Chasing the Elusive Author Voice

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Five Tips to Help Track It Down

Whether you’re an aspiring author or you’re already published, you may relate to hearing the irritatingly vague suggestion from more experienced writers to “hone your author voice”. However, with a little fine-tuning and mindful creativity, I’ve seen how the veil of inadequacy and overwhelm can be easily lifted. Below, I’ll outline the five tips I’ve found that have both boosted my confidence and placed the reins back in my hands – because at the end of the day, the only thing driving your story most, is you. Finding yourself in the midst of the noise is the single most important thing, and my hope is that these quick tips might help to steer you in that direction.

1. Determine the similarities and differences between you and your character’s voice.

Some of your characters are likely an extension of yourself, but what sorts of things have you inserted into their personas that make them just a little bit different than you? Also, what kinds of cultural effects, habits, and personalities might they be born into? Think of anything and everything that could define them, and you, as the writer. Then tease out the things that you’ve deemed important. If anyone questions the validity of your voice, you can promise them that your character is effected by certain things differently than you, and there are good reasons for such differentiations.

2. Play around with POV’s.

Decide what your point of view might be as the author. Do you want to float above the action, and resign yourself to third person? Or do you want to be right in the thick of it by claiming the lead role of first person for yourself? Here’s an article exploring POV in more detail: A Crash Course in Point of View.

Another good way to help decide which direction might be best for your story is to consider how vulnerable you want your writing to be. That is, do you want your character’s thoughts splayed out, completely and utterly bare to the audience, or do you prefer to have their emotions shrouded in a bit more mystery? Some writers suggest sticking with one POV across different works to solidify your author voice as yours. I strongly disagree with that idea. Instead I’d say, do whichever best fits the tone of the narrative you want to tell.

3. Don’t limit yourself to sound the same every time.

It’s a tempting trap to try and force your writing into what you might think is your narrative voice. Maybe you aspire to be one of those writers (Dickens, Shakespeare, I’m looking at you guys) who crave being identified by just short passages from your work, merely just from your signature prosaic rhythms and syntax. But, especially if you’re just starting out, it’s crucial to let that develop over time. Write anything and everything that suits your fancy, and let your voice develop on its own. Just the way an immaculately sketched portrait begins with seemingly chaotic scratches and stray doodles, your voice will take shape on its own with time and practice.

4. Give yourself complete creative freedom.

To let your work take shape, you’ll need to loosen the reigns in certain places while tightening them where needed. Write in different genres until you narrow down what you are drawn to the most. Let yourself explore different avenues of writing styles and mediums. Pay attention to your natural daily rhythms to figure out when your writing ability is at its peak. You’re a human being – not a human doing – so let life happen around you. Observe where the story takes you while you let yourself wander with purpose.

5. Be real with yourself.

What I mean by this is, don’t censor anything you’re doing. Of course, there are other adjacent topics like marketing to your correct demographic and all that which certainly may come into play later. But for now, I mean this in the most general sense. If you feel a scene would help your story, include it. Even if it’s different than you expected it to be, and maybe even makes you feel a little bit uncomfortable, let it happen anyway. Your author voice will appear in the most surprising of places. For all you know, it could pop out most brightly in that very scene that you almost cut out completely.

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About Author

Tabitha Lord is the award-winning author of the HORIZON series. She lives in Rhode Island with her husband, four kids, two spoiled cats, and lovable black lab.

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