This is the hardest part of writing. Before we go any further, we need to recognise what do we mean by Original Voice.
If you read any author, you must have come across some familiar ideas which you may have read previously in some other author’s work. In fact, you’d see that most of the stories we tell today can easily be found in various mythological works of the past. There’s a simple reason for that. In most of the famous works of literature you’d find universal themes, emotions and archetypes. So, there is every chance that you are only going to retell something which has already been told. Is that a problem? Not, if you have your original voice.
And what does that mean?
It means that you should be able to tell the same story in a unique way. So, the fundamental idea or philosophy may remain same, but you have to say something that has not been said before. Which means, it would completely depend on how you choose your words and expressions. The idea is to distinguish yourself from others. Simple.
Take an example of a rather clichéd idea: Love at first sight. Let’s see how three wonderful writers describing this similar mood.
Here’s how Tolstoy described it in Anna Karenina:
In that brief glance Vronsky had time to notice the restrained animation that played over her face and fluttered between her shining eyes and the barely noticeable smile that curved her red lips. It was as if a surplus of something so overflowed her being that it expressed itself beyond her will, now in the brightness of her glance, now in her smile.
And here’s what Gregory David Roberts wrote in Shantaram:
The clue to everything a man should love and fear in her was there right from the start in the ironic smile that primed and swelled the archery of her full lips. There was pride in that smile and confidence in the set of her fine nose. Without understanding why I knew beyond question that a lot of people would mistake her pride for arrogance and confuse her confidence with impassivity. I didn’t make that mistake. My eyes were lost swimming floating free in the shimmering lagoon of her steady even stare. Her eyes were large and spectacularly green. It was the green that trees are in vivid dreams. It was the green that the sea would be if the sea were perfect.
And finally, here is how Victor Hugo described it in his own style in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame:
If he had had all Peru in his pocket, he would certainly have given it to this dancer; but Gringoire had not Peru in his pocket; and besides, America was not yet discovered.
This is what you need to do if you are looking to develop your own Original Voice:
- Be as specific as you can. Don’t just write she fell in love. Instead write something more precise. We don’t feel love as such. There must be some sensation. In the body. Or in the mind. And the thoughts. Describe the specific things that take place.
- Re-write. Sometimes, it may take you a while to be good at this. Pick your old writing and start to re-write. The more frequently you do this exercise, the better you would understand the idea of Original Voice.
- Find your own tone of writing. This is going to be the most challenging part, and most rewarding too. Are you comfortable in writing something that goes at fast pace, or something that holds reader for a while? Find that perfect speed and maintain that throughout your work.
- Based on the overall feel or tone of your writing, as described in the previous point, find the suitable words or expressions. If it’s humorous, pick the words which would sound funny.
The more you work on the above mentioned points, the closer you would get to finding your own style, and of course… Your Original Voice!