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Piece's voice vs. character voice vs. narrative voice
Posted: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 5:41 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245

Is there a difference?  I had a beta reader come back to me after reading my book and tell me that I need to rewrite the book.  Their reasoning is that I haven't found the piece's voice and it'll take a start-over rewrite to find it.

Is there a difference between narrative voice (or author voice), character voice, and the voice of a work?

Voice is the one issue that I struggle with most.  I think it's because it's so nebulous and individual.

Ey Wade
Posted: Friday, April 8, 2011 10:14 AM
Joined: 4/2/2011
Posts: 3

I could see the difference between the character's voice and the voice of the narrative, but the voice of the 'work' seems a little illusive to me. Oh, wait now that I think about it, you can read a book and understand what it wants you to feel. The actions and dialogue of the characters can guide you into another direction while the author's style of writing can either bring it all together or take you on trip. especially in a mystery.
Posted: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:15 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245

But isn't that more the message of the piece, not its voice? I'm not sure I believe there's a difference between character voice and the voice of a manuscript. Or, if there is, then I'm inclined to believe the voice of the piece is more akin to authorial/narrative voice.

Obviously in 1st person the narrative voice and character voice should be fairly close to the same. But in 3rd? Or 2nd?

I guess what I'm struggling to wrap my head around is the difference between authorial voice and the character voice. I don't know.

This is my biggest road block to addressing the comments made by this beta. It's this paralyzing "What is wrong with my piece so I can fix it?" question.
Posted: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 9:50 PM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 51

I always feel like unless you're writing 3rd omni (or 3rd cinematic), the voice of the work should be the voice of the POV character. That applies whether it's 1st or 3rd limited.

As far as authorial voice goes, to me that's always meant the way a story is told, from the overall arc to the specific words used. And from what I've observed, both in the writing of others and in my own work, it's one of those things that develops over time as you read more and write more.
CY Reid
Posted: Thursday, May 5, 2011 3:35 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 52

I don't agree with the concept of a piece's "voice," - to me that sounds like editing jargon used when they're not comfortable with finding a more defined problem with a text.

Personally, I think a piece is defined by the voice of the narrator, and I think to suggest that the voice of the work is anything other than the voices presented to you in the form of one or more narrators is a tad on the ludicrous side.

Although there are differences between authorial voice and character voices (and I feel it's simply a matter of POV, in most cases), I think saying that the overall voice of the "piece" is simply a round-the-houses way of stating that the reviewer isn't a fan of the narration.
Kevin Haggerty
Posted: Thursday, May 5, 2011 11:34 PM
Joined: 3/17/2011
Posts: 90

Every story is unique, but not every story is written with that uniqueness in mind. When this happens, the "voice" may seem "flat" or "unclear"--you haven't found the piece's voice yet. You can get all the characters straight and your plot holes mended, but the piece can still be lacking something. Call it the book's identity or maybe the book's character.

The piece's voice is a large issue, not readily reducible. It's very much to do wiht the book as a whole, as a single irreducible experience. Some books can feel scattered or schizoid--you know what I mean? Such books lack a unified voice.

My guess is, Steph, that your beta is trying to get at this sort of issue. Such things are not always easy to articulate, but they're real. Perhaps your book has yet to become more than the sum of its parts, so to speak. It's a tricky issue, because there is no tried and true "fix" to such a problem. The problem is absolutely one of quality rather than quantity. You just need to grow old with the book a little, get to know it *that* well and then come back and share that depth of understanding in a new draft.

Is that at all helpful?

J Boone Dryden
Posted: Friday, October 21, 2011 8:23 PM
Joined: 5/7/2011
Posts: 42

Perhaps the reader meant the work's tone. There is a difference, I think, between that and voice. The tone can be disjointing if at times it shifts from high diction to low, from distant to intimate, etc. These things need to be consistent.

However, there is a difference between character voice -- or the variant in characterization -- and narrative voice. Narrative voice pertains to a sense of objectiveness or subjectivity in the story. Does the narrator make comment about the story, the world, etc. throughout and have a sort of personal report with the reader? (subjective) Or does the narrator simply relate the events as they happened? (objective) These things can serious alter a story, and they can even be a detriment if they change throughout. That, too, ought to be consistent.
Posted: Saturday, October 22, 2011 6:23 PM
Joined: 5/12/2011
Posts: 241

It is definitely nebulous and individual and to some extent, I'm not sure you can change it willfully. But there may be things you can do to tweak it here and there.

I've done a bit of stage acting (a very little bit, very much in the past, but...) and I sometimes feel, when I'm writing, that I'm "in character" whether it's the character of the person whose POV I'm writing from, or the characters participating in a dialogue or the character of the narrator. The sum of these things added together produces an overall tone for the book.

Certain things might change this tone. Your narration could be clipped and simple, or it could be drawn-out and purple (or whatever in between). It could be staccato or legato in musical terms.

Then there is the literary critical perspective (academic literary critic, not popular book reviewer) and that would look at narrator's perspective, characters' perspectives and perhaps, if you are believer in its existence, writer's perspective. Your narration could lead a reader to believe or disbelieve, like or dislike, trust or mistrust your characters or even your story overall.
Jay Greenstein
Posted: Sunday, November 13, 2011 7:46 PM
• Is there a difference?

Between character and writer, there is. The character’s “voice is the sum total of their persona. It’s the unique way they express themselves, their gestures, way of thinking, outlook, and things like a habit of interrupting others—things that will cause a reader to know who’s speaking without a tag to identify the speaker.

The writer’s voice, at least to me, is what makes you able to tell who wrote the piece within a page, without looking at the title page. It’s how they organize, their ratio of dialog to exposition, and the type of characters they favor.

Lora Belle
Posted: Saturday, November 19, 2011 6:12 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 3

I don't think voice is something writers have to worry about. Here is why:

1. If your PoV character is consistent with his/her on page personality...

2. If tone of your writing is consistent with genre...

3. If your dialogs reveal the characters even when tag lines removed...

4. If your scenes are meaningful and move the conflict toward resolution, hooking the reader by her eyeballs with their hope-fear struggles...

Then don't worry about your voice. It's there and I'm buying it.

Thing about this voice hype.... Voice has no pattern, you may as well call it a good writing, at least there are rules and exercises to develop good writing.


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