Zoe Lynn Asked: Hi! I’ve read many books by different authors and realized that most of them have very unique voices (for instance, Salman Rushdie, or J.R.R. Tolkien, or T.H. White). By this I don’t mean the voices of characters (like Yann Martel in Life of Pi, or just about any good story in the first person), but the narrative voice. When I write, I try out different styles, and I have no idea which I do best. Is it like this for everyone? How do I find my own voice?

Ned Said: Finding a voice in your writing is one of those Zen tasks where the more you try to do it consciously, the further away you get from accomplishing it. Believe me, Salman Rushdie didn’t sit down to write Midnight’s Children and think: “I’m going to put on a magical realist voice.” He had a vision for the characters he wanted to write about (and perhaps some reference points from magical realists like Gabriel García Márquez) and he stuck to the voices of those characters. The unique voice that you recognize in Rushdie came out due to the characters, not because the writer made some conscious decision to write in a certain style.

So then, to find your own voice, make sure that you are writing about characters you understand inside and out. Most difficulties in writing can be traced back to character. If you find that your voice is staid, boring or typical, that’s probably because the characters you’re writing about aren’t quite as real as they should be. A real character will make you adopt a unique voice.

Have a question about the writing world? Ask Ned! You can e-mail us at askned(at)artandwriting(dot)org, or you can learn more about Ned at http://www.nedvizzini.com.

Image: Athena. Maximillian Rollins, Grade 12. 2010 Silver Medal. Mixed Media.

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