Today my Writing Tip of the Day is from my good buddy Barbara Bietz. We've been in the same writers' group since 1994, and I value her precise critiquing, good humor and hand-holding over the years. Not only has she published a successful middle grade novel, Like a Maccabee (Yaldah, 2006), she was on the committee of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards and has a popular blog, Jewish Books for Children. I give you Barbara Bietz's Writing Tip of the Day.
“Voice” is an illusive concept, difficult for most of us to define. Over the years I have formed ideas about voice that help keep me from getting stuck.
I think of voice as an extension of the adage, “write what you know.” When a writer is immersed in a world that feels natural and comfortable, the voice will come organically.
When a story is forced or stiff, it is likely lacking the depth needed for the voice to be authentic. If I don’t know anything about boats or the ocean, it’s not likely I can create a believable character who wants to sail around the world.
Voice is not simply the dialogue or a catch phrase the character uses. It is the heart and soul of the character as shown through gestures, actions, thoughts, behaviors, and overall personality. A character must feel real, with strengths, weaknesses, and layers in between.
Creating a unique voice is not like solving a math problem. There is not one right answer or one right way. It can help to read a lot of books in the genre you write. If a story works, and pulls you in emotionally, it’s likely the voice is strong. Take note of specific elements in the story that make the voice unique and meaningful to you as a reader.
Finally, write, write, write. The more you write, the better you know your character and the stronger the voice!