There have been some tremendous posts out there on the definition of voice. Everything from a technical break down – style, syntax, sentence structure, word choice, personality – to just flat out saying that it’s the “it” factor.
Yeah, no wonder we’re all wondering whether we’ve got it or not.
Factors that made me truly realize the importance of voice:
1. I helped a friend read through all the queries for NESCBWI Quick Query and place the letters with agents we felt would be interested. I loved the whole experience. But towards the end, it wasn’t the story premise of a letter that made us say aloud “Oo look at this one.”
It was the voice. And yes, it might have been just one line or a phrase. And yes, the ones with great voice were also well written.
2. Watching the top 12 perform for American Idol. All incredible singers. No doubt, they have the skill. But I could easily pick out the bottom three. They lacked originality. They lacked boldness. They lacked emotion and the connection with the audience. And that translates to voice in writing.
3. My Kindle. Don’t get me wrong. I love it. But I love books more. Books I know I’ll love – I buy. And I particularly like paperback. So before purchasing, I’ll download a bunch of samples (1-3 chapters). After reading them, I know which ones I’ll purchase. And it’s not usually about premise. A lot of it comes down to voice. And ultimately, great voice goes hand in hand with excellent writing and an emotional connection to the main character. I’m going to repeat that:
And ultimately, great voice goes hand in hand with excellent writing and an emotional connection to the main character.
4. And lastly, my daughter had a writing prompt at school. They had to justify the importance of an invention of their choice. Potentially could be boring. Her teacher ended up photocopying hers and handing it out to all the classes. She had the principal read it. And she wants to keep it for future years as an example.
My daughter wrote about flushing toilets and took a humorous approach, which was risky considering she didn’t really answer the question. But she had voice.
So, you want voice?
Be bold. Be original. Take risks. Go big. Read a lot. Write a lot.
Two books I’ll be purchasing based off their Kindle samples?
LIKE MANDARIN by Kirsten Hubbard, and
CRACKED UP TO BE by Courtney Summers
How about you? What books have you bought based off the voice on the first page or chapter?