Recently, someone on a writing forum I belong to asked for advice on voice. Since voice isn’t a skill I’ve worked on, all I can really say is that writing lots of short stories has helped, especially writing characters who are very different from each other.
But in general terms, I thought of some things that helped me improve a weak spot in my writing once I finally identified it. (In my case, it’s character emotions.)
* Lucking into several critiquers (hi, guys) who will hold my hand and say “she needs to react here” or “needs more feeling in this paragraph” rather than just a general “you need to show her emotions more”
* Lots of writing exercises focusing on adding emotions
* Taking just about every class on characterization and pov that was offered on SavvyAuthors for about a year (which combines the first two items on this list)
Which I can sum up as “practice and get feedback in that specific area”.
Out of curiosity, I scoured my writing bookshelf to see what books might help. I found surprisingly little.
* Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint (Nancy Kress) covers…characters, emotion, and point of view, which is related to voice.
* Steering the Craft (Ursula Le Guin) covers various aspects of prose style. In chapter 7, Point of View and Voice, she writes “For our purposes in this book…I’ll treat voice and point of view as so intimately involved and interdependent as to be the same thing.” The exercise in this chapter is to tell the same scene five times, using a different character or point of view each time.
* Voice & Style (Johnny Payne) is an obvious one to look at for this topic. It’s been on my shelf for years but I’ve only looked at bits and pieces, so I can’t comment on its quality. It covers both dialog and narration, and each of the 8 chapters has 3 or so exercises that seem useful.
This has me looking at the story I’m currently revising in a new way. I’ve been trying to figure out the main character, and her voice is going to be important to how the reader perceives her.