How to Develop Voice

How to Develop Voice

The first thing a reader is going to notice about a book is the voice. Don’t know what voice is? Click here.

Voice can range anywhere from so annoying, you want to take a hot poker to your eyes. Or it can be so beautiful, you get lost in it and never want to leave. Or, it can be somewhere in between.

Voice is one of the elements that makes it hard to put a book down. Or, that make it easy to throw a book away.

How do we develop it?

There are a few ways. These are some of mine.

  1. Keep writing. Reread what you wrote a few weeks later, and whatever you realize is noisome, change. And apply that consciousness to your next piece.
  2. Help others edit/critique. Helping others hone their craft will help you hone yours.
  3. Read. For fun.
  4. Read others’ critiques. It’ll help you see what readers look for.
  5. Ask for help/opinions from someone who’s obsessed with books, or who has written them.

Right… but those things take TIME. What can I do NOW to fix what I already have?!

Very well. I’d first peep my post about Six Universal Themes to Improve Your Writing. That alone will help you develop voice. If you don’t have time to read it, then keep skimming this article (yeah, I know you’re skimming!) and look at the example, which implements all of the suggestions in the aforementioned article.

The six universal themes are important, so I’m just going to write them here. Combine sentences, delete actions or minutiae, keep the back story, add dialogue, add scenery, and change up the subject/verb. One more thing I’m going to add here is choose stronger words/images.

Moreover, bear in mind that readers want detail. Not too much, but if your readers are trying to fall into the main character’s world, they need to see what the MCs see and feel what the MCs feel.

Would you be affected more if you heard, “his eyes turned yellow,” or would you feel the doom of, “bright yellow replaced the whites of his eyes, as though the moon itself shone behind them”?

Let’s do an example.

He went to the bank, then he went to the store. He drove home, unlocked his door, and sat in his empty house. Then he walked to the fridge, where he retrieved old milk, except he didn’t know it was old until after he took the first sip because he’d already lost his sense of smell.

vs

Dean went to the bank before stopping at Heroes Market. After his lonely drive under the leaf-stripped trees glistening with ice, his keys turned in the lock of his front door. The fridge—empty like his house—was nearly as cold as the weather outside. Dean didn’t know the milk had turned until the first swig—for after a terrible accident three years ago, his nose no longer detected the stench of rotting food.

It’s eighteen more words, but do you feel like you get more from them? Isn’t it essentially saying the same thing? The voice paragraph isn’t perfect, but it’s a decent example.

Let’s end with another example.

I was at the edge of a forest and started to make my way in. The trees grew really close together. Many different kinds of trees grew in a small patch of area. It was darker in the woods than it was where I had stood just moments before. I didn’t want to go in, but I finally did. The leaves were dry and crunched under my feet. A bird made a noise that sounded like the beast who’d killed three teens. I can’t explain how I let my friends elect me as the one to go get the ball, but I regretted it.

vs

I stood at the edge of the darkened forest, peering inside. My body hesitated before squeezing between the pines and oaks. Their puny trunks twisted and writhed as they competed for space and sunlight. The dry leaves shattered under my shoe like glass. What sounded like The Necrofaire howled in the distance, hungry to kill again. Why did I let them talk me into believing this was a good idea?