I think one of the most interesting and cool things about writing is voice. The day I found my characters voice was a very exciting day for me. It was like she had come to life, like she was talking to me and she had attitude. I think the way that I found her voice was through changing my story to the correct point of view. Like I’ve mentioned before, my story was 3rd person to start and then I changed it to 1st person. As soon as I made that switch, my character had things to say about what was happening to her and she had sly sarcastic comments about her own condition and about the people around her.
If you don’t know what I mean by voice, I’ll give you an example and a definition. Keep in mind this is my own definition, not something I’ve pulled from somewhere else:
Character Voice is the unique way that a character sees the world and can be shown through thoughts, dialogue, and to some extent body language or just the way the character “tells” the story. It is shown by the way the character reacts to what is going on around them. It is their unique response, as if you are seeing the world through their eyes or are inside their head hearing their internal monologue.
I’ve found lots of unique voices in the books that I’ve read over the years and it’s something that really makes a book stand out for me. It’s not just some regular joe telling a story, it’s a unique person with their own viewpoint, or outlook on the world. One of the most memorable voices for me is Mary Karr in her memoirs, specifically The Liar’s Club. I really admire the way she writes and her voice is sarcastic, wry and hilarious and truthful as well.
Here’s an example of voice from my novel:
I could say:
Ok, I’ll tell him the truth, I’ll open up to him right now about my how I drink to stop my anxiety. He can decide what he prefers, that I drink or that I have anxiety and can’t do anything.
Ok, I’ll tell him. I’ll lay it on the line right now and see what happens. He can make his choice. Choose the drunk drugged out chick or the crazy one. Whichever he wants. Spin the wheel, win a prize. Some fuckin prize.
This probably isn’t the best example of voice, but it gives you an idea that writing something in a very straightforward way with no personality is not voice and it makes characters seem flat and uninteresting. Voice is attitude, voice is personality. Voice is the way a character would describe a place or feeling or situation. For example, here’s the way my character would describe the time she sat in the backseat of a car having a panic attack while everyone around her talked and laughed:
The girls are chatting around me and I feel like I’m on an island all alone, shipwrecked inside my own mind, watching everyone else move farther and farther away. Pretty soon they will notice me out here by myself if I don’t say something soon.
That was her reality of that situation. For another person it was just a regular car ride with friends, a chance to gossip and talk. But my character felt alone, stranded, like no one would know or understand what was going on inside her head and she felt that soon they would notice that she was no longer there, that she was no longer participating in the conversation. This gives my character voice, it shows you how she feels inside, how she interprets a situation.
There are so many more examples of voice and better ones than I’ve given you here. I challenge you, find your voice! Give your characters attitude, bold personality, let them swear if that’s how they talk, make them hate certain things and love others, make them opinionated, make them reveal who they are by how they “see” the world.