I’ve often heard it said a writer needs to find his voice but I don’t think it was lost.
As a writer, you have your own voice, that’s just there, it’s who you are and how you normally communicate. So who’s voice do you need to find? Well consider from whose viewpoint you are writing. As a writer you will need to develop many ‘voices’ not just one. One per character in fact and sometimes more as your character may think differently than he speaks. Let me explain…
Child: ‘Awesome, there’s a huge forest , let’s go explore’ Jane effused to her friend Mary
Same child to mother: ‘Mum, I’m going to go for a walk to the edge of the forest so I can show it to Mary, I promise we won’t go further’
Same child to herself: ‘I’ll show her! I’m going to find that old hag’s cottage, then Mary will know who’s right!’
Adult: ‘I’m going to go for a walk and have a look around the forest, I’ll be back in an hour.’ Stewart said
Token old hag (every village should have one!): ‘Forest is bright today, I’m gonna have me a walk in the sunshine’
The same thing spoken by different characters should sound different, modified by the viewpoint of the person communicating and by who it is being communicated to. I once heard it said, “There’s nowt as queer as folk!” back in the day when queer meant, ‘A little strange or complex’. It struck a chord with me as we can act and sound differently when in the company of friends, family or colleagues. You can make a character real, by keeping these complexities in mind. How does he talk to his mum, his mate down the pub or his future intended bride?
As writers we assume the viewpoint of each character and communicate from that complete package of data that makes up the character. For e.g. An English mother wouldn’t say “Awesome Dude!” and high-five her daughter for an ‘A’ Grade. She would instead say something along the lines of, “That’s great, we should celebrate. Would you like to go out for dinner?”
You make up a person and have to know them intimately down to the language they use and how they would likely feel about events happening in their lives. For example an Irish Catholic would not say, “Ey up chuck” as a greeting, and of course the Lancashire lass wouldn’t say “God bless you mother.” when accepting a snack; a more natural response would be “Ta mum!”. So consider who your character is and how they would likely communicate. You have to be prepared to talk in a different language to what you may normally use to ensure your character stays in character, thus keeping it real and believable.
Consistency also bears a mention. It’s ok for a character to change his mind about something but he wouldn’t change his demeanour usually. Once a rough neck always a rough neck. He could develop into a kind rough neck, but it should be obvious to the reader that the ‘kind’ bit is out of character for him and the character himself should be shown to be aware of that fact. If a reader thinks, ‘It’s out of character for him to be kind, he’s really trying!’ when that’s what you wanted them to think, then you have done your job well. If, of course, the rough neck doesn’t have a kind streak in him, then don’t forget that and suddenly make him act akin to Mother Teresa or you will have your reader scratching their head wondering what just happened & feeling as though they missed something. Often accompanied by flicking back a few pages looking for the missing transitional chapter.
Now if you’re a kick-ass dude who is outspoken then you know that type of character well and would be forgiven for taking advantage of your strengths. Develop a character like that by writing from your viewpoint using how you would feel and think. However, don’t make the mistake of using that character’s way of talking for another one who just shouldn’t or ‘You’ as the writer will be more noticeable than the story and those Russian spies won’t feel right if you forget to write from their viewpoint or give them a Jamaican dialect.
Now having said all that a writer most certainly does have his own voice and a way of doing things and the more you write the more obvious and comfortable this will become so as always, keep writing, write some more and when you have nothing left to write about, write more than you ever have before. Oh, and don’t forget to have fun doing it xxx