How to Develop a Voice
Authors develop distinct voices to accomplish specific goals with their writing. To help develop the voice of your writing, consider these questions:
- From whose perspective is the story being told?
- Are the events directly connected to the narrator and his feelings?
- Is the narrator neutral, or does he/she take a particular side?
- What is the genre of the story?
- What is the subject?
- How do you want your readers to feel?
How do you feel about the story?
- How do the characters feel?
- Do you want to influence your readers, or leave the reaction completely to them?
Answering these questions should give you a pretty clear idea of what the voice of your work should be. But mainly, it’s about what you want to accomplish—you need to decide the attitude and perspective you want to show, and that voice and perspective should be related to the overall goal of your work.
When to use Voice
You always need to consider the voice of your writing, no matter what the topic, point of view, audience, or genre. Whenever an author sets out to write something, he always contemplates its voice, because as you know, it will determine how readers receive the work. Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, the voice is important in every case, even if that means deciding that you don’t really want a distinguishable voice! Either way, you always need to think about it.
For instance, in fiction, if you’re writing a horror novel, the voice should be more solemn and fearful, while the voice of a comedy should be more witty and comical. If the voice of your horror novel was bubbly and silly, the story would suffer; whereas a stern and serious voice in comedy could make it difficult to understand jokes and humor. Similarly, in non-fiction or academic writing the voice needs to be equally appropriate based on your goal—if you’re trying to convince someone of the dangers of global warming, then your tone should be persuasive; if you’re writing a biography of Abraham Lincoln, the voice should reflect your positive or negative perspective on him.
That said, there are times when you don’t want a work to have a distinguishable voice—without a voice, writing is very straightforward. For example, reference works like encyclopedias, and dictionaries deliver facts, so they generally do not have a voice. Their content should be delivered in a direct and unambiguous way, without much room for readers to develop opinions.