J.C. Martin, Fighter Writer

Reading, writing, and fighting–the three joys of life!

V is for Voice (A to Z of Crime Fiction Series)

V is for Voice


(click for image source)

Voice, when it comes to writing, fiction, could mean two things: the writing style of the author, or the personality and speech mannerisms of a point-of-view character. Both these voices need to be nailed in order to produce a compelling piece of fiction.

The style of writing, the flow and pace, the personality and passions of a writer shining through in their work … all these culminate in a unique writer’s voice. Every writer has a unique voice, no matter how much they try to emulate someone else’s. The wider you read, the more influences you draw, and the more unique your voice.

There are plenty of advice on the Net on cultivating your own voice: ex-superagent/author/blogger extraordinaire Nathan Bransford has a post on crafting a great voice; writer Holly Lisle lists 10 steps to finding your writing voice; and Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen discusses how a writer’s voice is the key to writing a good story.

On to writing an effective character voice. To do so, you must really get inside the mind of the point-of-view character. Here are just some questions to ask yourself when you’re writing in your character’s voice:

  • How old are they?
  • Are they male or female?
  • What is their social, economic and educational background?
  • What are their likes and dislikes?
  • Do they have a catchphrase?

All of these will affect the voice of your character. To illustrate the fact, here is an exercise:

Can you match the following snippets of dialogue to the character who said it?

Dialogue snippets

1. “How do you do, good sir. I say, isn’t it a marvellously spiffing day to partake in a spot of golf?”

2. “Spare some change? I juz needs enough ta gets me summin’ ta eat.”

3. “I can’t believe she actually wore that. I mean, skinny jeans are like, sooo last year.”


A – Sally-Ann McPherson, modern teenage girl

B – Lord Charles Montague Cummings, 4th Earl of Croydon

C – Chad “Roach” Simmons, tramp

I Say!Now, can you imagine the tramp speaking like the Earl? Or a British aristocrat gabbing like an American schoolgirl? No? Then this shows just how important it is that a voice must suit the character.

In Oracle, I write mainly from the point-of-view of Detective Kurt Lancer. He’s a mixed-race British cop, 33 years old, who grew up under trying circumstances. He also has a brother 10 years his junior. Hence, Kurt’s voice is contemporary, with more mature mannerisms than his younger brother’s, although I do throw in a couple of London street slang to reflect his upbringing. And, because boys will be boys, I make it a point for him to notice any good-looking girl he happens to bump into. ;)

What other factors do you think contribute to a good writer’s/character’s voice?

Pop back here for tomorrow’s installment, brought to you by the letterĀ W. In the meantime, see what V posts other participating bloggers have come up with here.


26 Responses to “V is for Voice (A to Z of Crime Fiction Series)”

  1. Cynthia says:

    I like the three examples you gave– the one with the teen speak was particularly funny. One of the things that makes a voice strong for me has to do with the style in which a character describes a person or a place- I can learn a lot about a character from knowing the criteria they judge an item by.

    • J.C. Martin says:

      Very good point! The character’s description of things reflect their personal opinions, and is a fantastic way of showing their personality.

  2. Obviously 1 and A go together. Ha!

    Love a great voice.

    That post picture is hard to look at!

  3. Love the post picture…good points on voice.

  4. Great examples of voice and thanks for the links!

  5. I’m going to check out the links because I struggle with voice sometimes. Thanks for the post. I enjoyed the game.

  6. DL Hammons says:

    I personally believe that a writers voice is not something that can be manufactured. You have it, or you don’t. It can be cultivated, and improved so it becomes more prominent, but the building blocks can always be recognized. Just one persons opinion. :)

    • J.C. Martin says:

      I agree with most of your points, but I do think that everyone has a unique voice. It just needs polishing to shine!

  7. When a character has a distinct voice it’s so wonderful. You can immediately “see” or “hear” that person, and you’re so engaged in his or her story.

    I like it when the “he said/she said” can disappear.

    Super V day post.

    • J.C. Martin says:

      Yes, to have a voice so engaging you start experiencing everything from their perspective. That is something I aspire to achieve!

  8. For me, voice can either draw me in or repulse me from a book. That is why I work so hard at it. I want readers to believe Alice Wentworth was educated during the Victorian Age, that Victor Standish lived on rough streets, while reading everything he could to keep from going insane in library after library. I want readers to hear in Samuel McCord’s words that he was reared in West Texas, yet given a Jesuit education.

    Another great post, Roland

  9. E.J. Wesley says:

    Great post, J.C.! I’m finding that voice is a layering process. My first drafts are pretty neutral. As I edit, the voice gets richer and richer.

    • J.C. Martin says:

      Good point. The more you write, the more you develop your writing voice. In the same way, the more time you spend with your character, the more their voice develops as you get to know them better!

  10. As long as you stay true to the character it makes them good. It takes time to develop your own voice let alone the voice of your character.

    • J.C. Martin says:

      Very true. You need to spend time writing to develop your writing voice; you have to spend time with your character to develop their voice.

  11. sue says:

    I commend you for this blog challenge – amazing work and a good batch of reference material. Now, what will you do for the letter “x” :D

  12. Nicole says:

    A great voice makes reading so much more enjoyable. You get pulled in before you even know it!

    • J.C. Martin says:

      I think the one book which really drew me in with the narrator’s voice is Karsten Knight’s WILDEFIRE. Not finished it yet but I would already highly recommend it!

  13. Miriam Drori says:

    Great post and those links are very useful. Thanks!

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