Voice in fiction is a term poorly defined. What does it mean? Style? Subject matter? Sensibility? World view? All of the above? Whatever it means editors, agents and readers all want it.
The thing is, every novelist already has a voice. It may be comic, deadpan, dry, pulpy, shrill, objective, distant, intimate, arty or a thousand other things. It comes through in the story that an author chooses to tell and the way in which they choose to tell it.
Why then do editors constantly say to me they are seeking writers with a “voice.” Aren’t they already getting that?
Clearly not—not enough of that, anyway. Attached to the word “voice,” I frequently hear the adjective “strong.” Editors are looking for authors with a “strong voice.”
The issue in most manuscripts, then, is not whether the author has a voice but whether they are using it to maximum effect. Does the language of the novel light it up? Does the story stab our hearts? Does its passion grip us? Do we see the world in new ways?
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