How to Write With Voice(s)

classic literature
Aeneas and Dido in Carthage, 1675, Claude Lorrain

Finding a voice is easy. But writing so that people want to listen to that voice, so that it doesn’t come off as skateboard-teenage slang or flowery Latinate bomast, is harder. Again with the extremes. I can do both, sure, so that eventually my natural voice will mediate between the two, into a colloquial prose that is elegant and confidential.

A good way to find your voice is by reading and mimicking the different styles of authors you like. Some come more naturally, others are forced. Read drama and poetry too, that will give you insight into the way words and punctuation can effect the sound of what you write.

I write scenes in the second person when I want to convey a more visceral, immediate feeling, reserving the first person for pure narrative reflection. The question is how to allow the visceral to interact with the reflective. The age-old problem of Dido’s passion vs. reason.

Everyone has conversations with themselves in times of trouble and ambivalence. In my novel Hot Love On The Wing it’s important not to make these conversations too self-conscious; they have to come at the right time and they can occur within the narrative and outside it, when the protagonist comes to understand how these dilemmas have affected him.

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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