Those who possess unique voices are often the best writers.
Voice is what makes your writing stand out. It’s the style, word choice, and flow of your writing.
I touched up voice in an earlier article but I need to dedicate a full one to voice because many novice writers like to write as if they’re writing a term paper for English class.
Honestly, if I picked up your work of fiction and felt as if I’m reading a research paper dedicated to cement, I’m falling asleep. And it’s highly likely I’ll tell readers not to purchase your work to save them heartache.
If you’re marketing your work to cement experts that’s one thing, but who wants to be a cement expert in the digital age?
Now, read my opening lines one more time.
I could’ve aimed to get an ‘A’ on this article if I were in the tenth grade and worded it the way you’re supposed to word articles or I can opt for a ‘C’ and gain a little following in the process.
I’m taking the ‘C’ each and every time and I think I still have the report card from back in the tenth grade to prove it.
How to Develop Voice
This is the million-dollar (cliché) question because there’s really no answer to developing your voice
so I’m going out on a limb here.
When it comes to voice development, think of your point of view character and how they would speak if they told your story.
Whether it’s first or third-person point of view, it’s a good starting point to finding voice.
It’s also worth noting that my point of view character in Lord of Columbia (Cain) and the Neo Skyehawk Series (Seneca) share similar personality qualities.
They’re stubborn, kind of loose cannons, short with people, despise small talk and want to get straight to the point on key issues.
It’s not hard writing in a similar voice and it’s likely your main characters possess similar qualities.
But Cain and Seneca are different, too.
Cain’s word choice and Seneca’s word choice vary. Whereas Cain will use swear words as adjectives, Seneca likes to skip the description and point something out, keeping with her short, snappish form of dialogue.
While both can be overaggressive, Cain likes to shoot first and ask questions later whereas Seneca isn’t so quick to resort to defense mode.
If you clicked on the embedded link to Northern Knights and read the preview sample, you’ll know what I mean. The way I’m telling the story is through Cain’s eyes and I’m naturally in his thoughts.
Your Voice is Your Character’s Voice
Your main character will sound like you. It’s natural and your work will flow much greater as opposed to if you wrote in a point of view of a character whose voice is nothing even remotely similar to yours.
This also means something else.
The other characters’ voices can’t sound like this or else you’ll confuse the reader. How do they know who’s talking?
It still doesn’t explain why every single character in the book sounds the same.
Back to Northern Knights.
It’s easy to tell Cain and Lira apart when one is talking.
Cain swears, uses nicknames, and finds ways to spin things onto himself.
Lira’s voice possesses a sense of urgency, overemphasizes words, and is rational.
Enter characters like Micah, who tends to speak in one-liners.
Savannah leaves out ‘a’ and ‘the’ at the beginning of her sentences for the most part.
If your characters’ voices sound the same, the reader will grow tired of your work because they’ll grow sick of trying to figure out who’s speaking.
Don’t Forget the Action
I’ve spoken about dialogue tags and I’ll be honest; I hate them.
He said, she said, yeah, if clarification is needed.
And don’t even get me started on adverbs. Does ‘Cain said angrily’ do justice?
Or is Cain chucking a book across the room before his dialogue piece cue the reader?
I’m going with the latter.
What about this:
“We did it!” he exclaimed. We already know the character exclaimed it with the exclamation point.
‘Where are we going?” she asked. Do we need to be told this?
Your voice will garner a reputation of being sluggish if you use a dialogue tag and continue to tell readers what’s going on after each sentence.
Use action in dialogue and the reader will appreciate it. Use action and you’ll develop a voice few writers bother to perfect until after they’ve written their fifth book and realize they’ve been mistaken the entire time.
Imagine that, because if you’re taking books off Amazon to edit them because they lack a unique voice you’re changing the cover, title, and everything else other than the main story.
Save yourself some time.
Put Yourself in Action
Okay, it’s your turn.
If your manuscript reads like a term paper, spice it up. God, another cliché!
Strive to improve your voice on a consistent basis and don’t publish your work until a beta reader can see through your main character’s eyes.
It’s funny because books can do something TV and movies can never emulate, which is allowing a reader to see through the main character’s eyes, see their thoughts, and experience their actions.
TV and movies will never emulate it and if they do, it’s so artificial I’m making sarcastic remarks to others or on social media.
Keep in mind that you have such an opportunity and the second readers feel like they’re in the scene with the main character, sharing their body but in a non-demonic possession manner (unless that’s your thing) the masses are ready to read your work.