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What is that elusive concept in writing known as voice? Plot, character, setting, world building, theme: all of these aspects of fiction, while complicated in their own right, are at least fairly simple to explain as basic concepts. But for me, voice has always been trickier to talk about in an intelligent way. I know it when I see it, but what is it that I’m noticing?
This link recently saved by fritz on January 12, 2012
One of the questions that’s been driving me of late is, “Just what the hell is an author’s voice and how does he find it and what does he do with it once he has it? Does it make smoothies? Can you shout a dragon out of the sky like in Skyrim? Would you eat it with a goat, would you eat it in a boat?” So, I figured I’d take to the Bloggery Zone and see if I couldn’t conjure 25 things I think about a writer and his voice.
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Heather asked this question in the comments a few days ago: / I’ve been thinking a lot about and practicing different YA voices. I know what my friends and I were like as teenagers (dry wit, sort of like Juno - “older than our years” due to divorce and other challenges) but I think the perception is that most teenage girls have a more young-sounding “voice”. / From a personal standpoint, I totally relate to the older, jaded, sarcastic, witty, dry, Juno voices in YA. That’s the kind of teen I was. I thought I had it all figured out and, even when I didn’t, I pretended I did. It was a defense mechanism, of course, but isn’t everything a defense mechanism during high school? / The thing is, this isn’t the only kind of teen voice. And that’s a good thing, because there are lots of publishers and lots of editors (and agents) out there with lots of different teen sensibilities. And sometimes, one agent or editor can fully appreciate both the younger and the older teen voices.
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Voice is one of the most difficult writing terms to define and pinpoint. We might know it when we see it, but what's voice made of, really? You hear so often that agents and editors want "new voices" and "compelling voices" and voice voice voice. So what is voice? How do you cultivate it? And how many rhetorical questions do you think can I fit into one post?
Voice, at its most basic level, is the sensibility with which an author writes. It's a perspective, an outlook on the world, a personality and style that is recognizable even out of context. You could drop randomly into a David Sedaris story or an Ernest Hemingway novel and probably guess the author within a few paragraphs because they have strong, unique voices. An author's voice is often imitated (think: Tolkien), but a truly original voice can never be duplicated.