Blogger: Mary Keeley
I had the blissful pleasure of reading two novellas on the drive to visit out-of-state family over the weekend. What else does one do sitting in the passenger seat while husband extraordinaire is at the wheel and listening to a ball game on the radio? Reading these shorter stories back to back brought out a stark contrast that highlighted the importance of an author’s unique voice.
If you’ve been writing for long, you’ve surely heard about the importance of finding your literary voice. Actually identifying it is more accurate because the elements aren’t lost; they’re a part of who you are. That’s the point. The characteristics of your voice are within you and are unique because you are unique. The following characteristics will weave their way into your work as you write and rewrite and write some more:
- Your personality – Have you noticed that you and someone else can view the same landscape and different things grab your attention? Note the people, objects, actions, and things in nature to which your eyes gravitate. Those are natural to you. Use them. If you write nonfiction, use metaphors that are natural to you. Don’t try to write like some other authority in an effort to impress readers. It rarely works and readers will have the impression you are inauthentic and therefore, what you write is untrustworthy.
- Your style – This involves your choice of words, the way you put them together into sentences, sentence construction, and even punctuation. (However, this does not mean you shouldn’t always be increasing your vocabulary and searching for the perfect word.)
- Your point of view – Your point of view will automatically seep into your writing. Let it. It’s natural and authentic to you, but do so within this guideline. Your author POV must match the context and setting of your main character or else you’ll cause a disconnect for readers. It makes the strong case for writing about that which you know and fits your personality.
- Your cadence – Just as your talking voice is recognizable in casual conversation, your literary voice is recognizable by its written rhythm and flow. This is one reason it’s good practice to read your work aloud when you finish your first draft.
Here are 2 tips for developing your unique voice in your work:
- Consistency. Your personality, style, author and main-character points of view, and cadence should be consistent throughout your work, no matter how the scenes shift in your story. Maintain them when you transition to a new point in your nonfiction book.
- Balance. Don’t overdo your author voice to the extent that it’s a greater presence than your main character. A captivating novel has readers engrossed in seeing the unfolding story through the main character’s perspective. Your literary voice will always be present but in the background, enthralling the reader with a view of the world through the main character’s eyes. Nonfiction writers have to watch that they don’t overuse words, terms, or phrases, but instead find more creative ways to express repeated thoughts without confusing the reader.
Back to the two novellas I read over the weekend. The newer author was better at the way she told her story. Her voice brought to life the main characters and a setting that perfectly matched. This goes to show that it doesn’t have to take years to get your author voice down if you put your five senses on alert to identify and then develop your unique characteristics.
What are the unique characteristics of your author voice? Which of them do you need to develop further? There are many published authors on the market already. What is your greatest challenge in establishing your author voice, which is different from theirs? Is there another characteristic that identifies your particular author voice?
A great author voice determines the way a story is told or a nonfiction topic is addressed. Click to Tweet.
Establish your unique author voice by developing these four characteristics into your writing. Click to Tweet.