Every voice in literature is as unique as the author. It is the way you sound, in a sense taking your verbal tone and translating it to paper. More specifically, voice is an author's attitude toward the outside world. A writer's diction, tone and sentence structure work together to create a writing style recognizable by readers. As a writer, you have the power to create your own voice with which you can connect to readers.
Understanding Literary Voice
The literary voice is the lens or viewpoint from which a story is told. Writers use this storytelling device to draw readers into the narrative. It helps you, as the writer, include descriptive detail and extra information without distracting from the plot or topic. Choice of literary voice depends on intent and the tone you wish to set. Examples of voice in writing can be seen in The Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkien used mystical words and elaborate scenic descriptions to create a well traveled, fantastical voice.
Point of View
Understanding the types of voice in writing helps you decide how to approach a story. Three main points of view that affect a reader's perception of an author's voice are first person, second person and third person.
First Person. This perspective uses a front row seat to draw the reader in. It uses pronouns such as "I", "me" and "my" to create a personal connection to the reader. Novels such as "The Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison and "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn are written in first person, taking the reader inside the mind of the main character.
Second Person. This point of view aims to motivate people or provide advice for self-improvement, or in novels sometimes allows readers to choose their own endings. It creates a conversational voice, as though the author is speaking directly to the reader. Works such as "You Being Beautiful" by Dr. Oz and "The Abominable Snowman" by R.A. Montgomery use the second person perspective.
Third Person. This perspective is common when the narrative voice is used. Pronouns such as "he," "she" or "it" give the reader the role of an observer. "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini and "Lonesome Dove" by Larry McMurtry use this perspective.
Formal and Informal
An author conveys the professional nature of the work using either a formal or an informal voice.
Formal voice uses third person to offer reader information on a topic. This voice most often applies to essays or job applications, but appears in nonfiction literature, such as biographies or history. Abbreviations, contractions and slang are not used.
Informal voice uses any point of view, allowing the author more freedom in the structure of the writing. Contractions and abbreviations are used. Most novels, such as "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," use this voice as it provides a more welcoming atmosphere for casual readers.
Finding Your Voice
Every writer develops his own style, occasionally without realizing it. You create your voice by first deciding what tone benefits your writing purpose. You might write a college essay about the pros and cons of skydiving, with a goal to express the dangers while conveying how it can be fun. You want your voice to be serious, but with a humorous edge to keep readers engaged. Paying attention to your tone, word choice and mechanics can help you achieve this.
- American Sociaty of Authors and Writers: Writing Right
- Aims Community College: Tools for Writing: Points of View
- AP English Glossary of Literary Terms
- L.B. Landry-O.P. Walker College and Career Preparatory High School: Formal Versus Informal Writing
- Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips: Understanding Voice and Tone in Writing
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