The Illusive Voice

by Cindy Sproles, @CindyDevoted

The radio blared in the backroom. A voice boomed through the speakers. Howard Stern. There was no question who the speaker was. His voice set him apart.

When I begin to form sentences on the page, not only my thoughts and ideas land on the page, but something that sets me apart from everyone else, lands there too. My voice.

I write Appalachian historical, taking readers from the comfort of their living room, deep into the Appalachian Mountainsduring the 1800s. So when I write: “I’mfigurin you done read enough to know the culprit is as clear as a buzzard circlin his next meal.” – the voice of that sentence resonates.

If you know me personally or you’ve waded through a conference class with me, then you’ve experienced my deep mountain accent and you have no problem recognizing my voice in my writing or my speaking. It’s my heritage. It’s who I am and though I can write it very business-like when necessary, for the most part, my voice shows itself in a very strong and evident way. There’s no problem knowing it’s me behind the pen.

When a writer asks me to define voice, it requires a little thought simply because voice is very personal. I refer back to Writers Digest Contributor, Brian A. Klems, who in his September 14. 2012 article, addressed the question. “Voice is your own. It’s a developed way of writing that sets you apart from other writers (hopefully). It’s your personality coming through on the page by your language use and word choice.”

Voice is who you are on the page.

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So why is it so hard to find our voices? Easy answer – we try too hard. Writers spent so much time trying to write the way they think others want them to write, that they lose what their own personality brings to the work. Writing becomes forced, stilted, academic . . . almost sterile. It suddenly sounds just like everyone else rather than who the writer is.

Your voice is how you phrase things. It’s your own emotion and heart poured onto the page. Voice is you, plain and simple. Unfortunately, many search years for their voice. They write amazing articles and stories, but there is nothing memorable about them. The question then becomes, how do you find your voice?

Here are some tips to help you seek and find your own voice.

  • Relax – First and foremost, relax. Take a deep breath and realize there is not a mean-spirited teacher standing over you ready to slap your hand with a ruler if you fail to write each word perfectly.
  • Hold on to your writing basics – Voice does not give you permission to blow off the rules. Oh sure, when you write period pieces, sometimes you mess with the rules of grammar. But the basics never change. There is still order, plot, and characters who must follow the rules. Otherwise, the story fails.
  • Practice writing exactly what you think – That means . . . literally write what you are thinking. No edits. No fixing the grammar. Write your thoughts the way you talk. It takes practice. Try to place thoughts on the page without going through the editing process. When you write what you think, you begin to hone in on your personality – how you phrase things, specific words you use that others may not. You can always edit. But for now, don’t. Just write what you think.
  • Be conversational – Again, for some, writing conversational is very difficult. Be it their personal touch of OCD or the grammarian in them, it is acceptable to use contractions from time to time. Using contractions takes away the stilted tone and adds that touch of personality.
  • Allow your personality to come through – Your voice rings true to your personality. It’s not just a style it comes from deep within you. Be yourself. Give yourself permission to write outside the box.
  • Voice applies to each character – It’s true. Your voice applies differently to every character you write and it does so because there are different sides of our individuality. Learn to capitalize on your personal traits and let them seep in bringing a well-rounded feel to each individual character.

Sometimes finding your voice takes time. As a writer you have to let go of everyone else’s phraseology and use your own. When you loosen the grip you’ll see your voice is in your unique way of putting words together. It’s an individual sensibility, a distinctive way of looking at the world that enriches your readers.

Take time to look over your writing. Search out those turns of phrase that begin to speak to who you are. Find your writing voice.

Liar’s Winter

Lochiel Ogle was born with a red-wine birthmark—and it put her life in jeopardy from the moment she entered the world. Mountain folks called it “the mark of the devil,” and for all the evil that has plagued her nineteen-year existence, Lochiel is ready to believe that is true. And the evil surely took control of the mind of the boy who stole her as an infant, bringing her home for his mother to raise.Abused and abandoned by the only people she knows as family, Lochiel is rescued by a peddler and given the first glimpse of love she has ever known. The truth of her past is gradually revealed as is the fact that she is still hunted by a brother driven to see her dead. Unsure if there’s anyone she can truly trust, Lochiel is faced with a series of choices: Will she continue to run for escape or will she face her past and accept the heartbreaking secrets it reveals? Which will truly free her?

Cindy K. Sproles is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries, a best-selling author, and a speaker. She teaches nationally at writers conferences as well as mentoring new writers. Cindy serves as the managing editor of SonRise Devotionals and Straight Street Books, both imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is a contributing writer to The Write Conversation and Novel You can visit Cindy at