To quote author James N. Frey: Having a strong voice is as important to you as a writer as knowing your craft.
Oddly enough, the beginning writer may strive to have a strong narrative voice but fail because they don't actually hear the voice that's on the page.
Why don't they hear "the narrative voice?" Because they've been taught to put facts down in a coherent manner and to use proper English diction, grammar, and punctuation. Simple but effective communication, but writing fiction is about emotions generated by a voice that resonates in a reader's mind. That voice will not be the reader's own voice but the actual voice of the narrator or multiple narrators.
Somewhere in my writer's journey, I came across the adage that it takes a million words to discover one's voice. Okay, so there are a few authors who have no problem putting a voice onto the page from the get-go. Unfortunately, the majority of writers will struggle writing those million words, and more, to find that unique voice of a narrator or narrating character and not achieve it. In my opinion, the failure lies in an inability to listen to how others speak and how the very words and the word order those speakers use nets their unique voice.
Another problem with voice is that the characters narrating the story may all sound alike because their voices are that of the writer.
I skipped half a million words getting to voice because I was a secretary who took dictation from many different bosses over the years. I not only put shorthand onto a page of what my bosses said, I also had to transcribe my squiggles. Then came the day one of my bosses said, write a letter telling XYZ the shipment will be delayed. Suddenly, I had to create the boss's voice. That turned out not to be a problem because I had listened to his voice for months.
When I became a writer, I basically took dictation from my characters and that netted me their voices.
Here's a way to improve your ability to write character voices— turn off the visual picture on your TV movie and listen to the characters talk. Really listen. You could even pick a TV or movie character that is similar to the one in your story and play the movie several times, intently listening to that particular character's speech pattern.
Next, write a few pages of your story character's dialogue and narration. Then ask your writing group or partner if the voice coming off the page sounds like the character and not your voice.
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SPECIAL NOTE:Screenwriting and Playwriting 101 with author Stephen M. T. Greene, on September 16, from 1-4 p.m. at the Cochranton Area Public Library, Cochranton PA. Free and open to the public. Hosted by Shenango Valley Pennwriters-Craftmasters, part of pennwriters.org. Flyer/information: