The changing larynx is not a burden only for the pubescent teenager to bear; from time to time, the writer may have to deal with it too. I know I have been feeling a transformation in my writing voice ever since I began the fiction writing course in January.
When I started writing my first novel, I believe I was greatly mimicking the voice of Sandra Brown, whose romance novels were the first I ever read in the genre and was inspired by. Over time, as I began reading the works of other romance novelists, ranging from contemporary to historic to even paranormal, my voice began to blend and develop its own personality. A cross between somber and sarcastic, furthered by my ornate sentence structures.
But before I move on to explaining my latest writing dilemma, let me try defining what the writing voice is. It is the unique blend of attitude, tone, and style that showcases your personality when you write [or use any medium of creativity, really]. It also reflects your beliefs, emotions, and values, usually with an attempt to present them in a way you find acceptable, or rather, in the way you think readers will be able to relate. Sounds pretty complicated, right? It isn’t once you get into the throes of your creative passion but it can be lost in the translation. But the following may help to break it down:
I think most writers have a difficulty in understanding the difference between writing style and writing voice – I know I did. They do seem to be very interdependent so let’s address this conundrum first. The writing style greatly reflects the arrangement of your words. For example, I tend to use the words “and”, “but”, “so”, and “yet” a lot when beginning my sentences while using first-person and second-person narrations. I also have a penchant for using a lot of complex sentences and polysyllabic vocabulary. My thoughts often run-on and this appears in my everyday speech. So when I compose rhetorical articles, this characteristic becomes equally visible in my writing. It is also visible in my works of fiction but to a somewhat lesser extent. This would be the “style” aspect of my writing voice – the use of syntax, diction, and imagery, etc.
To further expound on style, there is also the tone of your writing and the attitude with which you deliver to consider. Do you use wit to discuss even the most emotionally challenging scenarios? Or address even light issues with gravitas? Are you opinionated in your messaging, moralizing even? These all reflect your attitude towards both the topic of your discussion as well as the persons, i.e. readers, to whom you are writing, the relationships between you, the artist, and your audience in the greater universe, bound by your work. Now your tone and attitude are also somewhat dependent on your selection and arrangement of words but a writer may compose a very convoluted sentence and still deliver lighthearted satire. Exhibit: Jane Austen. Frankly, I feel writers are very opinionated creatures by nature [what else would be the point?] but your tone and attitude may basically be the measure of how pompous you appear to the reader.
But the writing style is just one element to forming the writing voice. Up until this point, I discussed the writing voice greatly where it remains parallel to the writing style. However, it is when you begin incorporating the materials and issues of your writing, your voice gains its throw. Most writers fixate on certain subjects more than others, they project their own feelings onto their audience – what the audience refer to as the x-factor when listening to a singer, for example. It is what gives the artists a purpose in the endeavor of their expression, what eggs them on.
Jane Austen wrote greatly about issues of miscommunications and misunderstandings between individuals that were propagated not only by societal limitations but also by obstacles placed in the paths of her protagonists by other characters within their immediate societies. Most of her protagonists played divergent roles from the surroundings within which they were brought up – they tended to rise above the conditions. Thomas Hardy, on the other hand, wrote about cultural depreciations brought on largely by industrialism and the selfishly hedonistic nature of society. And while his protagonists were also anomalies in his settings, they tended to meet their ultimate demise because of the situations in which they were bred and festered.
These elements reflect the mindset of each author. And though both authors aimed to alert their readers about social issues and their corresponding harms, each did it from perspectives 180 degrees opposite of the other – the optimist vs pessimist. One ensured happiness if you empowered yourself with knowledge, the other predicted certain death if you did not. There lies the true difference between the writing style and the writing voice – the style is meant to make your message more comprehensible, while the voice encompasses more and gives your composition originality.
So may I say?
Writing Style + Writing Purpose = Writing Voice
This brings me to my dilemma with my writing voice. As I mentioned earlier, since I began the course and started focusing a lot more on editing, my writing style has undergone some changes. I tend to write simpler sentences, for one. Or have been attempting to at least to some degree of success. But I find that while doing so, I have also been veering more and more towards somber than sarcastic. I originally planned to write contemporary romance with a touch of chick lit tonality but I think I’m inclining further and further towards a grimmer voice.
Yet, I know it’s not all due to the course. A lot has to do with the issues of intolerance that afflict the world today and I feel compelled to make a statement there even if it is simply by promoting an inclusive society in the settings of my novels. Let us all bloody blend our cultures and races until people can’t tell any of us apart, sort of speak. The problems are not new, but age and experience have made me more aware of them, acknowledge them.
The trouble is, I always knew writing romance novels was my calling. But with this change in my voice, which genre will I be addressing? Because I need to figure that out if I’m ever to align myself with the right representatives and audiences.