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Do I hate the sound of my own voice?

Ah, voice. Voice is this slippery elusive weird thing that writers need to be good at. You might recall that I recently summarised my experience at this year’s Perth Writers Festival and concluded above all other points that developing a voice was so essential to fiction writing.

In yet another “the universe throws its stuff at you and you can’t help but notice” moment, voice has been all around me the past week or so. A book-loving friend pointed me in the direction of this rather distressing Christopher Hitchens piece on voice – in which (among sadder parts) he muses on the link between your speaking voice and your writing voice, and again emphasises how important it is to find your voice. A few days later, my writer friend Kristan linked up to a post by screenwriter John August on writing the way you speak which was also inspired by the Christopher Hitchens piece, and said a lot of what I’d been thinking since then, but a bit more eloquently. (So you might as well go and read all that first, then come back. Because I know all you readers have oodles and oodles of free time to go read everything I suggest …!)

So, voice. At the moment, I can’t figure out if I don’t like the fiction I’ve written because it sounds too much like me or not enough like me. How can a writer really read their fiction as if it’s not theirs, and figure out if there’s actually one of these mysterious voices there or not? Putting stuff away in the metaphorical drawer for as long as possible seems to help me a little, but even when I do that and I “enjoy” something I’ve written, I can’t tell you why it works, or what about the chapter or story seems to go together to actually make a “voice”.

Voice works well enough for me (most of the time) when I’m blogging – especially on my travel blog (Not A Ballerina; shameless plug). When I’m blogging I do actually feel like I’m speaking to people, that this is more or less my speaking voice (a bit more casual on my travel blog – like I’m chatting in a hostel, perhaps – and perhaps a touch more formal over here, because fiction writing seems a more academic subject to me). But this is not the voice I want to express in my novels. Or am I trying to be too serious when I write fiction?

… Anyway, I’ve sat on this post for a couple of days, hoping to come to some meaningful conclusions about my fiction writing voice. Alas, I have not. Basically, all I’ve done is identify (for the trillionth time) that voice is important. Whether or not I have a good one remains to be seen. Perhaps the forces of the universe that got me thinking about this topic could actually send me some stuff that resolves it? I will be waiting.

Amanda Kendle

7 Comments

  1. “But this is not the voice I want to express in my novels. Or am I trying to be too serious when I write fiction?”

    That is exactly what I used to wonder. As I began to experiment with other voices (like in TWENTY-SOMEWHERE, my private writing exercises, and a few short stories) I found myself feeling much happier and more comfortable with a more “commercial” (i.e., less serious) voice. I also began to see more success.

    I’m not saying this will happen for every writer, but I *am* suggesting that you experiment. Try other voices. Push yourself out of your comfort zone with your writing. I think that’s the only way to find where you want to settle.

  2. I was thinking exactly about this experience of yours as I wrote this, Kristan! I’m a little scared to try in case I discover that I’m better at writing the kinds of novels I don’t actually like reading. But I think you’re right that it’s worth trying … Thank you 🙂 (not just a semi-thanks this time!).

  3. when I do that and I “enjoy” something I’ve written, I can’t tell you why it works, or what about the chapter or story seems to go together to actually make a “voice”.

  4. It’s so essential you’d be nowhere without it. I’ve been complimented on my voice while I could work a lot more on my technique.

  5. Jarvis: I think you’re exactly right. Voice is utterly essential. Now I just have to figure out if I’ve got it or not. Be grateful you do!

  6. I am so glad you joined my blog. We have a lot in common! I too am crazy for travel and I am currently finishing my final year of University to get my double major in art history and creative writing.
    I really look forward to following both your blogs!

    The Wanderfull Traveler

  7. You’re welcome Murissa, enjoying reading yours too – and am jealous of your university study, sounds really interesting. No doubt we will keep in touch 🙂

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