Writer’s Voice: 3 Assignments to Establish Theme

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Everyone tells writers to establish their writer’s voice. But how exactly do you do that? And, for those who don’t know, what exactly is the writer’s voice? Let’s explore this important aspect of becoming a writer. This post will help send you on your own path of discovery and development in terms of theme.

What is Writer’s Voice?

In simple terms, writer’s voice is you, if you were words. It’s the themes and perspectives you choose to explore and the style in which you express those ideas in terms of tone and mood. It even encompasses the grammatical style in which you arrange your chosen words on the page. 

Exploring Your Writer’s Voice

In order to nourish this writer’s voice, you need to decipher your own likes and dislikes. The following assignments are designed to help you explore what inspires you and what makes you unique in terms of themes. Try them out and see if you have a better understanding of what drives your own writing. 

Assignment #1: What do you like?

This seems ridiculous, but seriously, if you’re not writing for yourself, you’re doing it wrong. You should be writing about your passions and pushing the boundaries of your interests. The initial phase of writing, and not the editing phase (my mouth just went dry thinking of that part), should be something that brings you joy. That joy will translate to the page through your words. 

So here’s your first assignment. Make three categories: Television, Film, Books. Write down your top three favs in each category. It can be ‘of all time’ or it can be right now. Your choice. You can stretch it to five if you need to, but don’t overwhelm yourself. 

I’ll go first.
Television: Killing Eve, Gilmore Girls, Love, Death & Robots
Film: Pitch Black, Moonstruck, Jaws
Books: Handmaid’s Tale, Olive Kitteredge, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Assignment #2: Why do you like this stuff?

Now that you’ve made your list, let’s examine why you like what you like. Can you draw some dots between the examples you chose? By doing so, you can determine what you enjoy and what holds your attention. Once you figure this out, you should set your writing compass towards this destination. 

To keep the ball rolling, let’s look at mine. The common denominator in all my examples is a messed-up female heroine who may or may not know who they are when the story starts out (let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that the shark in Jaws was female). I also enjoy dark humor, a dark tone, and the occasional historical context. 

Huh. How about that? I just summed up the vibe of my first trilogy. Dark, female-centric, historical fantasy with tones of dark humor. Which makes sense. When I set out to write, I thought, what would I want to read? Overall, I feel I achieved my goals and I had a great time doing it–except for the editing part, gag. 

Assignment #3: Sum it up and get it verified

Can you reduce your writing into three (okay, maybe four or five) adjectives? Think about how mainstream books, films, and television shows are wrapped up in just a few words. The reason for this is to grab the audiences’ attention. 

As you scroll through Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu, you’re looking for something specific based on your mood. There are all sorts of clues coming at you to give you a feel for what each selection has to offer. The colors, the fonts, the images, and then, when you lean in, the words. Those words sum up an entire project. Can you do this? 

Answer: Yes, you can. 

Once you’ve discovered your three words, ask a writer friend to assess your latest work in terms of those words. Did you hit the marks? If not, could you tweak the work to resemble those three words? 

Through this post, we’ve only explored one piece of a writer’s voice. There are still many other aspects to consider such as grammatical style, perspective and ideas, and overall tone. For more on the concept of writer’s voice, read here

Do you have a topic you would like us to cover? Let us know about your suggestion. 


About Author

Heather Rigney is a fiction writer, blogger, journalist, and art teacher based in Rhode Island. Author of The Merrow Trilogy--a dark, historical fantasy novel that deals with homicidal mermaids, the colonial suppression of women, and a present-day alcoholic funeral director trying to make sense of it all. Her writing has been featured in Motif Magazine and Stone Crowns Magazine. By day she teaches art at an all-girls Quaker school and at night she tries to be creative while avoiding too many sweets. You can read more about Ms. Rigney on her website: www.heatherrigney.com

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