Another thing to evolve?

There's a zillion things about voice and style, and I just focused on one. (Because it was the most important to me.) And just my opinion, I haven't seen much, only safe when taken as directed, do not refreeze, etc.

It was just an example of 'voice'. As I said, it's not a honed sentence, and out of context it doesn't exactly explain much. I don't really want to get into the 'whole' deal here though. :) they're just examples. I've been writing on and off since I was 14. I'm 62 now but have had huge chunks of time off for one reason or another (usually another ...) I need to be more selfish.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
I suppose that I use style to set the mood for a scene. It can show up as description, or thoughts of my characters.

In this scene a woman is preparing to leave her long time home.

Rose stood in the main room of her home and took a long last look around. Memories whispered from every wall and stick of furniture. She wandered by crowded bookcases, occasionally touching the spine of a work that had spoken to her soul. The books couldn’t travel with her, but they would stay with her nonetheless; she recalled every word within their pages, but the exquisite slow pace of reading them, tasting each word and phrase, was where the true pleasure of the story lay.

She thought of her paintings stored in the spare room; they were snapshots of her time in Granby. Lost friends and lovers were trapped within those images; what would they think of her coming adventure? With a sigh, she bid them a gentle goodbye.

Once abandoned, what would become of her home? The books and paintings would grow moldy in the damp environment and over the coming years they would disintegrate; beautiful words and friendly faces would fall to ruin and be lost forever. It felt like giving back somehow. Inspiration for them had been plucked from the ether in hopes of gracing the lives of those that encountered them, perhaps it was time for that spark of creativity to return home.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I suppose that I use style to set the mood for a scene. It can show up as description, or thoughts of my characters.

In this scene a woman is preparing to leave her long time home.

Rose stood in the main room of her home and took a long last look around. Memories whispered from every wall and stick of furniture. She wandered by crowded bookcases, occasionally touching the spine of a work that had spoken to her soul. The books couldn’t travel with her, but they would stay with her nonetheless; she recalled every word within their pages, but the exquisite slow pace of reading them, tasting each word and phrase, was where the true pleasure of the story lay.

She thought of her paintings stored in the spare room; they were snapshots of her time in Granby. Lost friends and lovers were trapped within those images; what would they think of her coming adventure? With a sigh, she bid them a gentle goodbye.

Once abandoned, what would become of her home? The books and paintings would grow moldy in the damp environment and over the coming years they would disintegrate; beautiful words and friendly faces would fall to ruin and be lost forever. It felt like giving back somehow. Inspiration for them had been plucked from the ether in hopes of gracing the lives of those that encountered them, perhaps it was time for that spark of creativity to return home.

This is a perfect example. I love some of the little touches, especially the bolded.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I think voice is also intent. What is the writer setting out to do. I know for me, I always think of a way I can create both a visual and an emotion with the fewest words possible. I also think that our voice is a manifestation of our influences. When I first started reading I was very inspired by Oscar Wilde. He is the master at using a few clever words to embody a sophisticated idea. But it's all about content. IMO one of the greatest voices ever:

“It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.”

― Oscar Wilde
No fancy wording, no metaphor, just a sophisticated idea in plain language, that people can relate to.

I think another interesting question that I would like to add to your thread is, what are you intending to do as a writer? And does that become your voice?
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I think voice is also intent. What is the writer setting out to do. I know for me, I always think of a way I can create both a visual and an emotion with the fewest words possible. I also think that our voice is a manifestation of our influences. When I first started reading I was very inspired by Oscar Wilde. He is the master at using a few clever words to embody a sophisticated idea. But it's all about content. IMO one of the greatest voices ever:

No fancy wording, no metaphor, just a sophisticated idea in plain language, that people can relate to.

I think another interesting question that I would like to add to your thread is, what are you intending to do as a writer? And does that become your voice?

It doesn't need sophisticated words to convey something deep or meaningful, no. I had a friend who wrote songs and you'd need a dictionary to understand most of his songs. He'd made the mistake of thinking the word 'alone' held the power, so to him, finding the exact word was all that mattered. I dropped a hint once and whether it got through I don't know. I told him: The idea is to use simple words to express big ideas, not to use big words to express simple things.
 
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Matchu

Senior Member
I knew a trombonist on a writer forum.

He took a run up with every phrase of his expression - with a light like a lucifer, and like a flame flowering fire, and like an inferno entrapped inside a matchbox, and like a thank goodness it's all over now. He'd write a whole paragraph consisting of five linked similes. I advised him then to 'take out the like' but he was funny with me after that day. I suppose even just the metaphors would be too rich. He's probably still out t/here somewhere.

I'd like to ditch all voice concerns and simply get a reader to the end of the page without his enquiry 'of what drugs he's on?' People like that shouldn't read books, maybe kindle only.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I knew a trombonist on a writer forum.

He took a run up with every phrase of his expression - with a light like a lucifer, and like a flame flowering fire, and like an inferno entrapped inside a matchbox, and like a thank goodness it's all over now. He'd write a whole paragraph consisting of five linked similes. I advised him then to 'take out the like' but he was funny with me after that day. I suppose even just the metaphors would be too rich. He's probably still out t/here somewhere.

I'd like to ditch all voice concerns and simply get a reader to the end of the page without his enquiry 'of what drugs he's on?' People like that shouldn't read books, maybe kindle only.

Simple is fine but at the right times it's nice to express something in your own voice. It's just a matter of learning when.

You could write:

John rode his motorcycle through the ravine, weaving with the natural curves of its meandering path.

Or you could write:

John roared along the snaking tarmac, one eye on the road, the other on the shoulders of jagged rock.

Both need a rewrite, but neither are wrong. I just prefer the idea of the latter.
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
If ever the window had a screen it was long gone, just bleary panes looking out over a yard of dead grass and weeds and the silvered posts of the neighbors’ fence. Moth carcasses the color and consistency of antique paper lined the windowsill and he resolved that once he got to feeling better he ought to clean.


***

Something like that count?
[/FONT][FONT=&quot]
 
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