Your voice is what helps you express emotions, thoughts, beliefs, information, etc. Taking a voice, such as a doctor’s, your own, or a character who is nothing like you, and putting it on paper is hard. So how do you develop a good voice in writing?
The most important things you need to do to develop a voice in writing are to read, write, and pay attention. Reading helps you learn other people’s voices. Writing will help you further develop your voice. Paying attention will provide you with information to define your voice.
Almost every type of writing will require you to write with a certain voice. So let’s look at a step-by-step process to develop your writing voice for creative, freelance, content, or journalistic writing. There will be writing exercises throughout to help you develop your own voice and style!
1. Define the Voice You Want
If you’re trying to develop a distinct voice, you should know what kind of voice you want. Do you want to come across as friendly, angry, informative, sarcastic, or peaceful? Each of these emotions will lead you to create a different voice. Whatever type of voice you want, you will have to focus on the aspects of that purpose to create it.
A voice is defined by vocabulary, tone, point of view, diction, and rhythm. For creative writing, informative writing, or content writing you’ll want to define your voice first before you can figure out how to write with it.
Define the different voices around you. If you’re at home, write about the tone your mom uses the most, how fast she talks, and the common phrases or words she says. Do the same for your siblings, grandparents, friends, spouse, or even strangers on the bus. When you start paying attention, you’ll really hear the difference!
2. Define the Audience
This step happens about the same time as step one. While you try and define the voice you want, define the audience as well. Are you writing for an official business or 9-13-year-olds? If you are writing for a blog about your life you can probably swear because your audience is about your age and it’s more casual. On the other hand, you can’t swear in a children’s book (at least not directly).
For a young adult audience, you should use modern slang and references to pop culture. Ask yourself, who is your audience, how do they talk, how do they expect to be spoken to, and what are they looking for in my writing?
Write the exact same paragraph for a teacher who doesn’t like you, your mother, a toddler, and your boss. Then look at what changed in your writing between the different paragraphs.
3. Read All Day
A lot of great authors have defined their voices already. They know how to speak in different characters’ voices and how to switch between them with ease. Read all types of writing to see great examples of how to talk with professional, hillbilly, royal, bored, or informative voices. Your voice is more likely to come out naturally if you read other people’s work because you’ll try to write in a similar way. This also helps you develop your voice as you pick up words or phrases commonly used in other people’s writing.
4. Study All Night
All types of writing require you to study and learn more. For journalism or content writing, you must know what you are talking about even if it is new to you. For creative writing, you will have to study different time periods or places to understand how to talk like in that setting. An appropriate voice gives you and your writing more credibility. Using the right slang or jargon will tell your readers you understand the content of your writing and can skillfully express it in the correct voice.
5. Tropes and Subversions
For writing in other voices, such as a character that is nothing like you, look into popular renditions of those types of characters or tropes that span multiple works. How would your voice change if you were a villain instead of a hero? How would you write as the popular kid vs the nerdy kid? Writing within those tropes gives you a foundation for creating your own characters with their own voices because you are seeing how voices change depending on characteristics.
Once you understand the basic tropes, you can also subvert them. Maybe a child character would talk in an innocent and curious way, but they are actually the evil villain of your story. Learn how to use voices and juxtaposition to your advantage.
Write about going to school or work but look for the different archetype characters to include. For example, write about the first day of school for a bully and the bullied. Then if you are getting the hang of it, write about people that don’t fit a stereotype. For example, write about a really nice manager and the employee who is always late but finishes everything quickly.
6. Make Adjustments
Do not be afraid to edit your writing or change your tone. If you don’t like the voice you write in, look into ways to improve it by listening to other voices around you. Take time to learn more advanced vocabulary words if you think your writing is too weak. You can also find fun terms to use to simplify your writing. Making these adjustments improves your voice and helps you push it further.
5. Practice All the Time
The best way to develop your voice is to practice writing all the time. It’s going to improve your writing ability and strengthen your voice. Practicing also helps define your voice a little more. You can look over your writing and see common things you do and decide if you want to change anything. It also prepares you for writing professionally because you are normalizing writing in your life.
Write at least one page of thoughts every day. Keep a journal or write it online. You should be writing exactly how you think so you can see how your thoughts develop the sentences. This shows you the voice you currently have and defines it a little bit before you can go in and change things around.