1. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    A voice. Everyone wants it. You need it.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by mrieder79, May 2, 2016.

    ...not that I know what my voice is yet, it seems a crucial thing to develop. One of the most universal things I have noted in my (admittedly short) experience with querying is this:

    Agents want authors with a distinctive voice. Seems like if you got a voice, you're good to hook. A good voice, I assume, not a raspy, get in my van and have some candy, voice.
     
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  2. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Voice is good and all but it needs to by paired with style sometimes. If Alice Cooper were to be on American Idol as an unknown he would have been laughed off with a boring response from whats his name. But add in his style and you go yourself a unforgettable combination.

    Different meaning of voice I know but just the same. His "voice" alone would have gotten him nowhere but his style and presents made him great.
     
  3. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    I think it's not possible to write without a voice unless perhaps you are trying too hard to mimic other people's writing. I'd like other people's opinions on that, though.

    Also, don't you think writers can use more than one voice? Or maybe voice isn't what I think it is. I've written different pieces that are very, very different sounding but that each have their own distinct tone. Can I still have my own "voice" (or lack of one) in all of them together or how does that work? How is voice different than tone?
     
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  4. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    You sure? That seems like a flawless marketing strategy to me. The moms in particular, will love it. Who doesn't want their kids to get candy? :supercheeky::supercheeky::supercheeky:
     
  5. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Uhm.. I seem to be lost somewhere. But can someone please explain the difference between voice and style to me?
     
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  6. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Agreed.
    [​IMG]
     
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  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I, too, am confused about this. o_O
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Voice ⊆ style.
     
  9. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    What does that specifically mean? Sorry, still confused :(
     
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  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Voice is a subset of style. When you're talking about the "style" a writer employs, that includes the writer's voice. A lot of people define "voice" so broadly that it basically becomes the same thing as style, which makes a certain amount of sense. At other times, I've seen people separate out elements like diction and tone (which, in the case of diction, is really splitting hairs) as being separate from voice.
     
  11. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Okay. Would it make sense to say that 'style' is the broadest definition a person uses in writing whatever and 'voice' is the exact way it is used in different circumstances?

    *headscratch*
    i.e. every one of my MC's has a different way to speak. Would this be called 'voice'? In opposition to the general usage of words throughout the story?
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think you're getting at the distinction between narrative voice and character voice. Your individual characters may have a distinct voice in dialogue (and they should), or if you have multiple first person or close third person narratives you might have different voices for those that represent the character's voice. I think the author's voice is the over-arching style (if we can equate the two) that identifies a particular author. You'll often see this consistently throughout a narrative and across multiple books.
     
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  13. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks @Steerpike this was really helpful!
    You unconfused me :)
     
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  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Glad my explanation made sense! :)
     
  15. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Not every writer needs a voice. Lots of ghost writers out there. As long as you can write clean and clearly and have a decent story in a selling genre you'll be published. I have boxes of gothic romances and horror novels to attest to this. Most of the writers sound the same but every once in a while one will stand out and have a unique voice or style.

    You won't recognize your own style until you have some pieces to really compare and really see what you're doing. Despite the different characters and there voices and storylines - you'll start noticing the choices you make are usually the same - sentence patterns, the addition of humor, wryness, cynicism or charm, favorite words, favorite phrases, outcomes, plot twists. That's all style is - making you're own pattern.
     
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  16. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Oh I recognise that, sure. Comparing my two WIP's and how I wrote at the beginning and what comes out now .. there is a huge difference and I am completely happy with what I am producing now. I may not be fast (still needs some more words), but the choices are clear and it is exactly as you say: there are patterns emerging :)
     
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  17. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    My writes - mainly incoherent, lack visual sense, common sense, sense, linger web ways, free to read, OR upon the back pages of the anthology @ £9.99 for relatives, they shun me now I exposed the clan in my prose. Quite a thought, really. I hate granny.
     
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  18. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @matwoolf, you definitely have a voice! Now all you need to do is find a language other people can understand. :D
     
  19. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    T'was brillig, and the matwoolf spoke...
     
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  20. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh shush @Steerpike, I am feeling very sensitive today, umm, yes

    and I know @M, but a bad day for me, a writing hell :/...maybe go for pirate story?

    ...Terrible addiction to Wordpress going on, need to draw breath, submit properly [again] rather than play for laughs; waiting for little gold stars to appear on my screen is madness.

    Voice is voice, a confidence with age? Suppose though 'sincerity' works best. I am not philosopher. Today's output was dreadful:

    The not very good writer was very depressioned in the dumps. He lived in a dump, he worked at the dump, a dump-faced dump. Humpty Dumpty would not befriend Dump. Dump, no friends, not even at the dump.
    ...
     
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  21. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @matwoolf I quite like your writing.
     
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  22. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like yours too, I was being friendly - then I whinge-bagged on about some nothing crap, I'm sorry.
     
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  23. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    I think this is one of these agent-speak things. In this case I have a shrewd idea 'a distinctive voice' means 'written compellingly'. A unique voice doesn't help a book be good; being similar in voice to many other works isn't a bad thing as long as those other things are good. What they probably care about most is a writing voice that is enjoyable to read. Obviously that depends on the book and the agent but what you really should worry about is if your book is good to read and why.

    There's an interplay between the tone of the book, the style of your writing and the voice of your narrator. In a light contemporary romantic comedy you need a light style. It might be unique to approach that genre with the overwrought melodramatic prose from a gothic horror but that's essentially a gimmick, not really an appropriate way to write a huge series of books. You need a voice that reflects the mood and tone of the book and that is versatile enough to reflect the complete emotional range of said work. A style that is too light doesn't set up the stakes involved, a style too heavy will stifle the comedy or less intense moments. It's good to be unique if you can get it but if you can't then settle for a good voice that quietly informs the readers expectations about the book and the tone and puts them in the right emotional place for what they are going to see. A really hyperbolic voice is one that can't clearly communicate when things are actually important.

    What's my writing voice? It's laconic, bordering on beige, discussing happy and sad things with the same weight. I write horribly depressing, tear jerking stories so I need to have a voice that sounds natural to describe someone's thought process as they get raped without being so heavy as to make everything sound like someone's being raped. So I have this voice that, in good times, is reserved and a bit sarcastic that implies a bit of a know-it-all smirk to the reader, and in bad times there's unflinching, unadorned description of these horrible things that says 'this is how it is, i'm not going to let you look away'. Is that unique? No, not really. William Gibson is the master of that kind of writing and I am but a pale shade of his depressing worlds. Fortunately I write for teenage girls so I probably sound a bit more unique (for good or ill) in that marketplace.
     
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  24. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Oxford Dictionaries has this to say:

    1.3 The distinctive tone or style of a literary work or author: 'she had strained and falsified her literary voice' [sounds painful]

    — which I'm sure clears up the debate nothing for all of us.

    I suppose it depends on what you're trying to write. Maybe we could put JK Rowling at one end (call her commercial) and @matwoolf at the other (call him experimental). The Rowling is distinctive cos she's sold a mountain of books; the wolfman is distinctive cos he plays with language.

    Maybe we shouldn't worry too much — like @LostThePlot says, it may just be agentese — and write what makes us happy. Surely that's where we find our voice.

    Or we could line up ducks between JK and MW, watch them roll along, take a shot — win a teddy. Roll up, roll up, find your voice at the wordwright's fair, ladies and gentlemen...
     
  25. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    However you define "voice," I suppose it is safe to say you don't need it. There is a lot of generic fiction out there that sounds the same and could be just as easily written by author A as author B. I prefer a more distinctive voice, though.
     
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