In 2004, Christopher Booker published The Seven Basic Plots. There have been others who’ve put forth other numbers, but let’s just agree; whether it’s six, seven, or twenty, it means that your plot isn’t going to be unique.
So what’s the use of slaving away, if someone has already written your story?
Ah, but they haven’t.
If you gave the exact same writing prompt to a roomful of writers, you’d end up with a roomful of different stories. Some would be sad, some funny, some snarky, some sweet. Wheaton College says voice is style, diction and tone.
But I think it’s more than that. There’s an indefinable quality you recognize in your favorite authors. I could read a story and recognize Stephen King wrote it, or Pat Conroy. I’m sure you could as well, for your favorite go-to authors.
One of my old friends, upon reading my first book told me, “I felt like you were telling me the story. I heard you in my head.” That is voice.
But how do you find yours?
I have good news. You don’t have to. You already have it. This isn’t like POV, dialogue, characterization, or other craft skills you need to learn as an author. Whenever I hear a new writer struggling for voice, it’s invariably because they’re trying to emulate someone else’s. I mean, after all, you’ve been reading books your entire life and those authors got published, so they must be doing it right, right? Wrong. Those authors have their voice, you have yours, and yours is every bit as legitimate as ________ (insert your favorite author’s name).
Okay, let’s say you buy into that. So what is your voice? How will you know it when you hear it (or see it on the page?)
I have an exercise for you. Go find your best friend, or your husband, or your child. Tell them a story. Make it a good one – you know, the kind that makes their eyes light up and hang on your every word. I promise, when you’re doing that, you’re doing it in your voice.
Now, find a story you’re that excited about telling, relax, get out of your own way, and write. Your voice will shine through.
What did you do to find your voice?