Thoughts on Voice

Phil Slattery's Blog

The blogger on Padre Island, January, 2011. The blogger on Padre Island, January, 2011.

I just want to post a few quick thoughts for the night on the topic of voice in narration versus narration in dialogue.   The opinions I state here may change with time as I learn more of the art of writing, but these are my feelings for now.

Unless there is a specific reason to give the narrator an accent or flaws in his speech, the narrator’s grammar and speaking should be perfect.  To my mind, this establishes a baseline against which the characters’ voices can be heard.  It also establishes the author’s expertise and shows that the author knows what he/she is doing with regards to the language.   If the narrator’s speech is perfect, then any accents or flaws or flourishes in the characters’ speech can be seen more distinctly.  I believe the narrator’s voice (unless there is a specific reason for otherwise) should be…

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Blast From The Past Monday: Melanie Conklin on Finding Voice in Middle Grade


This December I’m looking back and sharing some of my favorite posts of 2014. One of the most informative was a guest post from author, Melanie Conklin on defining Middle Grade voice. I’m thrilled to be able to share this great post again, and hope you’ll learn as much as I did after reading Melanie’s wonderful words.


One of my most vivid memories as a child is sitting in my closet with a blanket and pillow and reading some of my favorite books. Back then I didn’t know stories like Island of the Blue Dolphins and Bridge to Terabithia were considered “Middle Grade.” All I knew was the characters spoke to me in a way that transported me out of my home in California to an amazing new land. What pulled me in and kept me reading? The “voice” of the characters.

Today I’ve asked writer, Melanie Conklin to share what she thinks is…

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Muses Feasting: Breathing words


I am getting very close to completing the first full draft of my novel Rain. In the process of honing some of the critical moments of Rain I have had to find new ways to view my writing. This is quite difficult when you spend 99% of your time alone, with a blank page too much coffee. (Yes, I am a bit of a hermit and yes, I like it that way.)

Now, I have wonderful crit partners and writing mentors however, there is only so far they can take you. So, I decided to get physical with my writing (get out of the gutter). I started to get up out of my LoveSac (if you don’t know what that is you mustn’t be following my Facebook page 😉 ) and pace around, reading my words aloud; act them into the world of being so to speak. I didn’t like…

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Finding My Voice: Carla Caruso

When I say I wanted to be a novelist since I was four, I’m not kidding!

I used to annoy the kindergarten teachers by dictating long, detailed stories to them. And one of my most painful childhood memories is of my mum ripping up some hand-written stories from my drawer as punishment for purposely denting a kitchen stool. The cheek of her!

As a teen, I’d write one-hundred-page novels in the school holidays – for fun. Family drives, meanwhile, were futile. I’d always have my nose in a book or magazine rather than taking in the scenery.

But when I looked at the books on the shelves at the shops or the library, I couldn’t see how I could ever possibly get there; be among the names on the spines. Before ebooks and self-publishing, getting published seemed about as likely as winning the lottery. So…

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How to Expand Your Novel


You’ve been working on your novel or your short story, but you’re stumped. There’s something off about your story, something that makes it hard to believe, not to mention your word count might be lower than you anticipated.

How do you go about remedying this? How can you expand your work?

One way is through narration.

  • Force your characters to do more, go bigger. You want to push them outside their comfort zone.
  • You want to make sure there are enough obstacles in your characters way to make what they’re doing have a big emotional and physical impact.
  • Find ways to reveal your characters’ internal states of mind – their thoughts, beliefs, ideals, fears– through their actions, or lack thereof.

Another way to expand is through description.

  • Find ways to show tension and movement through description.
  • Show what’s happening through sensory details. Make readers experience the same sensations your characters…

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Voices on the page

Grace and Life

I read a post today on the subject of the individual writer’s voice, specifically the use of punctuation, breaking rules of grammar, using the same style of writing repeatedly…run-on sentences, dashes, parentheses, foot notes, etc…

The post included quotes from several writers talking about their personal writing style quirks, why they use them, how their writing style is part of their message, and it was validating, encouraging, reassuring.

Sometimes I’m intimidated. I know the blogging world is nothing if not a platform for the individual writer’s voice, and that includes everything from the way some writers have humor pouring our of their keyboards to the way others use profanity, to the use (and mis-use) of punctuation, spelling, and grammar in general.

Still, sometimes I worry. If I write the way I talk, inevitably, I break rules. And I’m not funny enough, or a strong enough writer to get away with…

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On Colloquialism in Fantasy Writing

The Waking Den

Language is a powerful thing. So much is wrapped up in that word, so many divisions that separate and define people–Southern Americans versus Midwesterners, Cornish versus Cockney, etc. Any writer knows this. Achieving proper, distinct diction in writing can add a whole other layer to immersive quality.

Unfortunately, it takes time to develop the ear and the eyes in that direction. For the unwary reader, it can stumble them–look how many fumble with the Great Bard’s classic speeches and Twain’s twangs these days, and how many miss out on great works because of them.

I love colloquial speech, but especially in a fantasy world, where readers are already trying to settle their feet and get a feeling for the world they’ll be sifting through, I fear it can be too much. Good colloquialism is something that, when done well, is something you cease to notice very swiftly. But I dare…

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What’s wrong with the passive voice?

Stroppy Editor

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has joined the Campaign Against the Passive Voice. He follows in the footsteps of Strunk and White (whose section on the passive voice, while more nuanced than many people recognise, is calamitously misleading) and of George Orwell (who complained about the passive while using it extensively himself, even in the same sentence as his complaint).

The campaign isn’t wholly wrong, but it goes too far and it doesn’t properly understand the problem. The passive voice is often better than the active, and its overuse is usually a symptom of something else.

What’s the difference?

Roughly: in the active voice, the agent performing the action is the grammatical subject of the sentence and the recipient of the action is the grammatical object. The passive voice switches this around, making the recipient of the action the grammatical subject and the agent the object. Passive verbs are formed…

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Finding my voice

Anthony G. Wedgeworth


It was an odd feeling the first time an author gave me the advice to spend time finding my voice. What could they have possibly meant? I have a voice and have had one for more years than I can recall. I used to perform my own homegrown plays for the neighborhood parents before I could even ride a bike. I was a natural entertainer who took nine years of theater and dance. I’ve performed on local TV, at Disney World, Sea World, and even at a NFL half-time. I’ve given training speeches to thousands of people. How could that author possible suggest that I need to find my voice?

So, with my ego in full bloom, I tossed a few more chips on my shoulder and began my writing career. Ready to prove everyone wrong, I feverishly cranked out dozens and then hundreds of pages of garage. Not only…

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My Own Voice!

In class we are just beginning to read “On Writing Well” By William Zinsser. The focus of the three chapters for this post was all about memoirs and learning to have your own voice when writing. What made this really interesting about how Zinsser presented this information, was his use of examples. He showed how every different memoir writer has their own style of writing, non are alike.

Writing about yourself is one of the best ways to develop your voice. This is because by writing about yourself and your live events you begin to know who you are. This sense of self is the most helpful in creating your own style.

“the art of inventing the truth” (136)

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Genre and Voice Part 2 : Joanne Phillips, Sheryl Browne

The Romaniacs

Welcome to Part 2 of the Genre and Voice blog posts. Last week, we had a great post from Louise Rose-Innes, talking about her switch in genre, you can read her post HERE. This week I’m so pleased to welcome Joanne Phillips and Sheryl Browne, who have both written novels under the romance banner and, more recently, in the mystery/thriller genre too.

 Joanne Phillips


cupids wayI’’m often asked about why I chose to tackle a different genre (mystery) after being successful with romantic comedies. I think the implication is that my writing would need to be different – that I would have to find a different ‘voice’ for the mysteries. The answer to whether or not that is true turned out to be more complicated than even I expected! In many ways, my natural writing voice is the same in all my books – but of course, the characters…

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Finding Your Writer’s Voice: Part 2


Light's Scribe

Posted by: Bridgett.

Welcome back for part two of “Finding Your Writer’s Voice,” the fourth installment of our series “6 Elements of a Great Novel.”

Wikipedia defines a writer’s voice as: “the individual writing style of an author, a combination of their common usage of syntaxdictionpunctuationcharacter developmentdialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works).”

find your voiceReaders of this blog likely have noticed a difference between my writing voice and Rebecca’s. While I may write blog posts in the form of a story or take a straightforward, almost academic approach, Rebecca’s style is more laid-back, conversational, and often humorous. Our voices as novelists are even further varied.

In this segment, we will explore several factors which determine the voice behind any work of fiction, memoir, or narrative nonfiction. 

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Breathtaking Voice: Yours!


A Just Man Is Hard to Find

images I’ve long thought Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself was a game changer for American literature. Journalist,  nurse, government clerk, surveyor of landscapes physical and spiritual — Walt Whitman stood tall even as he slumped and shuffled. His poems were startling in their day; even the priggish Mr. Emerson recognized the force and originality of Walt’s poetry. What was new and startling about it? Walt’s unbridled first-person voice, for one thing. His poems completely cut loose

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