Updated: Aug 22, 2021
Every author has what literary experts call his or her writing voice. It took me years to realize what voice meant. The venerated literary experts who come up with such terms don't use words anyone understands because they believe themselves to be above ordinary people who don't know anything.
Yes, this is what they think of you.
I lost track of the number of published books and articles I read before I understood what voice is. Simply stated,
Voice is the author's unique writing style
Wow, that took one sentence.
Why not just call it the author's unique writing style? Singers have unique singing styles. Actors have unique acting styles. Why can’t authors have unique writing styles? No, authors are allowed only a vague ration of mushy, undefined, nebulous voice.
The lesson here is never let self-inflated pedagogues come up with names for things.
How can I develop my voice?
Don't worry about developing your own unique writing style because it will evolve on its own over time. You cannot force its emergence. You must believe me on this matter! It's as natural as adolescence, but you get through it faster and it's less painful.
Go about your business writing scenes and creating characters, moods, themes, and plot twists. Just keep writing. One day you’ll detect something new in your life. You’ll realize you have your own unique writing style. At that moment of excitement, celebrate by taking your family out to dinner or to a Dairy Queen for a treat.
It will happen, I promise. But you must be patient.
Not only will you have a unique voice, but your characters will, too:
Author’s voice = author’s unique writing style
Characters’ voices = their individualities
When a character thinks or speaks, the reader must believe it's the character thinking or speaking and not the author or narrator.
How can my characters have their own voices?
The process of your characters achieving maturity is the same as yours. You bear children with them. You hunger when they hunger. You experience every moment of their lives—the happy parts and the sad parts. They will develop their own personalities. It's like after sending your children off to college. After they come back, they're all growed up.
The process of developing a character's voice is the same whether you’re an amateur or a famous author with a dozen published novels. The difference is the professional can do it faster.
Keep working with your characters until you realize they have their own way of thinking, acting, and speaking. Coercing them will only cause them to rebel. You'll get nothing but bitterness and failure. Your writing will be stiff and fake. Instead, let them grow up naturally so they can become their own vibrant and unique people.
Even the world's greatest authors cannot control their characters. They admit this in their interviews and articles and books they write. They understand the principle. So must you. You need to develop the wisdom to believe it. Most authors, even famous ones, have little success their first ten years. This is one of the reasons why.
If you want a list, here it is.
It isn't more difficult than this. I've heard it said that time is the best healer. They day will come when you have your own unique voice. Stick with it.
There's a silver lining
Not only will you eventually get your voice, but someday, if you persevere, you just might be the master over your characters. You'll make your fictional contemptuous dear Mr. Spinkle lose his job and have that girl he loves dump him. You'll have the last laugh. That will teach him for not cooperating with you. What a jerk.
But you must let him evolve first. Revenge is a waiting game.