La Voce

I wonder if I can make this sound more interesting if I write the topic of this post in another language.  Maybe, because you clicked on this, it did its purpose! For those who speak Italian, you know what I’m talking about. And for those who don’t, I’m talking about voice.

Not in the type of sound that you hear when you speak – like mine that has lately become so raspy and crackly I wonder if anyone will be able to hear me in the future. I’m talking about a writer’s voice. We hear this term all the time. English professors and any other discipline’s professors telling you that you need to find your voice as a writer. But, as I am tackling this evolution essay, I am trying to understand what this voice means. I can look it up, but this definition doesn’t seem to be what I am looking for.

So I am sending this off into this blogosphere. How would you define a writer’s voice? Can it change? Do you think you have one? Does a writer’s voice define their writing?

7 thoughts to “La Voce”

  1. Hi Caroline,
    I definitely clicked on this article because the title was in Italian, haha! I would say that a writer’s voice has to come from what they absorb from reading. We cannot write something in a complete creative vacuum because our word choice, format, and style all come from what we have observed in writing and decided to keep.
    I have observed that my “writer’s voice” changes in my own work, depending on the piece itself. What I perceive to be my authentic writing voice comes easiest when the formatting requirements are in line with my own stylistic preferences. For example, I felt that a large portion of my “writer’s voice” was lost in my first essay for a Political Science class, mainly because it was an unfamiliar essay structure to me. By the end of the semester, however, I was able to focus less on the required path I had to take and more on the space within the path I could fill with my own voice.

  2. Hey Caroline,

    I think a writer’s voice can be best characterized by his/her use of language and the level to which one believes the writer to be truthful. In my English 325 class, we have spent quite a lot of time discussing the concept of veracity as it applies to writing. One can achieve veracity as a writer, and develop a unique voice, by encouraging the reader to trust oneself. This obviously doesn’t entail writing something like “Hey you, trust me! I’m totally telling the truth.” It means allowing those small quirks, insecurities, and darker parts of one’s personality to be visible in one’s writing. These facets of a writer allow the reader to trust the veracity of a piece of writing because they know the writer to be a real, believable person (because we all have flaws!). I think this creates the essence of a writer’s voice: honesty. I think I have a voice as a writer, and I strive to be as truthful as possible, while not hiding my personality. That being said, I think that I have a tendency to embellishment my speech when I write. I wouldn’t speak in the way that I write, so my voice is incredibly different in a written context. I think a writer’s voice has to be separate from their speaking voice, that’s just the nature of the beast. So, a writer’s voice must inevitably define their writing (whether that changes or not is a matter of time’s passing and developing of maturity).

    Yay for stream-of-consciousness responses! Love the conversation 🙂

    Evan

  3. Hey Caroline, I actually have the same questions running through my head as well. For me, it’s hard for me to tell what my voice is or who I am as a writer because I don’t consciously think about it. I usually just write to be expressive or for a project and take on the voice that I would often have when speaking. I don’t think this is a good thing. But I think that consciously considering what your voice is is very important. I also think that a writer has a different voice in every piece. Your voice changes and evolves constantly.

  4. To me, a writer’s voice is much harder to define when said writer is only writing for a specific purpose. I think the easiest way to get a feel for your own voice is to write on your own, with no one prompting you to do so. Write a lot. Write about anything. Once you’ve gotten a feel for how you like to write when no one’s telling you what to do, I think you’ll have a better idea of your own voice – and it might certainly change over time.

    Once you’ve done that, I think voice WRT assignment pieces comes down to creatively including your particular voice while still keeping within the bounds of the assignment.

    I’m not entirely sure if that actually answers your question, but as you’ve identified, voice can be tricky. To me, it’s not something that can be 100% defined, but really comes down to feeling.

  5. Hey Caroline,

    I’m thinking a lot about voice right now as well as I’m going through and revising an essay I wrote last semester. I’m having a friend of mine help me through the writing process and she just sent me comments back, one of them saying “I really like your style; it screams you.” something I don’t think I’ve necessarily been told before. But as I read it again and again, there is something distinctive about its pace, it’s impulse towards dialogue in specific areas instead of others, and the way in which it handles repetition that IS me. Which is why I think I like it so much.

    The thing is, while I was writing it I wasn’t thinking about voice. And I don’t know if you really can, especially on a first draft. I just had all of these notes and it was midnight and I really needed ten pages of material by the next day at 1pm. A sort of race-against-time-in-order-to-sleep situation. I think that really helped to set the stage for me because it was a brain dump – a way into my mind. But that was only after I had found my structure and could run. The second draft is when I get more deliberate I think. Am I saying this as accurately as I can, is there a better word that doesn’t disrupt this tone? But all of that can only happen after I figure out how my voice/tone wants to be in this piece. And I do, like Hannah, think it is piece specific.

    Evan’s comment also made me think about this saying I learned in 425 called ‘mine your quirks’ – your quirks being the things that you do that make you, you. And maybe the you in one piece will highlight different quirks than the you in the other piece, and I think that makes sense. We don’t behave the same way in every situation, so it wouldn’t make sense for us to also do that in our writing. But there are some things that feel a least semi-stable, or characteristic. How do you bring those characteristic traits in? Or maybe a better question is, what are those characteristic traits for you and then how can you bring them in?

  6. I feel like so often people use the word “tone” to describe their voice (or at least I do), when really that doesn’t encapsulate all that that word means. I know that when I write, you can hear the way I talk through the words. I’m slightly conversational, but not colloquial. Plus I use way too many commas in order to show the pauses I would be making if I were to discuss the topic aloud.

    ANYWAY, yes and no. I completely think that a writer’s voice defines your writing in part, but not as a whole. When I discuss your writing I’ll mention your voice, but also your content and your transitions, etc. Word choice is part of voice, though, and so is punctuation since it breaks up the flow of your sentences. It seems to me like voice is a huge subsection of your writing, but not necessarily the defining characteristic.

    I think your questions here are really wonderful. I was seriously having a hard time describing my writing in my Writer’s Evolution Essay, and I kept falling back on the word “tone” to describe how I write, but I think voice is much clearer. So thank you!!!

  7. Hey Caroline! I struggle with the same thing. It’s very strange to think about the differences between your audible voice, which I believe reflects your personality to a certain degree, and your writing voice, which someone reads and does not hear. It seems logical to create a writing voice by mirroring your own intonations and phrases you use in everyday life, but as writers, we don’t want to become to conversational in tone. Recently, I began playing with the idea of throwing in side points, like random quotes from your favorite singer or maybe even a quote of your own (complete with quotation marks, yes) and connecting them to whatever point you’re making. I’ve also tried adding slant to what would otherwise be ambiguous comments. For example, I’ll try to make something sarcastic and see if the reader picks up on it, or takes it literally. These things might be cheap though. But to me, they’re a more tangible handprint I impress on my own work. I also like the idea of subtly incorporating your current environment, atmosphere, or state of mind while writing a piece so that it puts the reader in touch with your mindset and aware of the fact that you exist in the same world as they do. Again, this gets tricky. Since high school, teachers have told me my writing has “voice,” and I still don’t know what they mean. I don’t know how they would describe it. So over the years, I’ve tried incorporating elements into my writing that make that voice more apparent and identifiable to me, if not to anyone else.

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