Finding the Writer’s Voice

by DiAnn Mills, @diannmills

When I was four, my mother took me to my first dancing class. I wanted to watch before I joined in. I didn’t understand that I had to participate to be a part of the class, even if I made a mistake. A writer who wants to develop a unique voice can’t simply read novels, she must write.

Does the subject of voice make you want to run? You’re not alone. Explanations run the gamut from the way a writer pens her prose to bigger-than-life characters who attract us with their view on life. Voice is everything the characters experience and express according to their traits and the writer’s individual style. A writer chooses unpredictable characters, both in actions and in dialogue, and establishes a voice that draws us into the story.

A writer’s voice is her fingerprint, a way for a reader to identify style. It can’t be developed by studying a textbook or taking a writing course. Each writer has a unique way of stringing together words and sentences, a subconscious activity stamped with personal style, word choice, originality, and passion for the project.

We develop our voice over time—by writing, polishing our craft, and knowing our characters. It’s much like our unique conversational style, but with a strong additive: the character’s voice. That means no two characters ever quite sound alike. A strong writer’s voice doesn’t overpower the character, but hooks the reader’s attention and refuses to let go.

I like how Donald Maass describes voice: “not only a unique way of putting words together, but a unique sensibility, a distinctive way of looking at the world, an outlook that enriches an author’s oeuvre…An original. A standout. A voice.”

Your ability to dive into character and create an adventure strengthens your voice. In establishing that voice, weigh each word choice. Is it succinct and descriptive? Use strong verbs and vivid nouns, the ones your character would use. Have you chosen the best word in the character’s voice, one you’re comfortable with? A writer’s genre also influences word choice. A lot to think about, but when you tune out the critics and write the story of your heart with a character you love (or love to hate), voice will be in your fingertips.

I went through several stages of forming my voice while following rules, not following rules, then allowing my writing to morph into my voice. When I concentrated on good writing and put the guidelines into perspective, aside, my voice came.

As Thomas Merton said, “Not all men are called to be hermits, but all men need enough silence and solitude in their lives to enable the deep inner voice of their own true self to be heard at least occasionally.”

How have you established a writer’s voice?


High Treason

When Saudi Prince Omar bin Talal visits Houston to seek cancer treatment for his mother, an attempt on his life puts all agencies on high alert. FBI Special Agent Kord Davidson is the lead on the prince’s protective detail because of their long-standing friendship, but he’s surprised – and none too happy – when the CIA brings one of their operatives, Monica Alden, in on the task force after the assassination attempt. Kord and Monica must quickly put aside inter-agency squabbles, however, when they learn the prince has additional motives for his visit – plans to promote stronger ties with the US and encourage economic growth and westernization in his own country. Plans that could easily incite a number of suspects both in the US and in countries hostile to Saudi Arabia. Worse yet, the would-be assassin always seems to be one step ahead of them, implicating someone close to the prince – or the investigation. But who would be willing to commit high treason, and can Kord and Monica stop them in time?

DiAnn Mills is an award winning writer who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011. DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. Find her on the web at www.diannmills.com.