Developing Your Literary Voice

This blog post is part of our March DEEP DIVE on Writing & Storytelling Sponsored by IDEAS Orlando, which is the first unit in our DEEP DIVE: Learn, Create, Win! Presented by Your Southern Ford Dealers. This is a free 6-month program focusing on content creation because 2018 is the Year of the Creator!  


What is Literary Voice?

According to Wikipedia (because Wikipedia knows everything!) the definition is:

The writer’s voice is the individual writing style of an author, a combination of idiotypical usage of syntaxdictionpunctuationcharacter developmentdialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works). 

Um, what? 

Let's just say that if you were to read a blog post and imagine the writer as a character in your head, what would they look and sound like? Is the voice like that of a snarky, morally-outraged, 20-something woman like we imagine as the writer of this Jezebel post? Or, is it the dry, science teacher's voice we hear when reading anything at IFLScience

Or if you are having trouble with understanding different voices, try thinking about how different the song "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" would sound if played on a violin versus being played on the piano. 

The reason why you should care about writer's voice is it has a direct effect on your reader's experience when reading your posts. The tone you set spills over into their emotional responses while reading. Plus your writer's voice can develop into a distinct style that makes you unique as a blogger. It gives you YOUR personality and reputation as a blogger.

First Person vs. Third Person

First Person is generally fairly easy to write, because you do it from your point of view. You use pronouns like I and me, we and us, mine and ours. For an example:

I attended the 5th anniversary of Nerd Nite Orlando and got to hear some amazing presentations. Host Ricardo Williams always makes me feel so welcome. I was so excited to be there!

First person is an excellent way to personalize a blog post, let the reader "walk in your shoes," and easily convey your feelings. It's often appropriate when telling extremely emotional stories, personal experiences, and when talking about sensitive topics.

Comparatively, third person is writing from a third party point of view. You use pronouns like he, she, it or they. For example:

Wednesday night was the 5th anniversary of Nerd Nite Orlando where some amazing talks were presented. Host Ricardo Williams always makes the audience feel so welcome. It was an exciting night!

Third person is most often used in expository or journalistic writing (like what you see in newspapers). 

You have to be sure you understand the clear difference between first and third person, and then stay entirely within that point of view for your entire post. Once you are ready, it's time to move on to finding your voice.

Finding Your Voice- Create a List

Julie Wildhaber, who trains writers and editors at Yahoo!, talked with blogger Mignon Fogarty, the Grammar Girl at Quick and Dirty Tips (one of our favorite blogs!), about finding your literary voice. She gives three tips to start:

  1. What do you want to communicate about yourself or, if you're writing for a business, about the company's brand? If you asked your readers to describe your copy with a few adjectives, which words would you want them to choose?

  2. What is the purpose of what you're writing? Should your voice be different for an obituary than for a movie review? Do you want to inform, entertain, or motivate readers to take action?

  3. Who is your target audience? Are you writing for kids, professional investors, soccer fans from around the world?

Julie says to write down adjectives and descriptions of each of the three questions. Then boil down your list to just five or so. This is your starting point for defining your writer's voice. 

Vocabulary Counts

Number 3 on Julie's list is defining your target audience. This is where your word choice becomes vital.

If you are writing a blog post about the Falcon Rocket and space fanatics are your target audience, then you will be using words like "operational rocket" and "engine core" as well as "payload" and "center booster." Compare this vocabulary to writing about fashion for 'tween girls. Here you will use words like "totally" and "hoodie" as well as "suedette" and even some made-up words or acronyms just to appear hip.

Keep in mind, though, the average reading level in America is around a 7th or 8th grade level. No matter what type of vocabulary you use, the readability has to flow for your readers.

For more info on developing your literary voice and developing your writing style, we've got a great video from Josh Rueff of WriteRightRite.

Next time we'll be talking one of the most vital parts of your writing: hooking your reader. We want you to grab your reader's attention and keep them glued to your post, reading to the very last word!

Don't forget about TONIGHT'S EVENT: Write Nite!

Click here to see all of our events this month of Writing & Storytelling.

And special thanks to Ford & Your Southern Ford Dealers for making the DEEP DIVE: Learn, Create, Win! program possible!