A lot of writers wonder,
What does it mean to find your writer’s voice?
In a sense, “voice”, in art is simply the why of what drives us to do our art, whatever that might be.
It’s our unique take on the world, whether it’s in the performance of a character, the way we sing a song, or the way we write a story.
Your writer’s voice is the unique combination of style, tone, and point of view that makes your work recognizable and distinctive. It’s the product of your life experiences, your values, and your perspective on the world.
And it’s what will make your work stand out from the rest.
As Neil Gaiman once said:
“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.“Neil Gaiman
This is a beautiful sentiment because when you find your story and voice, you live and create art in a way that’s genuinely you.
It took me years to find my own distinct voice – from my screenplays to my novels and short stories to even my acting – and it’s something I consider among my biggest strengths. It’s something each creative must do if they are to stand out and succeed.
Think of any great artist – Michelangelo, Mozart, Elvis, Aretha, Denzel – whatever the platform, they each imbue their work with their signature style. In doing so, I think it’s hard for them anyone to think of anyone else doing it better.
If you become great at your creative work, your voice becomes synonymous with you.
The following are our best tips for finding your unique voice!
How to Find Your Writer’s Voice as an Author
Check out this video to learn A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones Author George R. R. Martin’s view of an author’s voice!
1. Emulate artists you admire
Interestingly, when we start in our artistic pursuits, whether in film, music, writing, or drawing, we tend to emulate the other writers we most admire.
We study their work and try copying their styles, techniques, and even themes. We learn their nuances and flourishes. We grow to recognize their different styles and what sets them apart from their peers.
Then, somewhere along the line, if we stick with it long enough, we begin to allow our own distinctive writer’s voice to bubble to the surface.
As a writer, it’s helpful to read the books and screenplays of the writers you admire most or watch the films of the filmmakers and screenwriters you admire the most.
Not only will you enjoy their work for its own sake, but you’ll pick up tips and tricks without even realizing it. You’ll recognize patterns and understand what works and what doesn’t, often from the number of times specific techniques appear.
Then, when you feel comfortable enough, try to copy their word choice or style, either in part or whole, and bring some aspects that you love of their work into your own. You might try copying another writer’s sentence structure or their use of specific vocabulary words (don’t copy their actual words or content!).
Doing this helps particularly with finding your own signature style of writing. But it doesn’t have to be a conscious effort on your part.
Read as many works as you can from other writers that you enjoy. You’ll find that without even realizing it, some of their writing techniques will ‘rub off‘ on you!
That’s the beauty of reading!
2. Use your personal experiences
Much of what we consider the concept of a writer’s voice is tied to our life and the things we’ve gone through.
Even the experiences of those who came before us matter in this context – whether friends, family, or strangers.
One of the best ways to find your voice in writing is to draw on your personal and family experiences. After all, these are the stories that you know best.
Think about a time when you faced a challenge or overcame an obstacle.
What did you learn from this experience?
How did it change you?
Alternatively, you could write about a family member or ancestor who inspires you. What lessons can you glean from their life story?
By drawing on your own life experiences, or those of your loved ones, you can write with authenticity and passion – two essential ingredients for any good piece of writing.
Overall, your memories, the surge of emotions you’ve felt, and the unique ways you perceive the world – these are your goldmines. When you write from that place of raw authenticity, not only does your work resonate more deeply, but it also feels effortless, like a conversation between old friends.
So, how can you tap into this wellspring of authenticity? Here are a few heartwarming activities:
- Journaling: Nothing beats the age-old practice of pouring your thoughts onto paper. Regular journaling allows you to converse with yourself, clarifying and deepening your connection with your emotions.
- Writing Unsent Letters: Have something unsaid weighing on your heart? Put it in a letter. It’s therapeutic and can unlock emotions and perspectives you didn’t even know you had.
- Penning Personal Essays: Share your journey, triumphs, and struggles. These snippets of your life are both cathartic for you and relatable for readers.
We each have a unique perspective on the world and our journeys because of our personal and family experiences. These experiences help us to create our own voice in creative writing.
3. Know yourself
The better you know yourself, and the better you know those around you, the more honest your art becomes and the more of your true self you can put into it.
An established writer’s voice requires a certain amount of self-assuredness and confidence, and you get that through knowing yourself well.
To better know your perspective, ask yourself the following questions:
- What makes me happy?
- What makes me upset?
- What gives me hope?
- What do I do well?
- What do I wish I could do better?
- If there was one thing I could change in the world, what would it be?
- If there was one thing I could change in myself, what would it be?
- How would I spend today if I knew the world would end tomorrow?
You could add countless other questions to this list, and I encourage you to do so. Use the above only as a starting point, and expand without limit.
Remember, none of these answers are set in stone. They apply to the here and now, and it’s okay if they change over time. That’s just part of being human.
The more you delve into your wants and needs, hopes and dreams, failings and flaws, the more the answers to questions like these will make all the difference in helping you create your writer’s voice.
As Robin Williams once said,
You must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all.Robin Williams, as John Keating in
Dead Poets Society
4. Focus on people-watching!
Don’t just focus on fictional literature and film.
Soak up as many references as possible to real people in real life.
You will likely find yourself basing your characters, in whole or in part, on people you know – those who inspire you or repel you, those that you find interesting or intriguing in real life, whether a historical figure, politician, celebrity, or simply someone on the news.
Maybe it will be a real person within your family or close circle. It can even be strangers on the street, subway, or at your local restaurant. There’s no wrong choice here.
The world is full of wonderful, complex beings, each with their unique traits, mannerisms, and takes on life. To tap into that wealth of human experience, all it comes down to is paying attention.
Watching and observing other people can help you take the perspective of a story character who is unlike you, and yet, the more you observe, the more you’ll realize that more things make us all the same than different.
The more you tap into that, the more your audience will relate to your distinctive voice.
5. Write regularly
If there’s one secret sauce to mastering the art of writing, it’s consistency. Like any craft, skill, or muscle, your writing prowess grows stronger with regular exercise. Think of it as watering a plant, nourishing it daily so it blooms in its season.
Now, you might wonder, “What if I’m not inspired?” Here’s a friendly secret: professional writers rarely wait for inspiration. Instead, they show up, day after day, treating writing as both art and discipline. By setting aside dedicated time for writing, you train your mind to produce even when the muse seems to be on vacation.
Setting a routine does wonders:
- It Builds Discipline: Just like going to the gym, the more you stick to a writing regimen, the more it becomes a habit. Over time, it won’t feel like a chore; it’ll be a part of the day you eagerly anticipate.
- It Enhances Skill: The more you write, the better you get. You’ll discover nuances in your style, voice, and tone. You’ll experiment, falter, learn, and grow.
- It Amplifies Creativity: Contrary to popular belief, constraints can boost creativity. When you know you have a set time to write, your brain starts preparing, gathering ideas, and brewing stories even before you sit down.
To kickstart this journey, begin small. Set aside ten minutes daily, free from distractions. Use this time to write about anything: your day, dreams, a random thought, or a fictional tale. As days become weeks, you’ll find yourself craving more time, diving deeper into the world of words.
6. Seek feedback but trust your instincts
As writers, we often pour our souls onto the page, making it somewhat nerve-wracking to hand over our creations for critique. But this feedback loop, daunting as it might be, is an invaluable step in our growth journey.
Navigating the World of Feedback: Whether from peers, mentors, or editors, each piece of advice you receive is like a signpost on your writer’s journey. While some point in a clear direction, others might seem conflicting. It’s essential to listen, but equally vital to discern which feedback aligns with your vision.
The Power of Constructive Criticism: There’s criticism that cuts, and then there’s criticism that carves. The latter shapes you, refining rough edges and enhancing your writer’s voice. When someone offers constructive feedback, they’re gifting you fresh eyes, showing you facets of your work that might have been previously invisible to you.
Balancing Feedback with Instinct: Here’s the golden nugget: while feedback is invaluable, your instincts are irreplaceable. There’ll be moments when advice clashes with your internal compass. In such times, take a step back. Reflect. Remember that the heart of the story is yours, and while external inputs can guide, they shouldn’t overshadow your inherent writer’s voice.
In the dance of writing, feedback is the rhythm, and instinct is the steps. One guides while the other moves. Embrace both, but never forget the magic when you trust your feet to find the beat.
7. Know that your artistic voice will always keep changing and adapting
Though I’ve written screenplays and novels alike, and feel as though I’ve managed to establish my own voice in my work, in many ways,
I’m still searching for my writer’s voice, and I feel it is changing in small ways all the time.
Your literary voice is supposed to change as you grow as a person! Not only does it keep you from being stagnant as a creative, but it will elevate the quality of your work.
Our experiences define us, and as an artist, those challenges can set the stage for taking your work to new heights.
As such, most artists spend their lives searching for the next step in the evolution of their creative voice. Think of your favorite artist, and you’ll likely find this true.
Consider Picasso, an excellent example of someone changing his voice, tone, and style as an artist throughout his career.
Picasso had many stages of evolution and experimentation throughout his artistic journey – his blue period, his yellow period, and so on.
Each period was marked by a completely different artistic style, which meant he was never satisfied with having only one unique voice – one way of looking at life and his work – but struggled to attain a completely different voice in each phase of his life.
The results speak for themselves – his breadth of work was immense, and the artist and the audience were richer for it.
It might just be a simple question of evolution to say,
“That’s not who I am anymore. Now, I’m this other way, and I need my art to be a reflection of this person that I am now, as opposed to the person I was 20 years ago.”
So, never stop looking, changing, and growing.
The growth and personal development that truly matters comes from the search, not the goal.
The Definition of a Writer’s Voice
In writing, the author’s personality, style, perspective, and “voice” come through in their writing. It makes their writing, word choice, and sentence structure unique and sets them apart from other aspiring authors.
When you read a piece of writing, you can “hear” the author’s voice in your head, even if you’ve never met them.
An author’s voice can be quiet or loud, formal or informal, serious or funny. It all depends on the writer and what they are trying to communicate.
Some writers have instantly recognizable and very distinctive voices, while others are more subdued.
Regardless of a writer’s voice, that voice should be authentic and genuine to themselves. This is what will make their writing resonate with readers!
The Difference Between the Voice of the Author and the Voice of a Character
In literature, there is a difference between the author’s and the character’s voices.
The author’s voice is the overall tone and style of the piece, while a character’s voice is how each character sounds when they speak.
For example, an author may have a formal, third-person voice, while a character voice may be told in a first-person, colloquial voice. It’s essential to be aware of both types of voice when reading literature, as they can both provide important clues about the story.
The author’s voice can give readers a sense of the piece’s overall mood.
Is it playful or serious? Dramatic or humorous?
The author’s voice can also provide insight into the author’s views on the subject matter.
On the other hand, each character’s voice can provide clues about their personalities, motives, and character development. A timid character may speak in a quiet, meek voice, while a more confident character may speak with authority.
Paying attention to both the author’s voice and the character’s voice can help you better understand the story.
Frequently Asked Questions About Voice in Writing
How do you demonstrate voice in writing?
Voice in writing is like your own special magic. It’s the literary equivalent of your fingerprint. It’s molded by your personality, the words you pick, your upbringing, and your life stories. There’s no one-size-fits-all guide to finding your voice in writing; it’s all about exploring and experimenting. And when you find that signature voice of yours, cherish it. It’s what makes your stories unique and truly your own!
What are the two types of voice in writing?
Voice is an essential element of writing but can be somewhat elusive. In general, there are two types of voice that writers can use: literary voice and authorial voice. The literary voice is the unique perspective a work of fiction takes on the world. It can be expressed through the setting, the characters, or the narrator’s point of view. Authorial voice, on the other hand, is the personal perspective that an author brings to a work of nonfiction. It can be seen in how an author structures their argument or use of language. Ultimately, literary and authorial voices are essential tools writers can use to engage their readers.
What is a character voice?
In literature, “character voice” denotes the distinct manner in which a character communicates, encompassing vocabulary, grammar, and phrasing. It provides insights into a character’s personality, history, and beliefs and influences the story’s mood. Notably, some characters, like Holden Caulfield in “The Catcher in the Rye” or Scout Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” have such standout voices that they become pivotal to the story’s charm.
What is narrative voice?
Narrative voice refers to the perspective from which a story is told. The two primary types are first person and third person. First-person offers a closer, more personal view, immersing the reader in the character’s experiences. However, it can also be challenging to maintain a consistent voice throughout an entire novel, and first-person narratives can sometimes feel like one long monologue.
Third-person offers a broader, more detached overview of events, allowing for a multifaceted narrative. This can make for a more complex and nuanced story but can also be confusing or distant if not done well.
Final Thoughts: How to Find Your Voice as a Writer
Artists, by definition, are insular beings.
We tend to close ourselves off from the world to practice our art and better know ourselves. However, the artists who truly flourish and grow are the ones who also open themselves to their worlds.
Finding your writing style and writer’s voice can be a lifelong challenge for any creative, especially a writer of fiction. By studying, observing, practicing, reflecting, and allowing for inner change, you’ll soon discover your writer’s voice that sets you apart from everyone else!
While there is no one formula for finding your distinctive voice in writing, there are a few things you can keep in mind that may help you find and develop your unique voice.
First, reading widely and exposing yourself to various writing styles can be helpful. As you read, pay attention to the elements that appeal to you and note the techniques you want to try in your writing.
If you experience writer’s block, or a block in your creativity, don’t be afraid to take some time off and consume other people’s art for a while. Go to an art gallery, watch a good movie, or read a favorite book. This is often a great way to learn more about literary voices and get your creative juices flowing again!
Additionally, don’t be afraid to experiment with different voices and tones until you find the one that feels most natural.
And finally, remember that your writer’s voice will evolve as you gain more experience and confidence as a writer, so don’t hesitate to revisit these tips down the road if you feel like you’ve lost your way.
Write and build unique fictional worlds in a way that feels natural and comfortable for you, and don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. As you experiment and explore, you’ll develop a unique writer’s voice that is all your own.
So take the leap and find your instantly recognizable writer’s voice for your creative works today!
All Outta Bubblegum Radio Show with guest Griffin Cork
Listen to the show every Friday at 10am MST: All Outta Bubblegum on Sound Sugar Radio
Griffin Cork is an actor and producer whose professional career began at age 12 with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. He then transitioned from stage to screen and back several times, working alongside notable names like Matthew Perry, Stephen Amell, and Colm Feore, as well as appearing in my directorial-debut feature film, Spin the Wheel.
He has done voice-over work and podcasting, and even created award-winning documentaries. Griffin has been named a Lieutenant Governor of Alberta’s Emerging Artist and an Alberta Foundation for the Arts’ Top Young Artist.
Selected Links from the Episode – How to Find Your Voice as a Writer
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