Writer’s Workshop: Voice

My first blog post was “Why I Refuse to Judge Any Mother.” In it, I describe my observations of a friend’s mother, juxtapose her mother with how I felt about my own mother, and then explain how I hope my own daughters will see me as a mother—when they eventually begin to reflect.

Out of all the texts I received, I appreciated my journalist friend’s the most.

“Kathy, this is good,” she said. “You have what they call voice. In grad school, they used to always talk about how you should have voice in writing. You have it.”

In literature, “voice” refers to the rhetorical mixture of vocabulary, tone, point of view, and syntax that makes phrases, sentences, and paragraphs flow in a particular manner.

https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-find-your-writing-voice

Whenever I write, I want the reader to experience exactly what I was thinking or feeling.

But how do I do this?

Brace yourself.

I may tell you something that goes against what you’ve been told before:

I pretty much write how I talk and think. Even that last sentence is an example. I promise you a grammar program will tell you to remove “pretty much” because it’s unnecessary, but I left it in because that’s how I talk and think. If we were together, and you asked me how do I write? I’d say I pretty much write how I talk and think.

What is also helpful is my brain’s duality. I was raised in a family that valued so-called standard English, so I grew up learning the syntax appropriate for news personalities and job interviews. However, I was also raised on the west side of Chicago, which by all accounts is the hood. I quickly learned how to switch the verb “to be” around or to insert a cuss word so as not to be accused of talking like a White girl. I’m not special. Many Black people know how to codeswitch in this way.

What this means for my writing is I can create a sentence that appeals to White folks and Black people…or should I say Black folks and White people. You see how just interchanging those two words—folks and people—shifts meaning and tone?

I also want my writing to be accessible. I want to have a conversation with you. In order to do that, I have to write how I would talk if we were together having a latte, green tea, or Caipirinha. So, sometimes I stop, and address you directly. Maybe I’ll add a question, like what do ya’ll think to invite you into this conversation we’re having, while also throwing in the Southern dialect I’ve acquired from living in Florida for over two decades.

Most of my in-real-life friends who read my blog say, “Girl, I could hear you saying…” And that’s what I want.

To reiterate, if you’re concerned with developing voice in writing, then you have to determine what “vocabulary, tone, point of view, and syntax” you want to use and why. Only you know what that is.

And remember, voice, kind of like personality, cannot be imitated because it’s something only you possess. (Full disclosure: I sat here for five minutes flip-flopping between the word possess and own).


Do you worry about voice in writing? Does it matter?

105 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: Voice

  1. You have so many gifts Dr. G! So many. And the greatest of all is YOUR VOICE. Something I have heard every since I began following your blog. Thank you for sharing the “meta” behind your writing. It gives us the courage – to share ours.

    Wishing you a bright and beautiful start to April! The more foolish.. the better.. xo

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The voice is very important and even more important in your writing. I am new to the blogging but I do the same when I write I speak how I talk I’m from the Bronx but I also work in environments where I need to code switch a lot so but it makes the conversation a lot more relatable to all well I hope 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The Boogie-down Bronx…I only know that from rappers lol

      Welcome to blogging! Yes…being yourself as much as possible in this space is the way to go. You’ll connect to a lot of people, I’m sure. I just read one of your posts and followed you. Best of luck here. And thanks for reading and commenting ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I just started my blog not so long ago and recently published my memoir. When I read it, I definitely feel like it’s me talking , as if I were talking with my reader in person, so it’s good to be encouraged to be myself even in my writing. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Kathy, This is really a gem. Many of us as a blogger focus on the content which is needed, but forget the tone of it and way it is being delivered to the readers. This is a must. Your post will surely help many to realise the importance of tone as well.🤘🏻 Cheers 😄

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for this comment. I’m of the mind that one can voice his or her opinion any type of way, as long as they can deal with the consequences of using their voice in that way 😉

      Like

  5. Lol@ your closing parenthetical statement. Good for you to writing how you speak. I just checked in with a friend, just to poll the very same thing you are referencing. The voice also = consistency. Is my persona the same everywhere I present myself? If it is, then I believe we could qualify that as : your voice shines above the context/content. Great ditty Looking forward to reading more of your crafted voice!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. RE: parenthesis…lol

      Aaah. Yes. I agree with that. A colleague told me that one way you know you have achieved “voice” in writing is when someone can spot your writing without knowing it’s you.

      Thanks so much for reading and this comment ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I am just starting my new journey as a SAHM and new blogger. This is exactly how I want my posts to be. I want it to feel like we are having a conversation, I dont want my posts to feel or read like its a school assignment.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Thank you for this post.. I’ve always thought this.. I always pour over my latest post to find just the right word for each juncture in my story and I have realized that the post people most want to read are the ones that are relatable, honest and feel like you’re having a chat with a friend. 😊

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I haven’ analyzed much about my own “voice” or style in my blog. It is different than business voice which currently I’m to pump out less bureacratic sounding learning aids. Now clashing with someone’s else preferences.

    I do have to write consciously simpler for my blog. A good thing.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Your authentic writing style works very well! Your posts are very accessible to all your readers, and it is because they come across as so genuine, which is something that can’t be faked. After four years as an English major, and then taking numerous courses on some variation of “how to get published,” I really struggled with finding my voice for years. Writing to please others doesn’t work any better than living to please others. Yes, we have to consider our readers and make sure we give them something of value in return for their time and attention. But the most valuable thing we have to offer is our own, unique, voice.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you Ann! You know, I almost responded to someone else that following all those writing rules is just another way to convince you not to be yourself, and we should definitely not go for that.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. HI K E,
    I was writing my comment and I think I accidently hit post. If you get a prior comment from me, please delete.
    I so relate to this post. I am wordy, and often try to remove words that I have been told are unnecessary, such as “pretty much”. Then what I am left with it is not me. In the end is best to be true to my message and how I want to convey it.
    Blessings to you! ♥♥

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Aaaaaaah, yes, yes, yes! I always tell a dear friend of mine to write his wisdom in a way everyone will understand. The academic wording and phrases he uses….oh my… 😉

    Thanks for this post, Katherin. I now realize it was the last piece of a puzzle I was looking for.

    Liked by 5 people

  12. I always enjoy your blog posts because they read like you’ve written from the heart and have such a strong voice.

    This post was interesting to me as I write a lot in my daily life (for work and for a part-time postgrad degree). I’ve been thinking about my research writer’s voice recently. Some academic papers are a lot easier to read than others, and I’m keen to maintain that in my own writing: avoiding a lot of ‘academic speak’ and writing clearly and accurately.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks for the compliment Grace! As an academic, I understand completely what you’re saying. It depends on the topic and the journal, and a little bit of the writer’s style, which still has to be scholarly.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Thank you for sharing!!.. I simply let my fingers do the walking (typing/writing) while my heart does the talking… usually works for me… 🙂

    Until we meet again..

    May the sun shine all day long
    Everything go right, nothing go wrong
    May those you love bring love back to you
    May all the wishes you wish come true
    May peace be within you
    May your heart be strong
    May you find whatever you’re seeking
    Wherever you may roam
                      (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 5 people

  14. ‘.. which by all accounts is the hood.’ 😂😂😂

    I second the choice of ‘possess’.

    Also, I’ve read your words more than I’ve heard you speak and you definitely speak as you write and vice a versa. Mind you, I have come to realise that it is A OK if one’s voice in writing is not precisely or even remotely like one’s ‘voice’ in person … it is just a conduit for expression that can bring out different aspects of the one person. Whether in person IRL we always chose what we reveal of the ‘I’.

    I believe I have found my writing voice; it’s a mix of serious, wry, philosophical and who knows what else … I am working on elements I’d like to bring to the fore, like more playfulness without getting cringey.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I knew you would like possess. You’re a possess kind of writer 😉

      I do agree with you about the conduit part.

      Because I know you, I know your playfulness can go left very quickly lol so I can imagine the boundary you have to create when writing.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. I love this post, Katherin. Thank you for confirming the part about writing that I never want to lose. I have an editor/friend and she has been wonderful in helping to check some of my written material. I’ve learned great lessons from her – especially about repeating words too often. I try to find alternatives for tired adjectives like beautiful.
    But sometimes when she makes edits, they’re just too unnatural for me. They don’t sound like something I’d actually say. So I have learned to carefully accept or reject those changes that take away from what my writing intended.
    I want it to be my voice!

    Liked by 3 people

  16. What a great post, made me reflect on my ways. Your posts certainly have a voice yes, I find it very affirming and friendly. And didn’t matter what culture ethnicity I am from, you did speak to me 🙂
    Personally my writings have been deeper expressions of myself, I too write exactly how I think, as I do not have any training in writing, or follow any exact rules. I do get a lot of – How can you write that deeply? – well, because that’s how I think, I don’t know how else to write 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  17. Great post, KE. I think voice is the most important piece in the writing puzzle. Second is telling the reader–honestly and accurately–what you saw, heard, felt, etc. One of the best writing guides I’ve ever read is If You Want To Write by Brenda Ueland. Another is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Both stress how essential it is to write from yourself, in your unique voice. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  18. Wonderful post! Yes, as an author working on a variety of manuscripts, I’m always working to make sure the character’s voice is distinct and part of the story. As a reader, it’s something that stops me in my tracks when it’s done well.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I can relate Laura. I created an anthology that was a combination of different women’s stories, and one of the things I wanted to ensure is that each one sounded completely different. It was a daunting task.

      And I agree about a distinct voice. It will keep you reading. I think that’s why I liked that book Educated so much. I could hear her sorrow, really, and then I watched an interview and she sounded just like I’d imagined.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. I just felt after reading this blog that, Oh yes maybe I’ll also be a good voice that’ll tell people something that matters! And I also try to write in an informal way so that I can connect with the reader and reader can get what I wanna say. This blog is really helpful for beginners like me👍🏻 this will definitely be the post I’ll share with my friends so they can also take the advice and ace this game of blogging! Have a great day ✌🏻
    Khushi

    Liked by 4 people

  20. This is just a perfect post! I agree with you so much!
    As a writing teacher I taught stylized writing, “proper” writing, literary writing… But then I infused it with sensory writing. I did improvisational theater exercises with my students and let them take those experiences and turn them into words. Because the same skills that work for an actor (think Stanislavsky’s “An actor prepares”) also work for writers. And that’s why writing with your own unique voice is more relatable.
    I’ve thrown away my stuffy classic writing for a more real version of my own voice as well. The reader becomes one with the writer.

    I so agree with you! Your forthright honesty is what shines in your writing, Kathy.
    I don’t get on WordPress that often these days… but, I am so glad I saw this post today.
    It’s wonderful! ❤️

    Liked by 4 people

  21. This is why we like one another. The greatest compliment one of my real life friends gave me was when they said reading my blog was just like talking to me in person. I figure I have a unique voice…why not use it

    Liked by 6 people

  22. Kathy, your voice is clear and strong in all your writing!😀 Voice is so important in one’s writing, gives us that individuality and originality we crave in our work. As you say, it most definitely cannot be copied! I only started thinking about my voice when others commented on it in my writing and once you become aware of it that’s reassuring! Talking to other writers, students, I say to them to trust their voice – give it the power and presence it deserves. In one school a group of three were working on a story, the writing was good but wow, the voice of the piece was terrific! I wasn’t even sure how they achieved it on a co-authored piece but they did and I just gave some pointers on the writing but told them to run with the voice of it!

    Liked by 6 people

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