Read what Ryder has to say about What is Voice?
When I first started writing with an aim toward publication,
I read and heard about ‘keeping your voice.’ No one ever explained what that
meant. I needed someone to dumb it down for me. I just didn’t get it. It took a
long time before someone finally explained it in a way that made sense to me.
Voice is more than how the writer interprets her story. It
includes word choice, sentence structure, description, style, and so much more.
Voice is why ten authors can write on the same subject and create ten different
stories. Voice is why one history teacher is considered boring and while
another is entertaining.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of mystery authors, and
many have a following of avid readers. It’s the author’s voice the readers are
following. Developing your own voice and keeping it, is essential to becoming a
When my debut novel, Ultimate
Justice, A Trey Fontaine Mystery, went through the editing process with the
publishing company, voice was the one thing the editor and I agreed on. Unless
I made a grammatical error, sentences weren’t changed. Unless I had a plot
problem, story was not changed. The editor worked with me to keep my voice. If
something needed to be changed, it was my job to choose the words, narrative,
dialogue, etc. Even the amount of white space on a page contributes to voice.
I like to write short paragraphs. Yes, it uses more paper,
or space, but I’ve found that when I’m reading for pleasure, I’ll read a lot
more in one setting if the paragraphs are short. I can take in the information
easily, and I always have time for one more paragraphs. Or two. This is part of
my style, and therefore part of my voice.
When I go to critique group, suggestions are made for how to
fix problems. I take those suggestions home, and determine if there is a
problem, and if there is, how I can best revise in my own words. Voice gets
more distinctive over time. By the time you’ve written a million words, you can
easily see your voice in your work, if you’re looking for it.
One thing that builds voice is developing vocabulary. I
don’t mean learning big words when small ones will do, but finding different
words that will avoid repetition and still maintain your voice. Do you use
metaphors? Or Similes? Do you prefer on over the other? Do you avoid questions
in narrative? Use colons and semi-colons? (I hardly ever use colons or
semi-colons in fiction). Do you usually use beats instead of tags in dialogue?
Read through your works and ask questions like these. Your favorite themes,
your choice of punctuation and sentence length, every decision you make as you
write, is about voice. Losing your voice is as devastating to a writer as an
opera star. Don’t let anyone take it from you. Maintain voice at all costs.
It’s what makes you unique.