Most writers, and even a lot of non-writers, presumably, have come across the term “voice” and understand the gist of it. But how would you best define it, especially in comparison with sound and tone?
In the comments section of last week's post on tone, Dave of Route 19Writers pointed me to a fantastic post by Cynthia Chapman, this one written on voice – or authorial voice, as she describes it. In this post, she lays out a great definition of what voice is, with references to both sound and tone:
“An author's voice is usually the writer's natural tone, rhythm, and choice of words. To put it more poetically – a reflection of the writer's soul. A writer's voice is unique to each person, which is why the same story can be told in different ways by different people. In comparison, a character's voice is crafted by the writer to fit a certain character in the story.”
First of all, as this definition explains, there are two types of voice: authorial voice and character voice. Your sound and tone, both of which are contained within voice, will be natural for you – that's for authorial voice. But if you are telling your story in a character's voice, then the sound and tone of it will be the natural writing style of that character. And that's for you to craft and work out.
But how do sound and tone actually differ from voice?
As I mentioned above, sound is an aspect of voice. But your voice (whether authorial or character) will not only include, but also and determine your sound. It will naturally dictate your word choice and the way you fit words and sentences together.
Tone is all about intentionality, the attitude with which the narrator addresses the reader. Once again, voice is all about the overall effect, the general way the story is told, and tone is simply an aspect of that.
And what about finding your voice? The simple answer to that question is that it can't be done – it's impossible. You can't loose your voice, so you can't find it. It exists as soon as you write your first word. My five-year-old writing-self had a voice. My friends who only write 250 creative words each year because school forces them to have voices. Even their five-year-old selves had voices.
But you can develop your voice. For character voice, you need to learn that character inside and out. Take on their thoughts and opinions. When you write as them, you become them. For authorial voice, there's only one option: write. The more you write, the more you grow as a writer, the more your voice matures. That's the best way to develop your voice.
Needless to say, this is another excuse to write as much as you can. But then again, most of us don't need excuses, do we?