Friday, July 11, 2014

DEAR AUTHOR Cherie Colyer


     "What's your take on voice? Some people say it can't be learned. Do you agree?” 

Yours Truly, 
Frustrated Writer

Voice. It’s something every novel has. It brings the characters alive. It’s unique and beautiful and as important as plot. A novel lacking voice is doomed to fail. So what’s a writer to do when their work lacks voice? The answer to that is study their craft.

I don’t believe voice is something that can be learned. Don’t leave just yet. Most importantly, don’t stop writing, because odds are your voice is there. You just haven’t discovered it.

Voice is unique to the writer. It combines the distinct point of view, style, and personality of a piece of literature. It’s diction, character development, punctuation, dialogue, etc. If your work lacks voice, then you need dig deeper within yourself to find it. Here are a few exercises to help you develop your voice.

Think of your favorite character—one that has left an impression on you. Now read the first few pages of that book. Pay close attention to the protagonist’s dialogue, the choice of narrative words and how they are used to describe the scene. Note the character’s body language and what she’s doing. Her social status. Her internal thoughts. All of these elements make up the voice of the novel.

  • List the qualities of the protagonist, good and bad.
  • What do you know about the character?
  • Her social status, temperament, fears and/or likes.

Since dialogue and personality traits are an important part of voice, your character has to be well developed. If you’re writing young adult, go to places teens hang out and listen to their conversation. Watch how they interact. If you’re writing adult or middle grade fiction, same thing. Go to places where you can observe.  Then go back to your manuscript and revise adding action and thought.

This next exercise includes your favorite television show or movie, so go ahead and make some popcorn, grab a cold drink, and kick up your feet. Only, this time when you’re enjoying the show pay close attention to all the things listed above. Watch the characters actions. Listen to their dialogue. Note their ticks. Identify what makes them unique. That’s voice.

Now take a look at the first pages of your novel. Create a personality outline of your character. Look at the diction and dialogue. Does it match your characters' social status, world, age?

Revise and repeat if necessary. With practice, you will find the right voice for your work in progress.

 -- Cherie Colyer, author of Embrace, Hold Tight, and Challenging Destiny

Connect with Cherie Colyer

If you have a question for Dear Author Dearest, email darklydeliciousya(at)gmail(dot)com with Dear Author Dearest in the subject line.


  1. I think it's an interesting point that really, voice can't be taught. And something else I find interesting is that some people just don't have a strong voice...and their books are still fantastic. I think good storytelling and voice don't always go hand in hand.

    That said - this is great advice for developing the voice. :) I think like many aspects of writing it comes with lots of practice. (I do wonder what it means that I find my voice the most strongly when writing sassy, foul-mouthed characters...)

    1. I'm trying to remember the last book I read that didn't have a good voice, and none come to mind. It might be because I'll stop reading if a book just isn't grabbing me.

      Your sassy, foul-mouth characters are probably what makes your voice unique. =)

  2. Great exercises to try! Voice is something so simple to hear in real life (your best friend's witty comebacks, or your husband's constant worrying), but can be so difficult to replicate on the page.

  3. Great answer to a difficult question. While voice can't be taught, it can be developed.