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Hearing Your Story's Voice

When writing a piece of short fiction, it’s always important to hear how it sounds as you develop it on the page. A story’s voice is just that, what people hear in their heads when reading your words. To hear how a story sounds, a writer must first get inside the head of his/her reader. This is not as easy as it sounds.

It’s important for writers to differentiate their own voices from the Voice of a particular story, as each story requires a specific type of voice to elicit the desired response from a reader. Usually, the voice of a story corresponds to the voice of the narrator. With the exception of the Third Person Objective POV, this is almost always the case. Just like the characters in the story, the narrator has a goal that he’s trying to accomplish by telling the story. This goal has everything to do with how the reader interprets the story’s events. In other words, the narrator attempts to persuade the reader to see and hear these events a certain way; hence, the need for different types of voice.

Here are a few different types of voices for you to play with when reviewing your story.

Casual or Conversational Voice: Writers often use this type of voice to quickly establish a relationship between the narrator and reader. Conversational Voice gives the reader the impression that someone is speaking directly to him or to another character. Usually with Conversational Voice, the narrator employs common, dressed-down language to communicate easily and freely, as if chatting with a friend.

Examples: Man Kills Mime by Sagan Harris

Informal Voice: This type of voice maintains the casual, colloquial style of Conversational Voice but depersonalizes the narrator. Most writers use this type of voice to draw a reader in without creating an intimate relationship with the narrator. This can be done from the First, Second, or Third Person POV and serves to invite the reader into the world of the story.

Examples: Wildlife by Shannon Fandler

Formal Voice: Writers use Formal Voice, a highly literary style, to set off the events in a story from commonplace or everyday events. The effect of Formal Voice is to make what transpires in a story seem special. It also gives writers a chance to flex their muscles and use words that rarely find their way into common speech. Formal Voice can be distancing for the reader. It can also be poetic.

Example: The Russian Woman by Nicole Maffeo

Your Turn

Explore different voices to tell your story. Fill out the Finding Your Story’s Voice PDF.

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