In writing, your voice is the combination of tone, personality, style, and everything else that makes your writing an authentic expression of you.
Writing voice is the reason that A Series of Unfortunate Events became more than a depressing saga, and it’s the reason the Fantastic Beasts movies may feel more like Harry Potter to you than the Cursed Child script did.
Voice can be hard to pin down, but learning to adjust yours is essential.
If you help others revise their work, you need to know how to make suggestions that improve the text without making it yours.
If you work as a copywriter or ghostwriter, then you have to make your writing sound as much as possible like someone else’s.
And finally, if you create characters, you need to differentiate their voices and personalities from yours.
Here are four exercises that help you develop your voice talent.
Exercise 1: Your Story
For five minutes, write a scene from your perspective. Tell a story from your life.
Exercise 2: Identification
Look at the scene you just wrote and identify key aspects of your personal voice. Consider:
- Word choice
- Grammar and usage
- Sentence structure
How would a reader who has never met you perceive your writing voice? What would you guess the writer’s personality is like?
Exercise 3: Imitation
Next, choose an author you admire, and read a page or two of their writing. Then, for five minutes, try to imitate their writing voice. What effect do they create, and what elements of their tone, style, and approach help them do that?
Exercise 4: Dissection
Now, read over the scene you wrote about yourself and the scene you wrote while taking on another writer’s voice. Compare and contrast the two. Some questions you can consider are:
- To what extent did you succeed in imitating the other writer’s voice?
- What new techniques did you use to imitate the other writer?
- What strategies from your voice snuck in to your attempt to sound like the other writer?
- What elements of the other writer’s voice would you like to try to incorporate into yours?
- What elements of the other writer’s voice just don’t work for you?
- What elements of your voice do you like?
- How can your voice be an asset to you in the genre you write in?
You don’t need to become anyone else to have a great writing voice, but trying out other styles can help you figure out what elements are important to your voice and which ones you’d rather lose.
Knowing your own voice well is essential to leveraging it. How has developing your voice improved your writing?