Forum: Narrative Voice

Like most writers of fiction, our heroine is beset by the voices of her characters telling her what they want to do, dear Reader. Don’t tell the men in white, she has no desire for a jacket with extra-long arms, thank you.

The term “voice” in fiction is used for several forms of the concept. For example, each character has a pattern of speech and favored expressions, thus a separate voice. My greatest interest today is in what’s called the Narrative Voice. This is the style of word choices and rhythms an author chooses in relating the story. The Point of View has a good deal to do with the choice of Narrative Voice style as well.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Maintaining a voice throughout a novel can be challenging. As it takes days at minimum to get the rough draft out – and then heaven knows how long to rewrite, buff and polish the thing – we go through moods. Our energy levels wax and wane. If we don’t have a grasp on the voice for the piece, it can be impacted by these things and come out confusing or mushy.

Crawford Killian‘s blog Writing Fiction contains a good article titled Narrative Voice. As he points out, it can help or hinder the success of the story. I like this article as a no-nonsense approach to the many styles available within each POV.

The Internet Review of Science Fiction has an article I enjoyed regarding Narrative Voice and Authorial Voice. It was written by Ruth Nestvold and Jay Lake. This article explains many of the concepts regarding Voice and goes on to illustrate different styles by using well-known works.

Alan Rinzler‘s blog The Book Deal has an excellent article titled Ask the Editor: 8 Tips for Finding Your Voice. He explains that, “Voice is what gives writing energy, authenticity, it animates the narrator and characters  with a unique personality. It grabs your attention and keeps you turning the page.” Moreover, he goes into ways to help you find your natural voice.

For more creative writing exercises to develop voice, take a look at‘s article by Jennifer Jensen titled Character Voice Writing Exercises. You’ll note that these have to do with Character Voice moreso than Narrative Voice. I believe getting a firm handle on the difference between the two not only makes sense, it can make for a more dynamic story.

Writing fiction is perhaps the one time when hearing voices is encouraged – to an extent. Make sure that within all those characters yammering, you keep grasp of your Narrative Voice. To my mind, it’s the cohesive backbone to a novel. What challenges have you faced with voice?


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2 thoughts on “Forum: Narrative Voice

  1. Jeff Cocking February 10, 2010 at 10:33 am Reply

    Thanks, these links are great. I’m working on improving my characters’ voices at the moment because I’m told they all sound too similar. I think I’ll try some of the exercises from


    • Jessica Rosen February 10, 2010 at 4:35 pm Reply

      That can be a real problem, Jeff. I like to sketch out each character, including certain words and phrases used and speech patterns or problems. The exercises in the article may be a big help.

      There are more links on Forum: Dynamic Dialogue that may be handy as well:

      Good luck – let me know how it goes.

      Take care,


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