Voice is the very essence of your writing and your stories. Voice is the soul and spirit of your prose. Everything you’ve ever touched, smelled, heard, and tasted; everything you’ve experienced in your life, studied in school, seen on television; the movies you’ve watched, the books you’ve read, the people you’ve met, your family and friends, the people you’ve loved and hated—everything contributes to making you the unique person you are.
As a result, every word you write will come from deep within your psyche, from your heart, and from your soul.
The words you choose, the paragraphs you write, how you structure your sentences, the white space on the page, even the way you punctuate will be distinctively yours. The underlying themes that emerge, the pace and flow of the prose, the nuances, similes and metaphors—all of these things make up your voice without you even trying.
Voice is the personality of your writing. Some authors’ voices are in your face, so strong that readers either love it or hate it. Other authors’ voices are subtle, so smooth that it’s almost not there. Don’t be fooled; it is.
Your voice is how the writing sounds not only in your head and the reader’s head, but it’s how it sounds coming off the page and read aloud. There’s a rhythm, a cadence to the prose. Voice can literally be music to your ears. And just as you may prefer rock and roll over opera, that doesn’t mean opera is bad; it simply means that it doesn’t appeal to you or resonate from within—so too with books.
How do you find your voice? First, learn the rules of grammar, study writing techniques, and hone your craft. After which, you must stifle your inner critic and internal editor, and write from the heart and from the gut.
When it’s time to revise, listen to that voice in your head and don’t edit it out of your work, because that voice is what makes your writing yours and yours alone.
To answer this question, I went online and looked up the definition of larger-than-life, and here is what I found: Greater, grander, etc. than most others of its kind (YourDictionary.com); Of greater size or magnitude than is naturally or normally the case (allwords.com); of the sort legends are made of (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary); very imposing or impressive; surpassing the ordinary (especially in size or scale); “an epic voyage”; “of heroic proportions”; “heroic sculpture” (wordnet-online.com).
Notice the recurring use of the adjective heroic. Interesting. We write about heroes and heroines, don’t we? Then I looked up epic: a long narrative poem telling of a hero’s deeds (wordnet-online.com).
Whoa. That got the old brain churning. We write about heroes’ and heroines’ journeys of growth and discovery in life, romance and love.
So what does “larger-than-life” really mean in regards to our stories?
Well, it doesn’t mean our heroines have to be Wonder Woman or Super Mom, and our heroes don’t have to be Spiderman or as rich as Bill Gates. At least they don’t unless our stories require them to be.
I once attended a workshop where the instructor put it like this: Larger-than-life means that our characters do things we’re not brave enough to do in real life, and they say things we would never have the courage to say.
Readers want to identify with the characters they read about, but they want more. They want the heroes and heroines to be bolder and more daring than they are themselves; they want them to be fearless and to stand up to the villains of the world. It’s as simple as that.
Have you ever noticed how people play mind games? Everyone does. I think writers are the best players in the world. Creating stories and characters takes a lot of brain power. We psyche ourselves up, nurture and feed our Muse, try to silence our internal editors, use affirmations and think up numerous reasons why not to write.
Brainstorming is a favorite mind game among writers and can be played alone or in groups. We use our imaginations and ask ourselves “what if.” What if this happened? What about this? What would be the consequence of this action? Why did my hero do that?
We writers use both our conscious and subconscious brains to create stories. We get ideas from stimuli outside of ourselves as well as deep within our psyche. Some writers meticulously plot out what’s going to happen before sitting down to write. Others do it instinctively or by the seat of their pants. All of us input data into the subconscious, primordial depths of our brains. While we busy ourselves with work, play, mindless tasks and even as we sleep, characters are fleshed out, plot points and twists are solved, black moments become clear and resolutions are finalized.
It never ceases to amaze me how we writers use mind games to force ourselves to sit at the computer and write. There’s book-in-a-month, book-in-a-week, elaborate reward systems, set timers, online support groups—you name it, some writer is doing it just to get the words on the page. We blame the Muse, procrastinate, clean house, run errands, anything to keep from doing what we love and need to do—write and create stories.
Think about it. We love writing. Or maybe we love to have written. So do whatever it takes. Play whatever mind game works for you. Whatever you do, get in the game.
I think this is a common problem among writers, especially with the inexhaustible availability of information out there. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of online classes, authors’ websites, blogs, and how-to articles proliferate the Internet—everyone of them talking, teaching, and voicing opinions about the craft of writing. All sorts of rules abound: do this, don’t do that; start a story with action, don’t use flashbacks, don’t use prologues, etc. Many of the rules contradict each other, causing more confusion.
For five years, that was my very own personal problem. Before I “knew” anything, writing was a joy. Every morning, I couldn’t wait to get on the computer to write. I watched the pages of each manuscript grow until I came to the end and then started the process all over. Ah, ignorance was bliss.
Then I started attending conferences, workshops, and online seminars; I read countless articles on authors’ websites and books on craft. My brain was in hyper drive, my creativity in dry dock, and my confidence shattered. The more I was learning, the less I seemed to know. This doesn’t mean writers should not hone their craft. Knowledge is power, but don’t let it stop you in your tracks. The best way to learn the craft of writing is to write.
Then one day something inside of me rebelled. I decided to allow my subconscious writer’s brain to have at it. It was time to “forget” all the rules and write the kinds of stories I liked to read, and write them how I wanted to write them. I put my faith in my subconscious brain to access the required data as needed, and let it flow through my fingertips to the keyboard and onto the page.
Writing is magical and mystical anyway. Why not allow it free rein? I don’t want to jinx myself, but I have rediscovered the joy. Once again, I look forward to sitting at the computer and immersing myself into the story I’m writing. Why don’t you give it a try? What can you lose?
I hate to break it to you, but the answer is: maybe never. I think this feeling goes with the territory of being a writer. I’ve heard big name authors say they feel this way sometimes, so I’m guessing the feeling can resurface no matter where you are in your writing career.
The best way to feel like a writer is to write. Writers write. They don’t just think about it, they don’t just talk about it, they write. The more you write, the better you get. The better you get, the more confidence you build in your writing abilities.
To feel like a real writer, you need to finish more manuscripts. I know it’s tempting to put aside a story when the going gets tough. New ideas seem much more tempting and interesting than the story you’re working on. The sagging middles, the brick walls—all writers face these hurdles. But by trudging through the beginning, middle and end of your story, you learn and improve your craft.
Here’s something to think about the next time you don’t feel like a real writer: Most people don’t have manuscripts stashed under the bed or stored on flash drives. If you have one or more completed manuscripts hiding around, then you most definitely are a real writer. Say it, believe it. Because it’s true.