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How to improve your writer's voice

Have you ever tried to sing Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose?”

Trick question, of course you have.


Whether it was a drunken karaoke rendition or a drunken night alone with your honey bear (why do you have to sing when you drink), no one can resist the challenge of belting “Bay-behhh.”

Don't worry, we were all impressed. Seriously! Even though you murdered the notes and your dancing demanded a 911 dial, there was something special about your performance.

No, we didn't hear Seal. But, even better, we heard you.

That same phenomena happens in writing that doesn't suck, and we call that voice.

What is voice?

If you were looking for a solid answer from this article, you’re going to have bad time.

Voice is hard to define because of its intangibility. In a good book, the author’s voice floats through the words like a holy ghost, speaking in tongues that we feel without understanding.

We are sure at least that voice allows us to hear an author behind their words, whether it’s the wordy gentleman Charles Dickens or the delightful smart ass Douglas Adam. When thinking about voice, I ask myself two main questions. First, I ask “Who am I?” and “Does my writing reflect me?”

As Maeve Binchy writes, I believe it means finding a way to write what is comfortable for you. It's finding the method to tell your story that seems natural and unaffected. That way you're not going to get caught out all the time trying to keep up with some kind of style that you think may be appropriate.

Voice is not your style; voice is the style of you.

What does style of you mean?
Yes, antitmetaboles are fun. But thinking about voice means telling your inner critic to shut it so your readers can see both the good and bad parts of you.

Imperfection is authentic. You’re a real person; write like you’re a real person.

Don’t try to lose your audience with high vernacular. Unless you are a genius of course, then write like a genius. According to John DiTiberio in the book Writing and Personality, Knowing about and understanding your personality type can be a real gift to you as a writer. You can relax, having discovered that your secret "tricks" are not odd or abnormal but are natural extensions of who you are as a person.

Ignore "this is what all good writers do"
When I write, I like using parenthesis (it’s fun), and I don’t care if they take away my English degree because of it (oh God, please don’t). Many great writers have also ripped some pages from their grammar text book. For example, William Shakespeare often ended his sentences with a preposition, and Jane Austen didn’t not use double negatives. If they can do it, why can’t you? So forget your English teacher for a moment when you write.

Well, there are some basics to know…
Now that I’ve asked you to unlearn everything, here are some good resources to help you properly hone your voice. What fun is a blog article without a little irony?

Sentence structure – sentence variety gives writing life.
Diction – the difference between the write word and the right word.
Mechanics – helps writing to be clear.
Tone – Tells us why are you writing this and who are you writing to.
Mood – Tells us how we should feel about the subject.
Oh yeah, and use active voice.

Experiment with other voices
We all remember experimenting in college (uh...), but the fun doesn't have to end!

A good exercise to help you find your voice is to write passages in another author’s voice. Pick some of your favorite writers, comedians, or singers, and try to replicate their sentence structure, diction, mechanics, tone and mood. Try describing a busy New York subway from the voice of Virginia Woolf, then try Louis CK, then try Tupac Shakur.


Hey! Check us out on Twitter @FunnyIn500


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