Craft Corner: Finding Your Voice

Welcome to the Class of 2k21 Craft Corner! These posts will be dedicated to sharing writing tips and tricks we’ve picked up on our journeys to publication. Each month features a new theme with insights from members of the Class of 2k21; this month, we’re sharing tips on improving your voice.

Whether you are a long-time creative with too many ideas to wrangle or a beginner with no idea where to start, we hope you’ll find something you can apply to your writing journey. Let’s get started!

Megan E. Freeman: If you have ever been tempted to play with writing a novel in verse, here are a few tips for how to study other verse novels as mentor texts. Notice how the authors use line breaks and word choice, and how they place the poems on the page (the physical shape of the poems relative to the negative white space left on the page). Pay attention to how some authors use verse and prose strategically in different parts of the same book. Make note of how the poems interrelate with one another to create the larger overall narrative. Observe how devices of sound are used to create effect (rhyme, rhythm, assonance, consonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia, antithesis) and read the poems aloud to hear them as well as see them on the page. Studying verse novels through these lenses will help you see the myriad options available to you in your own work.

Anuradha Rajurkar: Pitch-perfect voice is at the heart of every great story. I wrote AMERICAN BETIYA over the course of many years, during which time the voice of my main character, Rani, lived vividly in my mind. That being said, there were times that a phrase, or even whole scenes felt “off” with regards to voice over the years it took to write that book. As we juggle pacing, narrative devices, plot, and arcs of other characters, it’s so common to find that we’ve inadvertently stepped out of a character’s authentic voice. I find that reading my prose aloud helps pinpoint which lines or sections don’t sound true to my characters. Another technique I love for improving voice is to spend time “chatting with” or interviewing your characters off the page. Imagine asking them about their deepest fears, dreams and desires, and consider how their answers, their truths, might manifest at each step of their narrative arc. How does what happened to them at the end of Act 2 change them, and how will this reflect in the ways they express themselves? Voice is the aspect of storytelling that gives us the honor of being inside another’s mind-- magic.

Jessica Vitalis: Megan and Anuradha have already given some great advice! When studying voice, I like to turn to my favorite published books and retype portions of the story, studying why the author made the decisions they did and how I might have done things differently. Another trick I use to establish a strong voice is to make sure every element of the setting is infused with the character’s perspective. For example, a red door might come across as bright and cheerful to a kindergarten student, where it might remind someone who was recently in a terrible car accident of the blood on the scene. What details the characters notice and how they interpret those details can be a powerful emotional tool in establishing their voice.

Thanks for joining us! Craft Corner will be back in December with tips on writing strong endings. See you then!