Ernest Hemingway was known for his short to the point sentences, a trait that helped to solidify his writer’s voice as one of the most distinctive in American literature. In The Old Man and the Sea he uses direct language that makes us feel as if the fisherman were telling us the story firsthand.
This use of technique and tone is a great example of voice in writing. I know as new writers we find some of these terms like “voice” perplexing and we wonder what exactly everyone is talking about. Myself I interpret voice simply as characteristics of a person’s writing that distinguishes it as their own.
Similar to someone’s accented speech, a writer inflects his personality into their writing. While their accent is a product of regionalism in most cases, there writing can reflect the writer’s exposure to teachers, parents, and experiences. Word usage, tempo and punctuation also lend to a writers tone and through that tone emerges their distinctive voice.
Where the concept of voice becomes more confusing is the point at which it becomes more than just your own particular writing style. Like an adolescence whose actual voice changes as they age, a writer’s voice changes as they grow as artists and wordsmiths. So voice as a concept is both your own personal influence and what you learn as a writer and how those factors come out in your work.
So, do you have a voice, absolutely? Take some time to pull out some of your old work and compare it to something more recent. Look for reoccurring words, inflections of humor, or even punctuation similarities. All of this is YOUR voice. While you can belabor all these factors and try to influence your voice, and you can certainly do that, when you are first starting out do not sweat it. Just let the words flow and your voice will be heard.