There’s more to writing a story than just the words you say. There’s also how you say them. Yes, your story consists of the words you choose. But in order to catch your reader’s attention, it also needs to tell the reader something about your character too.
That’s called writing with Voice.
Voice can be described as the way an author chooses words and strings them into sentences -all in order to ensure the reader really gets to know the character. After reading just a few sentences or paragraphs, if an author is good at creating voice in their writing, the reader will know something about the character’s personality.
So how do you get good at writing with Voice?
Writing with voice is tricky- mostly because there’s no instruction manual on how to do it. Not really. There are some tips that can help, but writing with a real memorable voice only happens by practicing. It takes time to write this way.
Confused? To make it clearer, here’s an example of two passages—one with very little voice and then another with good voice.
I saw a bug crawling down my bedroom wall. I put it into a tissue and flushed it down the toilet.
I saw a bug crawling down my bedroom wall. I flew to the stairs and screamed for my brother. No answer. I screamed for him again. Nothing. Uggh! He’s the one who’s supposed to kill bugs for me. Where is he? I raced back to my room. The creepy stink beetle was now traveling dangerously close to my pillow! I knew it was up to me to get rid of it but ick… it’s so gross! I took a deep breath and grabbed a tissue. I smashed it over its disgusting shell or whatever it was, and ran into the bathroom in like two seconds flat. The flush of the toilet was the best sound I heard all day.
In the first passage, the author gives the facts. We know there’s a bug crawling down the main character’s wall and we know she kills it with a tissue and flushes it down the toilet. However, we don’t know anything about her. The author uses verbs that have no voice at all like saw, put and flush.
In the second passage, we know those same facts, but we also learn more about the main character. We know she’s petrified of bugs. We know she thinks they’re disgusting. We know she relies on her brother to kill them for her. We know that when she finds herself in a crisis, with no one to come to her rescue, she can find the strength to overcome the obstacle. We also know a little something about her personality.
Wow! That’s a lot of information.
So how did the author show this? She showed it by word choices, descriptions, and by showing the world through the character’s eyes instead of her own. The author’s job is to use words the character would use, and use them with the character’s own particular flair. She does this well by using words like, ick and gross and disgusting! Her verb choices show voice too like flew, raced, grabbed and smashed.
Voice is a tricky writing skill to master. It takes awhile to find your own. It takes practice and it takes really knowing your character. What words would she use in a situation? How would she react? Would she react calmly or would she freak out? Would she scream or would she take matters into her own hands with confidence?
Refer to the Scribble Tips tab on the site. Read Scribble Tip # 4 about Fifty Facts. It’s a great way to get to know your character. Check it out and then try using it to write with Voice.
And on a side note…
Our Short Story Showcase is coming! (Check out the tab for details.) If you have a short story that you’d like to see up on the blog, send it in! I’m hoping to have a few stories to post by April 30, so please email yours to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell your friends!