Wednesday, March 28, 2018

What’s the Difference Between Writing Style & Voice?

When we think about our favorite books, the stories that have gripped us most are the ones that have connected with us. Sure, the plot could’ve been gripping. The characters may have been likable and well rounded. But if the book lacked a distinctive and compelling voice, then I doubt it would’ve made an impression on us. Why is this?

Because it’s the voice that carries a story through to completion. An author uses his/her unique writing style and combines that with the character’s voice to keep the story moving forward. A well-captured voice is the foundation that all other elements of fiction should be planted on—description, dialogue, exposition, etc.

For writers of young adult fiction, voice is especially an important skill to master. Teen readers tend to gravitate toward YA fiction that portrays authentic and compelling voice that authentically reflects their youth culture, angst, and language. If we can hone and capture voice, then we’ll bridge the gap between the reader and our main character.

But what’s the difference between writing style and voice?

There are some writers who like to weave in heavy description throughout their scenes. Others, however, prefer to construct scenes that are bare-boned and action-packed.

Your writing style is defined by the unique way you utilize fiction mechanisms to unravel your story.

Voice, on the other hand, might differ from book-to-book. Why? Because it should reflect the book’s mood, as well as the point of view and language of your main character. This voice is captured within the interior monologue since it reflects the interior commentary of your character. But it shouldn’t stop there. This voice should also be reflected in description, exposition, characterization, etc.

To help you better grasp this concept, think about your closest friends. If you were to ask each of them how they spent their weekend, not only would you receive a variety of responses, but each response would vary in language and speech. Your friends don’t all sound the same, and neither should the point of view characters in each book we write.

What factors play into the construction of a voice? Here are a few…

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Personality
  • Worldview
  • Time period
  • Setting
  • Culture
  • Influences
  • Intelligence
  • Attitude
  • Values
  • Life experience
  • Genre of book
  • Tone/mood of book (and each individual scene)

Really, everything your point of view character has experienced can contribute to their distinctive voice.

Are they sarcastic? Do they like to crack jokes? Then allow their humor to be reflected in their voice. Or perhaps they’re intelligent and serious. If so, be sure that the voice stays true to these qualities. Maybe this character would be more likely to use bigger vocabulary words in his/her voice. And if your character is an introvert, then that can be reflected through incorporating more interior monologue throughout the book and weaving in the character’s thoughtful reflections into the voice.

Sure, we might have an impressive writing style. We might understand what it means to “show instead of tell” and write poetic descriptions. Yet if we fail to flesh out the unique voice, then editors and agents are not as likely to take a chance on our story. It’s our job to craft a voice that stays true to the tone of our book and can remain strong and consistent throughout the duration of the story.

How would you define the difference between writing style and voice? Do you find it difficult to capture the unique voice of your protagonists?


What’s the Difference Between Writing Style & Voice? #amwriting @TessaEmilyHall


  1. Great post!! Voice can be hard... Probably because whatever I read influences my voice, so I have certain books I make myself avoid.
    Finding distinct character voices can be hard too. Which one would use that word/grammar, and which wouldn't. ;)

    1. Hi Erica! I agree that voice can be difficult to discover. However, I think it's wise to surround yourself with books that feature a variety of voices. It's okay if another authors' voice is somewhat reflected in your own; in fact, that's how some of the best authors first discover their voice--through mimicking the voice of others. Learning from the masters. Over time, though, their own voice emerges because of their influences. Does that make sense?

      Thanks for stopping by!


  2. The difference between style and voice has recently been confusing me, but you described the difference so well! I can definitely see my writing style (e.g. I like using semi-colons) versus my character's voice (e.g. she has a humorous way of looking at things).

  3. Hi Josie Beth,

    I'm glad this helped to clarify things for you! Thanks for commenting!



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