1. pljames
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    pljames New Member

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    What does the word Voice mean?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by pljames, Mar 26, 2012.

    Is it something like style? Everyone has a style. I do not believe in the perfect letter. I just wish to be understood. pljames
     
  2. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What's your question? You seem to simply wanna voice your own opinion on the matter.
     
  3. Dryriver
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    Dryriver Senior Member

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    I'm guessing that some readers experience the overall characters, plot, language, wording and politics of a novel as the author's "voice".

    If your book reads very "differently" from standart fare, then you are probably perceived as having a "unique voice" as an author.

    If it comes across "strong", i.e. the narrative is vivid and powerful, and political-philosophical points come across strongly, then you may be perceived as having a "strong voice".

    If it reads similar to established authors like Joyce, Hemingway or Dickens, then your "voice" is likely described as being "Joycian", "Hemingwayan" or "Dickensian".

    I hope that helps...
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    to me, it's basically some aspect of the writer's personality showing itself in his/her writing...

    which is not quite the same as a writing 'style,' which can vary, depending on the particular story being told...
     
  5. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Voice" has a technical meaning in grammar, which I don't think is what you are after but which might be confusing you. I think the meaning of voice you are looking for is that it's whatever it is about the style or styles you write in that will enable a knowledgeable reader to identify that the writing is by you. It's what somebody would try to copy if they were parodying you.
     
  6. JackElliott
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    JackElliott Senior Member

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    Voice refers to the style of narration in a story. If the story is narrated by a six year-old, then the voice (which includes sentence structure, diction, even errors) should reflect the young age of the narrator.

    Voice really only become a factor when the POV is close or is the character. Omniscient narration typically has a more neutral voice.

    Voice is different from style. Style is the author's preferences in subject matter, themes, word choice and sentence structure, and these things are all pretty apparent in every story he writes. The voice of a particular story can be vastly different from the voice in another.
     
  7. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's yet another meaning of voice -- or rather another use. I was thinking in terms of an author needing to find their own voice, but you're right, characters and narrators have their own voices which can differ from the author's voice. I'd still say that "voice" (in the non-grammatical sense) is what somebody would copy if they were impersonating somebody, whether it be an author or a fictional character they're impersonating.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Voice is what makes your writing unique. It's a characteristic of your writing that encompasses style, tone, word choices, and even the kinds of feelings you evoke among your readers.

    Many writers' voices remain discernible across many different works. Others may write in one voice for some pieces, and a distinctively different voice in other works.

    Your voice, or voices, develop with experience.
     
  9. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Think of the three friends of yours and how they speak - they all have peculiarities in the way they express themselves, in the way they pronounce words, choose words and react to events around them. Even though you can't see into their heads, you can imagine that their inner monologue is also characteristic, similar to the way they express themselves that you know of.

    Now imagine writing a story where those three friends are protagonists. Everything they's say, do or think, you are writing down. The reader can differentiate between the ways three of them think and express themselves individually. Writing characters in this way means finding an unique voice that will differentiate them from other characters just the same as one person's way of expressing themselves differentiates them from others. It makes for much more realistic narrative.

    You as an author have a voice too. Partly it is style, but style can be changed, You can write detective novels for a few years then move to romance then move to poetry. You'll have different styles. But still, there'll be unique expressions you favour, unique spellings, sentence structure, metaphors and reactions, themes and preoccupations. That is your Voice and it will be a part of anything you write, no matter the style you are using.
     
  10. pljames
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    pljames New Member

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    The question was what does the word (voice) mean? I would think the word (style) would be synonomous with voice. The words alone should define the writer (voice). The writer is writing not speaking. This post is not my opinion but more of a question. pljames
     
  11. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    The way I understand it, there are at least two uses of the word voice. There is voice as in "who narrates the story." As in, "The Hunger Games is told in Katniss' voice." And there is voice as in "what is the author's voice." The author's voice is the particular way that an author writes, speaks, the way you hear him; it can include the author's opinion, or not; it is embodied in the words you read. Voice can refer to style, yes. "James Joyce's voice [pardon the rhyme] was new and innovative." "So-and-so found his voice in the stories of Russian peasants." And so on. People use the word in different ways.

    As to the point "The writer is writing not speaking," I disagree. In the obvious sense, of course, he's communicating with symbols on paper. He's not exercising his larynx. But he will write in a manner very similar to the way he will speak (we assume). He will use similar figures of speech - say he's from Texas, he may use some Southern metaphor (don't ask me what that is, I'm from New England). He may use long, educated words or short, simple ones. You hear the author's words in your mind. Doesn't every author sound different? The writer has a voice in the same way he has a style... in a certain sense of the word style.

    The word style, in my experience, can refer to either the style of narration, subject matter, character types, plot similarities, or the kind of voice mentioned above.

    Hope that helps.
     
  12. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    And as I pointed out, there's also the grammatical meaning: "the relationship between the action (or state) that the verb expresses and the participants identified by its arguments (subject, object, etc.)" (from Wikipedia) -- "Active voice" v. "Passive voice". I think the overloading of the term "voice" causes endless confusion when novices are advised to avoid writing in the passive voice. The advice is almost certainly meant in the technical sense, but countless questions and discussions hereabouts show that the novices (and some who are not novices) interpret it as referring to the senses you describe.
     
  13. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    Ancient Greek has middle voice as well ;)
     
  14. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    So do some modern languages. And linguists argue about whether "Dinner is cooking" is middle voice in English.
     
  15. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Outside of the grammatical sense (passive versus active voice), I have a hard time differentiating "voice" from "style." There doesn't really seem to be much reason to, for one thing - what's the expression? "Picking gnatshit out of pepper." Making distinctions that are so fine nobody cares.

    Did Hemingway have a voice or a style? If both, what was the difference between the two. What about Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? Huck has an extremely strong and distinctive voice, but how does that differ from his style? Or Nabokov's Lolita?

    In fiction, I tend to think of voice and style as being pretty much the same thing. If someone can enlighten me on the specific differences, I'd be grateful.
     
  16. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Whether it matters probably depends on what you are doing. If you are doing creative writing it probably doesn't matter. If you are a forensic linguist then the distinction between characteristics of a writer that stay the same across all of their writing (which I would call voice) and those characteristics that they change between works (which I would call style) would matter.
     
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  17. Edlamp
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    Edlamp New Member

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    To me, at least, it's the most important word in writing.
    It's like your writing personality. A writing personality that is unique to you (even if it has been influenced by other writers).
    It's about writing naturally. Being yourself. As opposed to writing artificially, in a laboured manner. Pretending to be something you're not. Type thing.
    And i think we develop voice by reading the writers we naturally like. Enjoy what we do, as opposed to seeing it as a chore or trying to impress others.
     
  18. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with what the previous posters have said. Apart from the grammatical meaning, a "voice" can both be an author's unique style, or the style the author uses when telling a certain story from a certain character's point of view.
     

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