Sunday, October 20, 2013

Voice in Writing

Writing isn't easy...not with so many voices in your head!


What is meant by "voice" in writing?

I began teaching this concept to my students using a lesson based on reading a story out loud in order to find the use of voice, or emotion, in writing.

Voice is the evidence of the writer behind the work. Voice is the enthusiasm, personality, or charm of the writer behind the work. Voice is also how the writer tailors the work toward the audience.

Finally, voice is also words used to evoke emotion in the work.

The Voice of God

While sitting in church listening to a sermon, I was drawn to re-read the voice of God found in the story of Job. 

When God addresses Job, it is obvious that God Himself is speaking. As you read, you can hear the distinct personality of God compared to the voice of Job in chapters 38-40.

However, when you read through scripture, you are fully aware of the voice of the author. You can see and hear the Voice of God as you read through the Psalms and Proverbs even though He used human writers.

And since we were made in the image of God, it is no wonder that we desire to do the same when we write. 

Creating Voice in Writing

How does one create voice in writing?  It begins with locating voice in writing and analyzing it, which is what I had my students do this week.

We began by reading the book, "The Memory String" by Eve Bunting. I highly recommend this lovely and moving book about a little girl dealing with her mother's death and her dad's remarriage. 

But we read the book as a print out of the words images. 

As a result, we focused on the words and the way the writer evoked emotion from the readers. My students did an excellent job of finding the emotion words the author used. For instance, to show us that the cat was bored (an emotion word), the writer simply stated:

"Whiskers yawned." 

How simple is that? My students did an excellent job of identifying the voice in the writing. Now, they are learning to create voice and evoke emotion from their own writing. 

What about you?

How do you go about creating voice in your writing?

This is something I struggle with in my own writing. When writing a fantasy adventure, I used a stronger more formal voice and tried to include more rigorous vocabulary, detailed descriptions, and emotion from my characters. But when writing my mystery/suspense novel for middle grade, I decided to use a more informal relaxed voice and had my characters use the slang terms found among middle school kids. 

I tailored my writing toward the audience. 

Because we are created in the image of God, we use words to communicate as He did. We desire to communicate our emotions and feelings just as He did in His word. We long to leave our readers with an impression of who we are...just as God has done in His writing. 

Now that you have an idea of what voice in writing is, go back and read your work. Did you "show" your readers emotion rather than simply "tell" them?  If not, try this exercise:

  • How can you show your readers your character is bored? What does a bored person do? 
  • How can you show your readers a character is nervous? What might a nervous person do or look like?
  • How can you show your readers a character is embarrassed? What does an embarrassed person do or look like?

Try this with the following words:
  • Greedy
  • Ambitious
  • Jealous
  • Guilty

It's a fun way to add emotion and voice without "telling" your readers. Let them see the voice of the writer for themselves. 

Your turn: Is voice in writing something you struggle with? What do you do to add your voice into your writing?