Still, it surprised me when Roger Rosenblatt, in Unless it Moves the Human Heart: The Craft and Art of Writing, dismissed the subject of voice with a metaphorical wave of his hand. “Voice is merely the latest cliché to signify good writing. Its predecessor was ‘authority’.”
One man’s opinion. So what? Except that it sat right with me. I understood what he meant and why there was no need to talk about it any further. Voice is simply a way of saying that writer believed in herself.
In theater we call it stage presence. In film it’s scene stealer. That actor who chews the scenery, and makes us believe he is the character.
Voice is writing with an assurance that translates by osmosis to the reader. It has nothing to do with POV or which tense you tell the story in. It’s not about diphthongs or Irish accents. It’s plunging into story without timidity or throat clearing. By sheer perfection of word choice and sentence structure the author conveys her absolute confidence to the reader. An elbow nudge and wink from the captain of the ship. Authorial authority. Rosenblatt says, “Voice is the knowledge of what you want to say. After that, it becomes any voice that serves your purpose.”
Maybe that’s why he swatted the topic aside. It’s simply an outcome of years of perfecting the craft and art of writing enough to allow yourself to write like you mean it. And there’s no talking about that. There is only doing.I like the thought that my literary fingerprint may one day be confidence, not that my story is perfect, or even right, but that I deserve the opportunity to tell it my way.
I recommend Rosenblatt’s book for reasons I can’t articulate. Not because it will teach you about writing a novel, but it presses the writer's consciousness into your grey matter and you come away with a heightened ability to express what you’ve always known.