Why Your Writing Voice Matters
You have something to say, your story, and you want to tell your story so your reader enjoys reading. Your writer’s voice creates a connection with your reader.
For your reader, it’s as though you were sitting next to them telling a story.
Your writer’s voice is how you tell the story. The New York Times described voice:
A writer’s voice is the way his or her personality comes through on the page, via everything from word choice and sentence structure to tone and punctuation.New York Times
Your choices of sentence construction and length, pauses, vocabulary, and tone all combine to create your writer’s voice.
Genre Impact Your Voice Choice
Genre and subgenre impact the voice you choose to tell the story. A mystery is a logical puzzle, but the way you tell the story adds emotional impact.
The way you tell a young adult cozy mystery will differ from the way you tell an action-oriented story or a dark noir mystery. The story of the YA cozy could be sassy and quick while a hard-boiled detective might use longer sentences, philosophical thought, and stronger language.
You Decide the Voice of the Story
The story voice must be evident on the first page and sustained throughout the story. Your voice is a promise to the reader. If they like the way you tell the story —syntax, vocabulary, tone—the reader wants to continue with that voice.
Your decision about the story’s voice is a commitment to your style throughout the story. If you switch genres in another book, you may use a different style.
The style is your stye. You may enjoy reading Joyce Carol Oates, but your writing style may be less philosophical with shorter sentences.
What If You Don’t Know Your Story Voice?
Choosing a voice is a combination of matching the style to the story and being able to continue a voice for the entire novel.
As a beginning writer, voice can feel like an insubstantial quotient you don’t know how to solve. Your writer’s voice emerges with experience. The more you write, the stronger your voice becomes.
If you are writing your first mystery novel, though, you want to cut to the chase, establish your voice, and write the story.
An Exercise to Help Find Your Writer’s Voice
Voice Elements to Mix and Match
Your writing voice contains a number of elements. How you mix those elements adds to the tone.
As you look at the list, think of the elements you know you want, the one’s that you know don’t fit how you write, and the ones you can consider adding to your mix.
- Long sentences
- Short sentences
- Dependent clauses
- Narraative passages
- In-depth setting description with details
- In-depth setting details with character attitude about details
- Brief setting notations with little detail
- Hinting at setting by describing one element in detail
- First-person point of view
- Third-person point of view
- Standard English
- Colloquial English
- Detailed character description
- Narrator character impressions
You might add a voice element you admire in another writer.
Your voice elements are up to you.
Get Comfortable With A Writer Voice
The best way to discover the narrative voice that works for you is to write the same passage with different voice techniques. A chapter is a good starting point. It’s long enough to test whether you can sustain the voice, and short enough to test your comfort with the style.
Now that you have the chapter in mind,
- Write the chapter in your protagonist’s first-person point of view
- Write the chapter in third-person point of view
Evaluate Your Voice Writing Experiment
Which style felt more comfortable to write? You want to be comfortable writing an entire novel in the voice you choose.
What elements of the style that felt less comfortable did you like? Can you add some of those elements to your comfort style? You may not use them continually, but you can add them here and there in the novel. For example, if you choose third-person point of view, your first-person voice may have more comments and attitudes from your character about the world around them.
Do the exercise again, mixing in more style elements. On your first try, you may have overlooked elements you want to include. This will happen when you write your manuscript. Your first edit can include elements you like that don’t automatically flow when you are writing.
Through a combination of writing, testing, and evaluating, you’ll arrive at a writer’s voice that suits your story.
Your Writer’s Voice Connects Readers to Story
As you continue writing, your writer’s voice grows stronger. Your voice attracts your reader. The cover entices. The book description invites. Your voice tells the reader they want to read the story. They like spending time with the way you tell the story, your writer’s voice.