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What is voice? (Hint: it's not POV or character)
L R Waterbury
Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2011 11:38 PM
Joined: 4/28/2011
Posts: 60

In a couple of reviews I've read, people have directly expressed their confusion over the category of 'voice.' Some reviews have taken this to mean 'character' or 'POV" and there already are categories for that.

I read once that voice is the personality of a story, but more than that I feel it is the particular literary personality of the author. The closest synonym, in my opinion, is style. This seems to be the meaning of 'voice' that Book Country is shooting for, as per the FAQs.


Posted: Sunday, May 15, 2011 6:06 PM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 51

I think voice is closely related to POV and character. And even more so if the POV is very tight 3rd or 1st person. Because in those cases, voice becomes (or is interpreted as) the voice of the POV character.

I agree, though, that the overall voice of a piece is more like the style of the work. It's just that the style can be very closely related to POV and character, depending on how it's written.
Jay Greenstein
Posted: Sunday, May 22, 2011 2:43 AM
Both Stephen King and Dean Koontz wrote horror, but there's not the slightest chance of confusing the two. Pick up a book by either, that has no cover or title page and you would know in a page which you're reading.

POV is a function of the character. It's their personality, their needs and desires, along with their perception of their world that constitutes POV. That changes by character and story. But the word choice in the prose, the rhythm, the percentage of prose dedicated to action as against scene building, that's unique to a writer. To me, that's voice.
Posted: Monday, May 23, 2011 11:18 PM
Joined: 5/8/2011
Posts: 52

I've always thought that author voice was a style thing, too, but lately (after reading several works by one author I know) I realize it's something more. And it's not something you can really try to have. You just do.

I can definitely see, with this one writer anyway, the difference between character voice and author voice. His character voices are all unique. The tones, genres, and plot differ. His style is usually the same, but my vary some based on the genre, tone, or character voice. Overall, though, there is some sort of thread that runs through all of his works, nearly invisible but there, that I would call his "voice".

So while I see how it's easy to see it as style, I'm starting to see that it's really something slightly different, though interconnected at the same time.
Posted: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 4:52 PM
Joined: 3/11/2011
Posts: 157

Voice isn't POV or the character voice (though your characters can have their own voice), but more an intricate part of how you as a writer present the story. The problem is that people want to isolate it into some specific thing when really is more the sum of all those things we do when telling a story. Do you use long words or short words? Long complex sentences or simpler sentences. More dialogue or heavy on description? How much of the story do you turn over to the character to tell and how much do you hold onto as the author narrator? It's how you pull all the elements together.

The problem is that when writers think of developing "voice" as a separate thing, the often over look developing technique and plot and POV, etc. They want to have "voice" because it's important. But you can't really have an effective voice until you develop those other elements. Oh, your author voice will still be there but it won't shine unless it's supported by strong writing.

J Boone Dryden
Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2011 7:41 PM
Joined: 5/7/2011
Posts: 42

POV, as Jay said, is a function of character and a mechanic of the story. It is closely tied to perspective and very much tied to character.

As I tell students in my class when I'm teaching mechanics of short stories (and I think this applies to any work of fiction), voice -- like tone and style -- are completely unique to each writer. They're also generally unique to the story being told. Unless you're the type of writer to create a franchise -- like Grisham or Koontz or Fleming -- your voice will alter, even if only slightly, with each story you write.

I say this: voice comes from three things:
1. Authors you like, who you emulate.
2. Authors you don't like, whom you improve upon.
3. Your own perspective on the world.

I think voice requires that you write and study. In order to understand what you do well, you have to write a lot. In order to understand what others do well, you have to read a lot. And in so doing you begin to create your own voice and your own way to telling your story to the world. It's your way of getting around the old adage of "every story has already been written."

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