Monday, September 25, 2023

Finding your writing voice – #WritersCraft #Editing #CharactersVoice @Apky11162

A P von K'Ory

By A P von K’Ory (Guest Blogger)

Most of us writers, whether novelist, memoirist or nonfiction writer, have our own individual writer’s voice. It’s rather like a fingerprint. And that is why each one of us has to find the voice that sets us apart from other scribes. Each one of us wants to stand out in our crowded field. Therefore finding your unique voice is of utmost importance. You need to find it, then hone it.

The Definition of Writer’s Voice

This is the ‘tool’ that breathes life to your work and gives it your creative identity in how you express your ideas, craft your sentences, and choose your words. It’s that special ‘you’ writing that readers can identify as yours in your use of language, syntax, structure and the comprehensive impression you leave on them. It’s the fusion of personal perspectives and experiences plus the storytelling techniques that lend your work a deeper level of resonance with readers.

In other words, your writing voice constitutes the bridge between you and your audience. To quote from Patricia Lee Gauch:

A writer’s voice is not character alone, it is not style alone; it is far more. A writer’s voice lines the stroke of an artist’s brush – is the thumbprint of her whole person – her ideas, wit, humor, passions, rhythms.

Today we have mass-produced novels assisted by AI and recycled content. So honing your unique writing voice, that distinct style distinguishing you from other writers – is more important than ever.

Recognize Character’s Voice

You also need to distinguish the difference between ‘writer’s voice and ‘character’s voice’, two closely linked concepts that serve distinct and different purposes. The writer’s voice describes that quality that make an individual writer’s work unique (e.g. rhythm and pacing, sentence structure, and choice of words and turn of phrase that set the overall tone of your work. It’s the consistent distinct quality prevailing throughout the narrative.)

Choose between three to five adjectives to describe yourself as a writer. Your self-description gives insight into the type of voice you’re likely to have. I like to describe myself as ironic, playful, and conversational. I’m also drawn to writers with similar tone. The type of writers that appeal to you can also reveal the type of voice you have. We’re often influenced by the writers we love.” – NY Book Editors

A character’s voice, however, is the unique way they think and speak in your particular work. Young people think and speak differently from older people; social classes have different patterns of thinking and talking; a foreigner speaks English differently from a native speaker. Here is where writers are advised to go sit in a crowded public place and eavesdrop on the different ways people speak or to listen to own dinner guests’ speech patterns, gestures and mannerisms.

Another way to hone your writer’s voice is through reading different authors across different genres. Make notes of what impresses you, what’s distinct in their writing. What do they infuse in their works from their lived experiences that’s unique?

Here are examples from two different writers.

J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye:

Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I‘m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.

Salinger’s character’s voice reects the author’s own adolescent disillusionment and fears. He draws from his own experiences and impregnates his protagonist’s voice with authenticity that captures the struggles and complexities of youth, resulting in a deeply relatable and impactful narrative. It has resonated with readers young and old for generations, and continues to do so.

The next quote is from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar:

The silence depressed me. It wasn’t the silence of silence. It was my own silence. I knew perfectly well the cars were making noise, and the people in them and behind the lit windows of the buildings were making a noise, and the river was making a noise, but I couldn’t hear a thing. The city hung in my window, flat as a poster, glittering and blinking, but it might just as well not have been there at all, for all the good it did me.

Plath, too, dips in the well of her own experiences with mental illness in crafting the voice of Esther Greenwood, her protagonist. Esther’s voice impacts a reader as hauntingly honest and raw. Being written in first person POV increases the impact of the writer’s voice, lending the work an emotional depth and authenticity that makes readers empathize and connect with Esther on that deeper level.

One of my own weaknesses is verbosity, which is more suitable for science fiction where you need to describe the alien world you’ve created. My editor keeps drilling me on this but I’m never satisfied until I’ve described a scene to within an inch of its death, including the dust motes.

It’s up to you as the writer to choose the style of writing voice conducive to your genre and preferences.

About the Author

The multi-award-winning author A P Von K'Ory was born in Kisumu, the capital city of Luoland, Kenya, to the Luo royal houses of K'Orinda and Yimbo. She was sent to a public (which means private, outside of the UK) school in Yorkshire, England when she was too young to say "sod off". She studied Economics, Literature, and Journalism in London, graduating with firsts as a journalist from the London School of Journalism, as well as an economist from the London School of Economics.

Love took her to Bavaria, Germany where she further studied Germanistics and German-specific Economics and Socio-Philosophy. Her most recent personal achievement is her Ph.D. in Sociology and Geo-Politics in Germany, making her total number of doctorates five. She regards knowledge as a lifelong quest of learning something new.

Writing entered her world when A P was about five and never left. Apart from her numerous and published articles, theses, and papers, A P's first novel and personal favorite, Khiras Traum, was published in 2004 in German. There followed eight romance novels, including the award-winning Bound to Tradition trilogy. Her nonfiction book Darkest Europe and Africa's Nightmare: A Critical Observation of Neighboring Continents was published in New York.

In between other jobs (e.g. working as a cleaner in a mental asylum in northern Germany - great plots there just waiting for her!) and as a freelance journalist since 1980, she gives lectures and seminars in various German, Austrian, and Swiss universities, colleges and high schools on topics ranging from socio-economy in Africa, Business English, African literature and the socio-ethnological conflicts in the traditions of Africans and Europeans in particular, and the West in general.

A P is the winner of six awards from four continents, the last one being the Achievers Award for African Writer of the Year 2013 in the Netherlands. The Selmere Integration Prize was awarded her in 2014 for her engagement in helping African Women in the Diaspora cope with a variety of domestic and social problems. The Proposal, a short story, won the Cook Communications first prize in 2010 and is published in an American anthology Africa 2012. In 2012, she won the Karl Ziegler Prize for her commitment to bring African culture to Western society in various papers, theses, and lectures. Again in 2012, her book Bound to Tradition: The Dream was nominated for the 2012 Caine Prize by the Author-me Group, Sanford, and in 2013 she was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize.

Born blue-blooded, her large extended family stretches from the Nilotes of Eastern Africa to France and the Walloons (Belgium) of Western Europe. She lectures Economics and Sociology in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. She’s migratory and – weather willing – lives in Germany, France, Cyprus, and Greece.

She may be reached at any of the following:


apky said...

Thanks for letting me say my piece here, Lisabet. Really appreciate this.

Lisabet Sarai said...

I'm always glad to have you drop by! I love the photo of you, by the way.

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