Monday, August 2, 2010

Having Fun with Your Writer’s Voice

I thought I was clever enough to write as well as these people and I didn't realize that there is something called originality and your own voice. – Amy Tan

The best definition I found for writing voice was from the article "Finding Your Voice "by Susan J. Letham on She says:

“In writing, voice is the way your writing 'sounds' on the page. It has to do with the way you write, the tone you take—friendly, formal, chatty, distant—the words you choose—everyday words or high-brow language—the pattern of your sentences, and the way these things fit in—or not—with the personality of the narrator character and the style of your story.”

I’ve grown comfortable with my voice. I don’t think about it when I'm writing. Though my books and short stories are all different, I feel it's obvious they were all written by the same person—or I did.

Recently an article in, “I Write Like’ Website Goes Viral, Authors Bewildered,” by Jake Coyle, caught my attention. The article discusses the I Write Like site, which analyzes your writing style. It’s quite simple—paste a few paragraphs and click. Within seconds an “I write like” badge appears.

According to the article, a transcript of one of Mel Gibson’s rants was analyzed as the style of Margaret Atwood. Margaret’s own sample came back as Stephen King. Though these examples showed the system wasn’t perfect, I couldn't resist trying it out.

For fun I submitted the first few paragraphs of my first book, The Ride, my not yet released book, Reigning Cats and Dogs, and my current WIP. I evidently have more voices in my head than I ever dreamed.

My badge for The Ride was Vladimir Nabokov of Lolita fame, for Reigning Cats and Dogs, it was Stephen King and for the WIP, Dan Brown's name popped up.

Now while I find it flattering that my writing could be compared to any one of these writers, I was surprised that all three samples came back with different authors. When I first decided to try my hand at writing a novel, I had something Stephen Kingish in mind. However, it didn’t take me long to realize horror was not my genre; I didn’t have a mind like King; and my writing style was totally different.

If I sat around and thought long enough, maybe I could come up with an “I write like” badge for myself. Though I’m not quite sure which famous writer my style resembles, I'm fairly certain it’s no one in this illustrious trio.

If you want to have a little fun, you can go to the I Write Like site here. If you’re having trouble finding your voice or would like to read more on the topic, you might try these links:
Finding Your Voice,
How to Find Your Voice, Men with Pens
How to Find a Voice as a Writer,
How to Find your Writing Voice,
Vintage: Finding Your Writer’s Voice,

Have you found your voice? Can you idenify an author by the way they write? Have you tried the I Write Like site? If so, which writing badge or badges did you receive?

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope to see you again next Monday.

Tags: Amy Tan, finding your voice, finding your writing voice, Stephen King, Dan Brown, Vladimir Nabokov, I write like, The Ride,Reigning Cats and Dogs ,Margaret Atwood, Mel Gibson,


Dave King said...

And that is definitely the best definition I have heard for voice, also. Fascinating post.

Mason Canyon said...

It is interesting that all three submission came back different. You've made me curious about this link. I'll have to check it out.

Thoughts in Progress

Anonymous said...

I did the I Write Like thing and the result was Dan Brown. I was very happy to hear that.

Stephen Tremp

Darcia Helle said...

Jane, that's a great definition for voice. Like you said, I always assumed that my voice was consistent throughout all my writing. According to that I Write Like site, I'm not even consistent within the same book! I put in 4 separate samples, all from The Cutting Edge, my newest release. Apparently, I write like Chuck Palahniuk, Cory Doctorow, Raymond Chandler and Stephen King. An interesting assortment! I'd venture to say that, if I put in 4 more samples, I'd come out with 4 more authors that I supposedly write like. I think the algorithm used by that site need some tweaking.

Jan Morrison said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jan Morrison said...

ooh, very tempting. I probably won't be able to resist. I too wonder about my voice - I've been told it is quirky and comfortable both but not sure if that is true in my novel writing. We'll see won't we?

Jan Morrison said...

Wow - that's fun. 'True' my current wip under revision came up Jane Austen. My first mystery 'The Rock Walker' came up in the prologue as Stephen King and in the story proper as Mark Twain and my very first finished novel 'Feckless' came up as Ian Flemming. Hilarious! Jan Morrison

Laura Marcella said...

I tried that, too, with three different writing samples: passages from a short story, novel, and my blog. Apparently I write like three very different writers. So it's totally bogus but a great way to procrastinate!

I find that the story often dictates some of my voice, based on the atmosphere, tone, and characters' actions. Listening to the story is important!

DazyDayWriter said...

Writing voice is one of the great mysteries of the universe, I believe! Yes, we all have one, but letting it shine amidst the clutter of the mind, heart, and soul can be challenging. Most of the great writers have a memorable "voice," and even many contemporary writers. But it does seem like some of the fiction these days is rather "generic" in tone. Write on, Jane, you have a great voice!

Carol Kilgore said...

I write like different writers, too. I wonder what the site looks for?

Karen Walker said...

Hmm, one more interesting distraction to check out. Love this definition of voice, Jane. I strugled to find mine with my memoir, but I have no idea if it will remain the same as I forge into fiction writing for the first time.

Tamika: said...

You're the second person to mention the I Write Like link. I keep forgetting to check it when I get home!

Loved this post~ voice is very special to me. I think it sets each writer apart and makes us unique. A powerful tool.

Hart Johnson said...

I thought that application was a kick as a time waster, but it is bound in 'keywords' which is perfect for Google or spam filters, but doesn't take into account ANYTHING about cadence, tone--my works were all over the place--I tried 5 and never hit the same author twice, yet I'm pretty darned confident that anyone who has READ me, can SPOT me (my writer's group has a collective blog and people seem to always know before the end when it was my post)

You are allowed to be flattered by Nabikov though (anyone who can make me love a book, even when it features a pedophile, has skill)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

My voice is very, very casual! I'll have to check out those sites you recommended though.

Tumblemoose said...

Hi there Jane,

Thanks for the mention of my article on "writer's Voice."

This is a great post and I can't wait to go see the other links.

Thanks again for the inclusion!

George Angus

Elisabeth said...

Wonderful post Jane. What fun. I thought I knew my voice well.

I tried it out on the I write like programme as you suggested, three different pieces.

To my stunned amazement I write like: Kurt Vonnegut, James Joyce and Dan Brown.

And I thought I was a woman's writer, who writes like a woman. this has changed my view ob things, but how seriously I take it is another matter. I see that Stephen Tremp also writes like Dan Brown.

Where are the women writers here?

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Thank each and every one of you for your comments. I planned to answer individually, but for the past couple of days with a couple more to go, all my energy is going towards keeping up with my energetic three-year old grandson and two granddogs while the parents are out of town celebrating an anniversary. Tonight I’m simply too tired to think straight enough for individual responses. Hopefully I'll have some restored brain cells left by the end of the day tomorrow:)

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Wonderful definition of voice.
That site was good fun (but only fun) - my voice is all over the place, but my six year old is consistently Rudyard Kipling.

Helen Ginger said...

I think one of the worst things a writer can do is try to write like someone else, even an author your admire. If you write enough, you'll begin to see and hear your voice. But if you try to force it, it will get buried in your efforts.

The Old Silly said...

The author's "voice" is that intangible that keeps people coming back for more. It can be overdone, though ... I see it a lot in novice authors manuscripts I edit. Too intrusive.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

When I tried that site a while ago I got different responses as well. My dialogue blog posts were Shakespeare. (I wish!) The beginning of my novel was Tolstoy - actually I got him again when I plugged in a bit from further on, but another section gave me someone else. It's a fun application.

So much for having a unique voice. *sigh*

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Jane,

I checked out this link as well and came back with different authors for each piece and yet I'm pretty sure people know me when they read me. :D
I think the algorithm is poorly written-but it was fun to think about. Wasn't it?
Thanks for sharing. Cheers~

Anonymous said...

I have a voice, but need to be aware to mix things up when developing characters. I have one group in Boston and a second group in Southern California, so my voice will not translate for both groups.

Stephen Tremp

Anonymous said...

Interesting blog post. I've read other blog posts about the I Write Like site. I finally got a chance to check it out. Depending on the writing I put in, I write like different authors, who I would never have thought I write like. One of my samples came back as writing like Stephen King. Who knew??

Enid Wilson said...

Good fun, thanks Jane. I tried 3 different pieces and came back with 3 different authors. I think it's more based on the content, instead of the voice.

Steamy Darcy

Patricia Stoltey said...

I'm relieved to hear you don't have a mind like Stephen King. :)

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world