Saturday, October 31, 2015

Leave a Writer's Voice Alone

by Velda Brotherton

One of the worst things editors or critique groups can do is change a writer’s voice. So how do we recognize the difference in weird or poor writing and a unique voice? It’s not always easy. In fact many authors are not truly sure they have a distinctive voice.

Several qualities go to make up voice. One, of course, is a specific style we use to tell our stories. And we develop that style from childhood. Our mothers sang to us and told us stories. Our fathers recited tales of their own growing up. From the time we are very small we are developing a way of relating the way we communicate. Long before some of us become writers we have developed a specific voice.

Once we’ve decided we want to be writers, we are aware of the way we like to tell our stories. By then the rhythm we use is like a song. Of course there are specifics we have to learn to polish our writing, to make sure we are telling exciting stories. We learn to add conflict, to form scenes and sequels, to create characters and use all five senses, to add description sparingly within the action. These things can be taught.

The one thing that can’t be taught is the craft itself. Those who are talented, are creative, have vivid imaginations, and develop that unique voice, can learn to follow and eventually break the rules.

Our critique group has been around for 28 years or so, and we have helped a lot of novice writers hone their craft, polish their talent, and get published. One rule we always have tried to follow is never try to make every writer sound alike. In other words, allow them to write in their own beautiful voice.



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Charles Gramlich said...

I sometimes experience resistance from my writing group when I change my voice for a new kind of story. They've become used to my 'regular' voice, but I think a writer can have more than one.

Liane Spicer said...

Voice is what makes a writer unique and recognizable. I can read a few lines taken out of Hemmingway, for instance, and recognize them as his immediately. Same with Dave Barry, or VS Naipaul. To me, that's voice, and no one should attempt to change that. Help with the mechanics of the craft, yes, but leave the stylistics alone, I believe.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Yet one author can use different voices to tell different stories. All in all, it's still unique to that author. Loved this post.