The Voice that Comes to You

Mystery is part of the writing process, and for some writers there are those thrilling moments when a voice “just comes” and takes them along with it. In fact, however, most of us must create narrators and characters through considering craft, especially point of view and voice. And these are essential components when it comes to revision.

Strategies for Finding Your Voice

One possible method for finding an appropriate voice for a work that you are planning to write, is to imagine you are telling the story to someone whom you know will “get it”. This could be a friend, a colleague, or even a relative. Read the story aloud, as if you are recounting it to your buddy. This is building on the “heard” aspect of voice, which is an especially powerful and telling one. Record the story aloud, at least after you have a first draft. Play it back as you walk or relax at home.

At some stage, you will need to show the work to another person to read. An editor will want to know whether you want a line edit or a developmental edit done. Perhaps, you might choose, instead, to employ a beta reader to look at it for overall flow and structure. This need not be someone you know, or it could be the buddy you imagined telling your story to.

Childhood Memories as a Starting Point

Memories of nature that surrounded me as a child, growing up outside a small country town, are what give flavour and rhythm to my writing. Meditating on the sight, colors, smells and sounds of that time assist me in finding a vibrant voice.

Another method is to research what have been the instigating factors in other writers’ lives. For example, Ann Patchett writes about her time growing up in California at a place called Paradise. The only literature in the house were comic books, especially Peanuts. Through Snoopy, she learnt a lot about the writing life, its rewards and its failures. It taught her a lot about her future life as a writer and the rejection slips and disappointments, as well as the glories. Think about the books and mentors in your past life.

Other Writers’ Voices

Read books by writers that you like, and think about their voice and try to describe it.

A good example of a strong narrative voice is of Jeannette Walls’s use of voice in the opening pages of her creative nonfiction memoir The Glass Castle. Walls starts her story off with the statement: “I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster.”  The action is seen through the eyes of her adult narrator.  It is important to remember that the narrator and the writer are not one and the same. When the memoir focuses on the child character, the narrator remains the same as the persona in the beginning, it’s just the character that changes.


Reading aloud from works that you like and playing it back so that you can hear the voice. What are some other strategies that you might employ?