Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A to Z Challenge: Voice

Once again, I've picked a tricky subject for today.

Most agents' blogs that I've visited mention the importance of voice at least once. Each voice must be unique. Only the character's.

But what is voice?

Take a look at yourself. Your thoughts. Do you have favorite sayings or phrases that come out when you think and speak? Do you have a way of wording your thoughts? Is that way at least a little different from others? Do you have a world view that's a little different from everyone else?

Check your pulse. If it's beating, I'm sure that the answers to all of the above will be Yes.

The way that you think, what you think about, the words you use. That's your voice (in the literary sense). How you speak to people in social interactions. How you express your opinion and how you react when people agree or (tellingly, in my opinion) disagree. That's your voice.

That makes the importance of voice in books make more sense, doesn't it? We want our characters to be as authentic as possible. But no matter how much time you spend studying their personality traits and motivations. No matter how accurately they react to the situations in the plot.

If the story is not told in the Main Character's own voice, nothing will ring true. Because the person doing the talking isn't the person going through the main story.

So how can we get an authentic voice?

I use two ways.

One is through interviewing the characters who might be called to give me their point of view. The way they react to my questions can give me a clear idea about how they should sound.

The other thing I do is to act on the page. I try to become that character and write down what he/she thinks. My issue with this method is that my voice gets mixed in, because the line of separation between me and the character is blurred.

Because of that, I prefer to interview and listen to the character telling me things. It just works better for me.

How do you get your voice authentic?


  1. I hear their voices inside my head. Sometimes the main character sounds like me, sometimes not.
    Or sometimes I imagine a specific actor playing the part of my hero, and I hear HIS voice in my head.
    Interesting post, Misha.

  2. Voice..a very important aspect in writing and our day to day life too! Great blog. I have awarded you with the stylish Blog Award. Please check it out on my blog post for today.

    Murugi A Njehia
    Her World

  3. Hi Misha. This was very helpful. Getting the voice right is just so crucial. Thank you.


  4. I blogged once about interviewing my characters and it's the only time I've ever received a negative comment. Someone said it's the sort of thing she did in school and I was being childish so I'm very relieved to read that you interview your characters too. It's the best way I find to get the right 'voice' for the character.

  5. I took a while to hone "voice," at least for me. But once I got it, I GOT it.

  6. Hey Misha, you know I love your blog so my first monination for the Versatile Blogger award is to you. Please get it from my blog.

  7. Voice is a tough subject because each writer needs to find their own voice and their own way of discovering it. I like how you give your strategy as an example. "Becoming" the character is a great idea. I try to do the same.

    Nice post!

  8. I find that the character voices are easy once they "click". I mean, once I hit that point where they become real and I feel like I'm running after them, trying to keep up with what they're doing. Then they say and do things that are distinct and unique to them.

  9. I never thought on HOW I got my voice to sound authentic. It usually does. I think it is do to the fact that I live in the Bronx, but think I'm British. LOL! Can you imagine the phrases I come up with?

  10. I really like these tips. I'm going to have to think about the acting on the page tip. I'd like to give that a try.

  11. Excellent tips - especially acting on the page. Thank you. :)

  12. I'm trying very hard to get my voice for my current WIP spot on. My MC is quite distinctive.

    Excellent tips. Thank you.

    And I see Wendy has beaten me to it, but I'd also awarded you the Versatile blogger award, or you might prefer to pick up the Stylish blogger there instead and kill two birds ;)

    Well deserved and it's been great to meet you.

    warm wishes

  13. A popular subject for V day! Very well said!

  14. So what you're saying is that you write what the voices in your head tell you too. *wink*

  15. Congratulations on the Versatile Blogger award!Writing seems like very hard work, but God Bless writers for giving a 'voice' to so many topics.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog and for your kind comments. That Victoria Wharf picture is so typical of a New Brunswick Autumn.
    Kathy at Oak Lawn Images

  16. Too few writers spend enough time thinking about how to make their characters distinct in their speech patterns. My time as a film reviewer would be far more enjoyable if more screenwriters would put even a fraction of the thought into this topic that you have!

    Great post!

  17. How true...about the trying to act out the character...before I know it the voices cross and get jumbled. My problem - I don't like doing interviews (sigh). Maybe that's why I write more nonfiction narrative than anything else (!!??) Good post!

    Glad to hear you completed your re-write - early even! :~)


  18. I do the same thing...I put myself in the character's world and try to react as he or she would. I do the same thing when I'm reading a book.

  19. Thanks Paula. Strangely enough, it's rare for me to have characters that look like actors. I have one guy looking somewhat like Sean Connery. That's it. ^_^

    Thank you very much Murugi! I will pass it on in May.

    Thanks Denise!

    Rosalind, people like that get on my nerves. Who are they to say whether or not your method works? Interviews so happen to be the best way for me to get to know the characters. I even pick up on their quirks.

    Em, that's great! I think my voices need some work, but I'm getting there.

    Thanks so much, Wendy!

    Thanks LB! How do you keep your voice and that of the story separate?

    Laura that's what I try for. I'm getting better at it. ^_^

    Lol Busy that does sound interesting.

    Great, Carrie. Let me know how it goes.

    Thanks Jeffrey!

    Thank you very much for the award, Debbie! It's great if MCs are distinctive. It makes the voice come out easier.

    Thanks PK! I thought about avoiding the well-trodden route, but voice is too important to me. :-)

    Lol oh yes, Angela. Writing is the world's only socially-accepted form of Schizophrenia. :-P

    Kathy, writing can be a challenge, but it shouldn't ever feel like work. ^_^

    Thanks, Steve! People do tend to shy away from contemplating voice, for some reason.

    Kathy B, the interviews I have in mind are a little different. I don't do the eye-color, hair-color thing. It's more like conversing with the character.

    Me too, Sharon. My family laughs when I read because I live myself into the story. ^_^

  20. I try to imagine situations in various ways and how that character would respond; how I would respond. It's a great way to put it into perspective and decide which is a better option. After all, our characters aren't always a representation of ourselves- so it's nice to get a fresh perspective sometimes.


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