My voice is unforgettable. I have had people tell me that they remembered my voice before they remembered my face. Growing up, I hated my raspy, low in tone, tough girl sounding voice. I wanted a sweet, high pitched, girly voice. I didn’t want to be remembered for my voice. I wanted to blend in not stand out.
When I became a writer, one of the first things I was instructed to do was find my voice. I didn’t want to find my voice, I wanted to lose it or exchange it. I had no idea that your speaking voice and your writing voice were two different things.
Finding your voice as a writer is difficult. Like the speaking voice, it’s almost impossible to know how another person is hearing it. Your interpretation is usually different than how it actually sounds. The writing voice is yin to the speaking voice’s yang. In writing, you think your voice sounds good when you read it back. In speaking you think it sounds awful when it is played for you.
How can you tell if your voice is strong? Unfortunately, I’m not sure there is a clear answer. When an actor is auditioning for a role that requires an accent, he must study the dialect and practice every day until he perfects the speech. A writer must read voraciously so they can understand how a well received voice comes across. What about the writer makes the reader want to continue reading? It’s more than a good story. It’s about being able to tell that story in a way that engages the reader, and makes them feel as if they are part of the story.
Early on, I made the mistake of writing what I thought other people wanted to read. You know what happened? My writing came across flat and boring. I wasn’t being true to myself and therefore I was stifling my voice. I was exchanging my voice for someone else’s. What happens when you do that? You never live up to YOUR potential. A writer must try to comprehend what it is about another author’s voice that captivates readers, but a writer must never try to imitate that author. Mimicking someone else’s writing voice is like putting a voice altering device up to your larynx. It hides the voice that you were born to use.
Once upon a time, I wished for a different voice. I didn’t like that I was known as the girl whose voice was more recognizable than her face. It’s ironic now to think that is exactly what I want at this moment in life. I want you to remember my voice long after seeing my face. Once I accepted myself for who I was, I found my true voice. All that I can hope for is that readers remember the words I write.
How did you discover your voice? Do you have tips that may help another writer find theirs?