Finding Your “Author Voice” (It’s Harder Than it Looks)

By: Ebonye Gussine Wilkins

Just like any modern artist, a writer can have a certain “voice” that distinguishes them from their contemporaries. Generally speaking, when I turn on the radio, even if I haven’t heard a song before, I instantly know if a song is by Pitbull, Marc Anthony, Santana, Bruno Mars, or Maroon 5. For other artists, it’s a little bit more murky (to be fair, I’m not so good with identifying most artists). I can spot a Jackson Pollock, or a Van Gogh piece half a block away. These artists have put their individual flair into their work so that it is unmistakably theirs. That is what you would ideally do as a writer.

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Have you ever noticed how different Harper Lee’s voice is from John Steinbeck’s? Have you ever compared the writing style of Aimee Bender to Betty Smith? The words they choose, the punctuation they employ, and the overall flow makes the writing speak to a reader in different ways. Yet, you’d never mix them up. One might give you the idea of prestige and power, while another one might evoke nostalgia, while another is insistent on making you feel every single detail.

When you first begin writing, you may write the way your think. You may not pay attention to how words come across, you just write what you feel. That is totally okay. But after you’ve written a lot of pieces of various types, you’ll begin to realize that there might be a pattern to your writing. Do you use lots of embedded clauses? Do you use short choppy words? Do your characters frequently drift off into thought? Do you rely on clichés? (It’s okay, most of us do that a few times over).

Don’t get me wrong, not every writing pattern or inclination you have is a bad thing (though you really might want to avoid clichés). It is exactly what becomes part of your writer’s voice. The true voice comes out once you’ve solidified all of your writing tendencies and have made them consistent with the rest of your writing.

Have you figured out your author voice yet? If so, what is it like? Let us know in the comments!

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