Funny thing about writers, you can read a collection of words, and if you’re familiar enough with the writer, even without their name appearing anywhere to clue you in, you’ll know it’s them. Why? Because their writing voice is like the dulcet tones of your best friend.
For a writer, finding your voice is like a blind treasure hunt. While it may not be true for most writers, the majority will spend some time early on in their career playing with voice.
First, whose point of view do we use?
This one can change on the story we’re writing. Some stories we know exactly whose head we want to be in, others we may bounce back and forth until we find the one that resonates the longest and the deepest.
Second, how deep do we want to go?
Do we want to be right there with our main character or do want to maintain a little personal space? This isn’t as easy as it sounds, for either the reader or the writer.
Going deep with first person point of view means your readers are sucked in and held captive until they are no longer them but the valiant but beleaguered heroine racing across the page. Every emotion, every joy/heart break/tear/anger/laughter is RIGHT THERE and there is no escaping it. Or escaping the “I” or “mine” or “my”. As for you, the writer, yeah, when you finally type “THE END” you need about three weeks of intensive therapy before resuming whatever “normal” is and your emotional well is beyond dry. For months your family truly believes you might harbor split or multiple personalities.
Stepping back to give a bit of breathing room is third person close, which could be first person’s older sibling. Readers are still able to access the heroine’s thoughts and emotional reactions, but there’s enough room that you might (notice I said ‘might’) be able to put the book down around two in the morning so you can make your five o’clock alarm. There is a noted absence of “I” and “my” and in some cases (like me) a decrease in pronouns in general. This one is my favorite to use because at least I can walk away from my screen and not require a decompression unit before re-entering family life.
Then there is third person. Since I don’t have much to say on this one, you won’t be surprised to note it’s not my favorite. It’s too distant for me, but other much more successful writers do a fabulous job with it. Here “he/she” runs rampant and there is a comfortable amount of breathing room and you don’t feel judged for setting the book down until the next day.
Finding your writing voice is not a quick journey. In fact, most writers will play with POV’s and voice until they find the one that works best for them. They’ll do a book in first person, then go to third person close, or they’ll trip the darker side of the genre, then traipse over to a lighter version. If you’re a reader, think of it like when we were in high school and we constantly changed the way we did our hair or what we wore or whatever it was we did to stand out. Writers do it too. We just do it in print format.
So if you’re just starting out or half-way down the road of your writing path, don’t be afraid to try something new on. It’s the only way you’ll figure out what style you rock the best!