Voice and Narrative

So Diane Sherlock, good friend and amazing writer, is running my blogs on Vonnegut’s eight rules of writing. I’m honored to run a few of her blog posts over the next few weeks. Be sure to check out her blog each week. Some great advise there.

Voice and Narrative

An essential element for good writing is a good ear: One must listen to the sound of one’s own prose. – Barbara Tuchman

I’ve found that I’m not alone in the experience of writing at least in part because I didn’t have a voice growing up. Many find their voice when they escape their families or when the overbearing parent loses theirs through illness or death. Writing well is the best revenge in so many ways. So then, what about your voice as a writer?

The word prose comes from the Latin prosa, meaning straightforward, the language ordinary people use to write or speak. One of the many challenges for the novelist is how to create a compelling connection with the reader; one of the points of connection is the author’s voice. According to structuralist Seymour Chatman, “Voice … refers to the speech or other overt means through which events and existents are communicated to the audience.”  He goes on to add that voice is “the medium through which perception, conception, and everything else are communicated.” Just as a person has his or her own unique voice whether speaking, groaning, shouting, or singing, so an author has a unique writing voice. The primary objective in exploring and mastering your own writing voice is to enliven prose in order to hold the attention of the reader.

A writer’s exclusive style is based on many things: life experience, books read, schooling, taste, and choices made in the creation of narrative.  Individual writing voice transcends the general concept of idiolects (singular word and grammar choices each individual writer makes), as well as choice of narrator, tense, point of view, time, and setting.  The sum is greater than its parts.  You have a voice. Use it. Go write something amazing.



Diane Sherlock is the author of four novels, Dead Weight, Willful Ignorance, Growing Chocolate, and the upcoming Wrestling Alligators. Her writing has appeared in The Rumpus, scissors and spackle, The Citron Review, Mo+th (Bombshelter), and Bird in the Hand: Risk & Flight (Outrider).

She is one of the co-founders and fiction editors for AnnotationNation.com, a site for writers to annotate books in terms of craft and maintains a blog on the craft of fiction writing. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles in 2009. Born in La Jolla, CA, she currently lives in Los Angeles. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter @Diane_Sherlock


9 thoughts on “Voice and Narrative”

  • I never really thought that each individual person has their own writing voice. Now that I think about that, it does make sense that everybody has their own way of speaking out loud and writing in words.

  • A well-developed voice is what makes a piece of fiction work. For example, a story with a “textbook/documentary” voice isn’t as engaging as a more involved voice. One of the many keys to crafting fiction is mastering the voice with which the story should be told.
    I am not familiar with the works of Lady Sherlock, but methinks I will check out what I can. A good student is willing to learn from many masters, so they say.

  • I like when I read a story and the author has dry humor mixed into the words. its fun to find it. I believe that each individual writer is influenced by their life, because we are humans and we do tend to be influenced. Too many writers today have the same voice and it is just sad.

  • Everybody has a distinctive voice, and the same applies to their writing voice, so one of the biggest challenges for writers IS connnecting to someone with a different voice (which is everyone). Still, originality is keen and I feel that every writer should stick to their own writing style, rather than trying to emulate someone else’s style. I find that my personal writing style is generally serious with a dash humor thrown in.

  • I think everybody has a voice they just don’t know how to express themselves. I like to express my thoughts fully out when I write my stories.

  • When people write they have there own voice. That is what every story unique. You kind of get a different feel for the author.

  • What makes a story unique is the writers voice, even if the plot of the story has been done a million times, it’s told a million different ways because of the writers voice.

  • The author’s voice helps the story move along smoothly. I didn’t think their voice would come from personal experiences. I always thought it was more of how your character would be like and based off their experience.

  • I find my voice to be very real and straightforward, I always sound philosophical,and comical at times. However I do belive that it takes a while to find your voice. For to be able to right in your voice is to be yourself.

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