Voices in Writing

Last week I blogged about creating layers in fiction – and the more I think about it, this is the way forward for me. I feel a style emerging that is personal to the way I write when emotion is involved. This week I want to talk about voices in writing (is this an unintended pun?). I’ve been working on two projects at once this week – my children’s story and an adult short story for a competition – which involved switching voices. It made me think about voice and how readers respond to a particular voice in fiction. What is voice? How do I see it (or hear it)?

Have researched this, it seems that we can look at ‘voice’ in writing from two perspectives. Firstly, we have the author’s voice; which is described as the quality that makes a particular author unique. This, is seems, is what agents and publishers seek – fresh voices for them to take forward. The author’s voice speaks on the page – offering feelings and thoughts to readers.

Secondly, there is the character’s voice, created by the speech and thought patterns of each character in a story. How? From the vocabulary, actions, repetition and themes and issues relevant to the characters portrayed.

Back to my adult short story. This is ME. The words and sentences reflect me as a person and as a writer, partly because although I have created a character, my own experiences remain the inspiration behind it. My own thoughts and feelings are there on the page, intentionally or not. My story is one of betrayal – therefore, in writing about this theme, my own experiences of betrayal, have emerged onto the page. How can they not, if my voice is to be genuine?

In adult stories, do we as authors spill out our own adult thoughts and feelings onto the page, through our characters? In other words, to what extent are they a reflection of us?

Back to my children’s story. I have created a character who is eight years old, based loosely on my grandchild. Her voice echoes through the book. I hear it as I write. I use words and expressions that I have heard her use. What else have I done to create a child’s voice in my book? I try to think of what she is learning at school in Year 3 and the issues she faces – such as friendships, which is a major theme in my story. As an author I try to place myself in her world.

Yet, it seems to me that the character’s voices in my book are still reflecting, and are partly subsumed within my own voice as a writer. Both aspects of voice surely merge together.

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) organises a competition for Undiscovered Voices in children’s writing. My goal is to be on their next list of undiscovered voices, all of which reminds me that writing a book or a story in first draft, polishing it and finally submitting it somewhere, takes an enormous amount of time and effort.

I wish everyone out there the best of luck in finding their unique voice.

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