LESSON WRITING Writing Voice

Jenamos

elegance is more important than suffering
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writing voice
Introduction
Hello fellow Iwakian!

This time I thought I'd do a quick rundown on voice, its importance in a story, and some tips and tricks on maintaining it.

First, let’s define voice for those unfamiliar with the term: most simply, it is the expression of the narrator or author’s emotions, attitude, and tone through careful word choice and diction. A voice can be formal, informal, playful, cynical, etc.

In my opinion, there’s no such thing as a single voice in a story. As you develop your particular writing style, you’re going to establish your authorial voice, and that’s going to leak into every work you write. All writers have a distinct way of writing that makes their work distinguishable from others. It’s how you can recognize Shakespeare’s work as his and Austen’s work as hers.

In addition to this author’s voice, though, is character voice. This will be the voice of whichever character is narrating the story. This is the voice I will discuss in this lesson, as it plays a crucial part in a reader’s immersion and investment but can also be challenging to maintain.

Conversational Style
First thing's first - you need to decide how your character talks. Are they verbose or to the point? Do they have an expansive vocabulary? Do they talk very formally, or do they use a lot of slang?

These questions (and similar ones) will be pertinent for establishing how you should write the character's perspective. These points don't just affect how the character talks in dialogue; they affect how they speak within their head. If you're writing a character who uses a lot of slang, and the story is from their perspective, then the narration should also include a lot of slang. If the character is verbose and pretentious, the narration should reflect that.

Think about the difference between these two lines:
"A really long time ago, there was this super cool restaurant with the best tiramisu."
"Approximately a decade ago, there was a spectacular restaurant with mouthwatering tiramisu."

What kind of character traits can you pick up from line one versus line two? Wouldn't it seem strange if the character's narration looks like the first line, but their dialogue better matches the second line (or vice versa)?

When writing from a particular character's head, it creates dissonance if the narration is super flowery while the character's dialogue is the total opposite. Narration and dialogue don't have to have a complete 1:1 equivalency in terms of style, but you should try to be consistent for the best characterization.

Word Choice
Diction is crucial in developing voice, as you can see from the definition. Like how you wouldn't write narration filled with figurative language for a character that isn't very imaginative, you should avoid using words beyond the character's comprehension. If a character is more vulgar and colloquial, it would probably be better to use 'being a bitch' rather than 'being contemptible.' Depending on your character's age, they will use different slang that matches their generation. If the character is a cynical misanthrope, you should probably avoid using a lot of happy and positive descriptors since the character tends to see the worst in the things around them.

Custom Metaphors and Similes
Another aspect of word choice is the usage of figurative language. Besides determining how much figurative language the character would use, you should also choose how their figurative language looks. By that, I mean that your metaphors and similes need to fit with the character's field of knowledge and daily life. Suppose your character is a farmer who has never studied or worked in the sciences. In that case, they probably aren't going to describe something to be "as difficult as splitting an atom" but might describe it to be "as difficult as growing wasabi."

People describe things based on personal experiences they've had in their lives, so it makes sense to build comparisons based on what the character frequently encounters. A student-athlete might describe a room full of shouting as "a chaotic pep rally." In contrast, a middle-aged and seasoned lawyer might describe it as "an acrimonious courtroom." If they were to switch those comparisons, how off would that seem!

Conclusion
As writers, I think a lot of us tend to fall into the trap of trying to write attractively by using wide-ranging vocabulary and complex figurative language to come off as particularly witty. In focusing on ourselves like this, we tend to lose sight of the actual character we are meant to be embodying. Hopefully, these tips will help you strengthen your connection to your characters and ultimately help you keep characterization more consistent.

Remember, even if the character you are writing for at the moment doesn't help you flex your wide-ranging vocabulary, there will always be other characters in other stories that will. Once those stories are combined into a portfolio, they will speak more to your range as a writer and your ability to convincingly write various types of people.
 

TenguTango

Dead men tell no tales.
Could I see any bbcode you use for this?
Edit: it's plainly in the post text, you preemptive rake. Cheers.
 
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