What/Who Influences Your Voice?

Photo Credit: WANA Commons

When we begin as writers, we spend a lot of time searching for our voice. Searching for the writing style that makes us unique and recognizable. This, of course, comes with practice. We have to figure out in which way to string our words together that is most comfortable for us, while still providing a good flow for the reader. At times it can drive a writer crazy. After all, writers want to have their own voice that a reader can immediately identify. If a writer has a unique enough voice, it can even help to increase their popularity and sales.

Of course, certain things assist us in our journey to find our voice. Many of us rely on books about writing to give us help with the changing world of writing. Surely these books will have some sort of influence on the way we write, and how our voice develops.

Other people can influence the way we write. Many of us have blogs dedicated to our writing. We post excerpts, short stories, poems, and anything else that we hope to get feedback on. That feedback influences and can change how we write, and how our writing sounds.

Another thing that can impact our writing voice is personal doubts. A writer may take the extra effort to make sure a certain part of their writing is particularly strong because they feel it is a weak point for them. Personally, I have been told that I use a lot of detail in my writing, and that sometimes my stories play out like a movie in the reader’s head. I was most gracious for this compliment, and I think I know why it ended up that way.

Ever since I began writing at a young age, I’ve always felt that my writing lacked description. I worried–and sometimes still worry-that the reader will have no idea what I’m talking about, and won’t be able to picture what I’m trying to describe to them. I especially felt that way because I write sci-fi/fantasy. Coming up with made up creatures and cities and weapons sometimes can take a little extra description to make sure the reader understands. Because of this self-doubt, I feel that I put extra details into my writing to help convince myself that I’m describing something well enough.

For example, instead of saying the characters were blocked by bronze doors and tried to break through, I might say “the characters were blocked by a set of bronze double doors standing nearly ten feet tall. Rust flaked from them as the main character bashed his shoulder into it in an attempt to break through.” Is all that detail completely necessary? Probably not. However, I personally think it adds a little something extra to help give the reader a more vivid image of what’s happening.

What influences your voice and the way you write? Do you mostly rely on books? Feedback? Does self-doubt and personal weaknesses change how your write?


12 thoughts on “What/Who Influences Your Voice?

  1. I get a smiliar sort of comment about some of my writing, but I’ve found that I despise it when I read a book and the author seems to be rushing the reader through the entire story.
    Reading ridiculous amounts is what probably inspires my writing the most. Though it has now got to the point where I can’t read some books because all I can think about is how the style of writing could be improved, or forming extensive critques in my mind because of the way I have to think about my own work…
    I’m not sure if a write does have a voice though, if they do it morphs significantly throughout their lives. People are too easily impacted by everything around them for there to be one set way of writing that they will follow.
    A writer will sound like lots of other people before they sound like themselves. It’s paraphrasing and I can’t remember where I read it or who wrote it but its always stuck with me.

  2. I guess I’m mostly influenced by whatever I’m reading at the time – if I like the writer’s style. Even if I don’t, I’ll be thinking about what I don’t like about it so I can figure out how to avoid doing it myself
    And my dialogue tends to be influenced by what I’ve been hearing around me (so I try to listen to shows or songs that sound like what I imagine, and hope, my characters should sound like).
    And Chris, no, I don’t think that was too much detail. Adding that kind of detail is what brings the imagery to life for the reader – so good job!
    My definition of “too much” imagery would be what Mervyn Peake did in “Gormenghast” (one of my favourite tales, for the record). Things only need to be described once. Do it well, do it once. Not. Three. Times. Mr Peake …
    But, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, tell a fabulous tale and your readers will forgive a lot.

    • I’m definitely influenced by what I’m reading at the time as well, especially if I really love it. Whenever I’m reading a book I really, really like, I find myself trying to emulate the style, while also putting my own voice into it.

  3. When I write in detail, I start writing in run-on sentence mode. Its funny, in life I see all shades but in writing, I’m either or. Nothing in between. I tend to write better if I’m leaving details out, if I just focus on the emotion of the character and let them speak to the reader that way. I recently finished a book that gave TOO much detail. The dialogue was like reading an encyclopedia – I’m talking big paragraphs of dialogue. It really wasn’t a pleasant read at times which is a shame as the storyline was brilliant. So I took from that novel even more – that sometimes too much detail can be a detriment. However those that do it well (ie you!) – it’s a gift. Not every writer can get away with it.

    • I always worry about my sentence structure when putting in extra details. I’d like to get a style book for reference. I think it’s the Chicago style, maybe? Something I’ll have to look into.

      And thank you! I never want to leave the reader without a good image of what’s going on. Of course, what writer doesn’t?

  4. I’m influenced by the works of writers I admire…Shakespeare, Le Guin, Octavia E. Butler, etc…I read their books over and over so that their way of description/speaking gets lodged into my brain and that I’ll remember to use their methods when I tackle my own writing…

    • Thar is certainly what I do as well. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. If it worked for them, certainly a style with a combined influence should do well.

  5. I have been accused of being too descriptive or detailed. That, at times, I over complicate things. It all depends on what I want to show the reader. If I want them to have the clearest picture possible, then I feel like I need a lot of detail and description. Other times I let the reader decide what something looks like in detail. I give them a rough pass with a familiar term or two and let them draw their own conclusions from there.

    • I know exactly what you mean. I once read somewhere that, I forget who, exactly, writes a character, they barely give any description of them at all. They let how the character acts dictate to the reader what they look like. It seems a bit risky, but I imagine it could work in certain situations.

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