FAQ: Won’t using your tools drown out my “voice”?

Voice is one of the things aspiring writers angst over.

However, the genre reader mostly doesn’t care about your voice as long as it’s competent and reflects the point-of-view character; they want to be immersed in the story and carried forward by the plot.

That said, my outlining tools won’t drown out your voice. Rather they will make you aware of it.

These really are tools. They let you look at your story from different angles, respond viscerally and work with what you see using your storyteller instinct.

True, if your “voice” is boring and conflict free then  it will become unbearable to you and you will evolve  a new one. Otherwise, the tools should help you realise the full potential of your voice, whatever it is, and whatever your preferred genre.

Here, for example, is a Conflict Diagram setting out the workings of Pride and Prejudice:


Click for a larger view. (What?!? No tanks and ninjas?)

I’m very glad to answer questions via email or in the comments. However, if you have no idea what I am talking about, perhaps you want to try my book on outlining (UK)(CA)(USA)!


Writer. Swordsman. CLICK TO SEE MY BOOKS !

Posted in Books on how to write, FAQ, Storyteller Tools
2 comments on “FAQ: Won’t using your tools drown out my “voice”?
  1. Geoff Hart says:

    [NOTE I updated the post in response to Geoff’s comment.]

    Our Gracious Host opines: “However, the reader mostly doesn’t care about your voice; they want to be immersed in the story and carried forward by the plot.”

    Au contraire. (‘scuse my French.) It’s certainly true that a story that consists solely of voice is about as interesting as last week’s stock market report. But that’s probably a tautology, and it’s about as true as saying that all chicken tastes the same, thereby ignoring the very different “voices” of American fried chicken, chicken vindaloo, Szechuan chicken, and Thai lemongrass chicken. IDIC (“infinite diversity in infinite combinations”, for the younger readers).

    Voice is the spice that turns the same old same old (boy meets sword, boy falls for sword, parents object to sword’s forging, sword proves itself by overcoming divers challenges, boy and sword live happily ever after) into something new and interesting. I’m not a subscriber to the “there are only 7 plots” school of thought, but it’s certainly true that most of the fun comes in the spice, and for fiction, that spice is the author’s voice.

    As a proof of concept, ask a friend to read you a chunk of swordplay from any of Martin’s books, one from the Merchant Princes by Charles Stross, and a swordplay scene from Zelazny’s Amber series. If you can’t instantly tell the difference between them and tell me which one or ones you like best and why, I’ll buy you a beer next time we meet at a convention. (I’ll be at Readercon in July, and hope to be at World Fantasy in November. Drop me a line if you’ll be there!)

    In reviewing (i.e., nitpicking) over an early draft of Martin’s book, one of the points I made was that writing good fantasies isn’t a single-note tune. Plot is important, but without character, voice, worldbuilding, stage setting, and the right soundtrack, nobody’s going to read past the first page. It’s the interaction among all of these elements that makes a story worth reading. IDIC redux.

  2. mharoldpage says:

    Partly it depends on where you think voice ends and plot starts. To me:

    character… worldbuilding, stage setting, and the right soundtrack,

    derive from plot.

    Also much of what we think of as “Voice” also derives from the micro plot, the rhythm of reversals and contradictions pulsing through the text.

    However I stand by

    However, the reader mostly doesn’t care about your voice; they want to be immersed in the story and carried forward by the plot.

    A lot of genre fiction does not have a particularly distinct voice — you don’t pickup, say, a Baen book for the voice (though the voice has to be serviceable) but for the story. And where the voice is distinct, it is because it reflects the point of view character.

    [I’ll tweak the post to make that clearer]

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