What makes your favorite author your, well, favorite author? My answer has always been the writer’s voice. By this I mean how the author structures the sentence, the story, the plot. About.com defines a writer’s voice like this:
- Voice is the author’s style, the quality that makes his or her writing unique, and which conveys the author’s attitude, personality, and character; or
- Voice is the characteristic speech and thought patterns of a first-person narrator; a persona. Because voice has so much to do with the reader’s experience of a work of literature, it is one of the most important elements of a piece of writing.
I can pick a book up off a shelf and read the first page and know instantly that it is a Nora Roberts work. Her descriptions of setting, the way her characters speak and engage with one another, even her backstories all define how she writes. The same is true for Jodi Picoult and JayneAnn Krentz. Their writing styles define them for me and when they come out with new books I always know I am in for a literary treat.
When I write a first draft I free write it – which means I have my story plotted out, but I write it as I would “tell” it to someone. In fact, many times I use my Dragon program and speak the book onto the page. The grammar is not perfect, the punctuation is disjointed, there are too many words for the same thing, and I like to head hop, but this is how I “speak.” When I go through the editing process, I fix the grammar, adjust the punctuation, delete a lot of wordy sentences, and try to fix the head hopping. This last thing is the hardest task for me for me, but I muddle through. What I’m left with is my way of telling the story. My voice. When I write in first person – with me as the narrator – you can really hear me. I’ve had people that know me personally tell me they actually heard my voice in their head when they were reading the story and boy, is that a major compliment! When I write in third person, I try to find the narrator/character’s voice through their descriptions of things, events, and emotions. All this adds to my voice. Just as my real voice is very characteristic of me, my writing voice is as well.
Think about the authors you read and enjoy the most. I would bet the reason you like them – aside form the great stories they tell – is how they tell the story to you. Their voice.