Avoiding Writer’s Laryngitis
(or Finding Your Voice!) by Mellanie Szereto
It’s abstract and illusive. It’s hard to describe and even harder to define.
What is Voice? How do I develop it? Can it change from book to book and over time?
Voice adds depth and personality to the story. It sets the tone, whether that tone is humor, suspense, or something else. Think about what makes individual people different from the person standing next to them. Does the stuffy CEO have a deadpan sense of humor? Or maybe she has a knack for telling the unvarnished truth without caring that she might offend someone. Every writer will have his/her own way of writing the same scene based on his knowledge, past experiences, and perceptions.
Voice, through word choices and punctuation, can change the meaning of a sentence, adding uniqueness to an otherwise “flat” scene. To add suspense to a scene, the heroine might creep along an alley rather than walking through it. While you choose “creep,” I might choose “slink” instead. For sexual tension, the hero might dangle the heroine’s black panties from his fingertip for a moment and give her a wicked grin instead of simply removing her panties and dropping them on the floor. Will the panties be a thong or a scrap of lace? A well-placed em-dash can give the right punch to a line as well, showing emphasis where you want it to fall.
By allowing your personality into your writing, you develop your own voice. Not only do word choices and punctuation add to it, sentence structure and word order contribute to that not-the-same-as-everybody-else element as well. This is often influenced by geography and education. Think dialects. A native Bostonian isn’t going to speak the same as a Southern lady, and a mechanic probably won’t sound like an English professor. An important point to remember—your characters still have to stay true to who they are.
As you write (and live) more, you gain more experience and knowledge. In a way, you create your very own character arc. Those factors tend to make subtle changes to your voice. Maybe you’ve shifted from historical romance to paranormal. By putting yourself in new surroundings, you’ll adapt your voice to fit the genre, just as most people behave differently in a variety of situations. That growth is a good thing, but be sure to follow through once you’ve chosen the humorous, serious, reflective, etc. tone for your book.
Although voice is intangible, it still influences the mood of your writing. Make a list of your strongest personality traits and decide which ones you want to show in your narrative. If you’re trying to develop a new voice, define how you intend to convey it. Then write and get feedback. Remember—if writing was easy, everybody would finish a book.
When her fingers aren’t attached to her keyboard, Mellanie Szereto enjoys hiking, Pilates, cooking, gardening, and researching for her stories. Many times, the research partners with her other hobbies, taking her from the Hocking Hills region in Ohio to the Colorado Rockies or the Adirondacks of New York. Sometimes, the trip is no farther than her garden for ingredients and her kitchen to test recipes for her latest steamy tale. She is multi-published with Siren-Bookstrand and is self-publishing her foodie contemporary series, Love on the Menu, in addition to her nonfiction Writing Tip Wednesday handbooks based on her informational blog series. Mellanie makes her home in rural Indiana with her husband of twenty-eight years and their son. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Indiana Romance Writers of America, Contemporary Romance Writers, and FF&P Romance Writers. Visit her website at http://www.mellanieszereto.com for information on book signings and her upcoming release, Iced Latté. Sugar and spice and everything…naughty!