Monday, February 13, 2012

CRAFT: Voice

The awesome blogger Christine Tyler wrote the following wonderful words as a comment on a previous post of mine about VOICE.  I thought I'd repost it here for more people to see. :-) Thanks Christine!

Picture source:

"Honestly, I think voice is one of the least "researchable" aspects of writing style. Because even if you manage to watch teens, or study teens, the best you can get from that is an imitation-sounding voice. If you can't remember your OWN teen voice, I wouldn't write it.

"However, you may be underestimating how well you do remember your voice. I know as a teen, I sounded a lot more intelligent in my head than the words that came out of my mouth, and more often than not, people would remark that I didn't sound like a teenager at all, and that was part of my personality. If this was the case with you, let your character be the exception. Some teens are more mature than others. Some don't cuss, and barely use slang. Some have big vocabularies, and are considerate of others.

"YA doesn't have to be stereotypical. As a matter of fact, TRYING to sound like a NORMAL teenager may not appeal to teen readers who are anything but stereotypical.

"This reminds me of a bad review Orson Scott Card got on Ender's Game. A critic once said "Children don't speak like that. They don't even THINK like that." And Orson's reply was, "No, YOU didn't think like that."

"You'll always have someone tell you your voice isn't coming across "right." The only thing you can do to ensure that it is? Is by using your own, authentic voice.

"So don't worry so much about "listening to kids" so you can try to find someone *else* inside you. Read your old journals, your high-school notes, think of memories you have, how you acted around boys...bring yourself there and go, "Why did I do that? What was I thinking? What was I really feeling?" And best yet, "Did I even realize that at the time?"

"Because this is your heart, and your voice. Not ventriloquism.

"Best of luck, and what a thought-provoking post!"

... THANKS Christine for the great words of wisdom.

How about everyone else?

How do you feel about the topic of voice? Have you mastered it?


  1. Good points.

    As far as writing voice, I have one--whether writing teens or adults.

    I never spoke like the typical teen. I listen to my 17 year old son and his friends and while they have their silliness and language, they're young adults. Yes, they read things like Card's books and Salvator. Their Xbox games are anything but young.They're inexperienced, yes, but stupid, no.

    Card made an excellent point.

    I've read a few YA that give some 16 and 17 year olds the *voice* of someone 12 or 13 or younger. Really? Don't dumb down teens in your writing. Think back. You can remember how you handled situations as a junior or senior in high school.


  2. Wow, I write long comments, lol. I'm glad you found it pertinent enough to even share on your blog. And I agree with Sia above as well. While YA writers often resent the accusation of YA being a "dumbed down" genre, many of them do indeed create protags with demeanors and thoughts that are waaay too childlike for an intelligent teen.

  3. Thanks. I read this topic with interest. A fellow writer has been interested in this topic, so I shall pass the link on.

    It also has me pondering this more.

  4. Well said, Christine! I agree. Even as grade-schooler, my thoughts could run pretty deep. I may have had a squeaky little voice (and might still), but I still had something to say. And I prefer books where the teen protag is intelligent and well spoken. It doesn't feel, to me, like the author is trying as hard to nail the teen voice.

  5. I think most teens really like reading about an intelligent protagonist. I remember appreciating reading how some of the teens in books I read solved their problems and made their decisions. They acted a role models for me.

    Great post.

  6. Writing comes more naturally when we find our voices. Write, write, write and it will pop out, then develop. Great comment!

  7. I tend to write third person, and the voice is similar. Dialogue for teen characters is tricky for sure. Luckily I have one very willing to tell me if I got it wrong.