On Writing – Finding One’s Voice

When reading up on writing tips, I found a few articles on how to develop a good character voice. For me, that never felt like my main challenge. Acting classes were an integral part of my personal development (I started at 5 years old and had them for 10 years), so my way into a story is always through the uniqueness of its main character. They come to me with a voice, a persona and a purpose, and the challenge is to do them justice when I transition them from my head to paper. The few ideas that formed as a setting are waiting for their character to show up so I can write them.

I found fewer articles about developing a writer’s voice, which is what I perceive as my personal challenge for a long term career.

A writer’s voice is a writer’s unique style that is recognizable from one work to another. It’s something loyal readers can expect from every book. It shouldn’t overshadow the character’s voice, yet it should be there. For several writers, it’s heavily tied to the genre/family of genres they are known for, though it’s not the only defining element.


Lucky those who know which genre they like and can develop an expertise in that. I can’t. My written projects include a bit of everything, so does my bookshelf and my notebook of future projects. Most of my stories contain bits of everything in and of themselves. I sometimes write the story first and figure out the closest genre after a couple of edits –sue me!

So what’s my writer’s voice, then?

I didn’t want to force it, but I wanted to know what it was because I’m a nerd when it comes to introspection and understanding how who I am is reflected in my art.

Also, that could come in handy to give reference points to agents when they ask my writing is similar to whose.

Here’s how I’ve uncovered my voice.

Write and Analyze

The first step is to generate a good amount of work to analyze. Novels, short stories, prompt-inspired or not; what matters is to write. Then, when I edited stories, I paid attention to trends, patterns and differentiating elements.

Drabble Day challenges were especially useful for this. The stories were short so it was easy to analyze them and spot patterns. Since other writers also participated, I could analyze how we had each tackled the theme. As I discerned elements of their voice, I also discerned some of mine.

List Common Grounds

As I analyzed, patterns emerged so I built up a list of them:

  • Character-driven
  • Elements of science-fiction and/or fantasy. I don’t go for a hundred percent realism, but I can come fairly close.
  • Strong female characters
  • I’m funnier than I thought.
  • Recurring themes: stories about different forms of supernatural foresight, characters uncomfortable in their own skin/with their own powers, feminism, identity crisis…

Of course, once I found this my brain came up with a few stories that didn’t touch these common grounds. *sigh* These were still good trends to investigate further.

Read and Analyze

The list helped me stir my reading beyond entertainment or research of the genres I write. I started researching the potential elements of my voice and picked up books that fit one of the elements, maybe two. Books that aren’t quite in my usual top choices, but are adjacent to what I like writing myself.

Whether I liked the book or not, I learned something about myself and which parts of me shine through my writing. It also helped me learn the weaknesses of the way I approach a story (like often forgetting setting descriptions) and find ways to tackle them that work with my voice (melding setting to actions).


As I read, I tweaked the list and precised it. Some aspects are things I aspire to do right because I found that they mattered to me, to the type of voice I want to have:

  • Wholesome World and Characters a la Kim Harrison: The Hollows series features a great cast of unique characters that each seem to have a life outside of Rachel’s (the MC). The world is well crafted down to key expressions that are unique to her setting. Some of it, like the killer tomato, is quirky and yet works in her serious setting.
  • Sassy quirky fun a la Janet Evanovich: The offbeat characters of the Stephanie Plum series resonate with me. Even in the direst circumstances, they’re hilarious. And the direst circumstances are a little crazy too.

And that’s as far as I got. *laughs* I wish I could tell you that I have all the aspects of my voice and all the pitfalls figured out, but it’ll take me a bit more time and research to get there (if I ever get there.) Also, my voice evolves as I go through the process and refines what really matters to me, and how I want readers to relate to me.

What about you? What elements are defining the way you write?

And if you’ve read some of my stuff, what has jumped out at you as things I should consider as my voice?

Lilac and NaNoWriMo Prep

It’s been spring for a month here in Australia, and while some days have been a bit cold, the weekends have been amazingly warm and sunny. This last weekend reached the high twenties Celsius, and I went out on a stroll at 11pm without a jacket.

This is highly unusual for little Quebecer me. I love it!

As I cracked open my windows yesterday to let the fresh air in, I realized that the tree growing in front of my bedroom is a lilac! Though the flowers are few and budding, I can already smell it when I stand at the open window. I’m pretty sure the wind will carry the scent into my bedroom once the tree is in full bloom, and I’m looking forward to that.

The other thing I’m looking forward to is NaNoWriMo. Now that October has started, I’m having planning jitters. I’ve learned over the years that I don’t do as well during NaNo if I don’t figure out the broad strokes of the story beforehand. Because October is going to rush by super fast (I have lectures to prep, too!), I may have to break my “write something entirely new” rule and settle for rewriting one of the shelved projects since the general plan for these is pretty much done.

We shall see.

It’ll be fun to meet the local WriMos. I made some awesome friends in the Quebec NaNo group, so going to write-ins here may be a good way to extend my social circle outside of work friends (not that these friends aren’t wonderful, but I have all my eggs in the same basket right now and that’s not the best.)

What about you guys? Anyone starting to think about NaNo?

Til It Happens to You (Lady Gaga)

I’m not posting one of my songs today. The one that I meant to post is not quite ready, but I can share what inspired it.

** Trigger warning: both this post and the song are about rape. **

A couple of weeks ago, a friend shared this new song by Lady Gaga, which is as beautiful as it is important and hard to watch. There have been words floating in my mind since then, because I know people who’ve gone through this (both men and women.) I have my own stories, though, in my mind and the way I experienced them, they’re nowhere as harsh as what happens to others.

Every day.

I’ve been writing and erasing a dozen version of this last part of this post, and I realized that there’s much I’d like to say because this subject is close to my heart. But there’s nothing more I want to say now, because I don’t want my ideas distracting you from the video.

Just watch this.

Sadness and Inspiration

Last week was one of those weeks that sucker punches plans out of the schedule and a good chunk of willpower along with them.

Last week, I lost my friend Tom.

Tom often joked about how I would write him into a story, and I answered that if I did him justice, I’d be critiqued for the lack of realism. Truth be told, trying to capture the essence of that man is a daunting task. I don’t think I’ll ever truly attempt it. I do have bits and pieces, though.

Tom admired the way I bounced back from negative events. He saw right away that I don’t avoid bad feelings; I tackle them, head first. I embrace the pain until I get sick of being miserable. Part of the process to come to term with his passing was to play heavy, dark music and relive memories and conversations. I wrote some of those down. Small glimpses of who he was that may or may not find their way into a story some day.

Once I had written my way to the words I needed to say goodbye, I realized that the happiness I got from our moments together outshines the sadness of loss. I’m thankful that we shared a small piece of each other’s journey through life. I know myself better because of him. I’m stronger for having known him. And though I’m not going to make him a character in a story, the impact he had on my life will transpire through the words for sure.

I’m on the other side of the “bounce back process,” now, able to talk about him with only a dull sense of sadness. Able to return to my plans and schedule. Which now not only include blogging, but also training! I missed the gym.

So this is the reason why I went a bit radio silent last week, and things are going back to normal now. ;)

Time Will Never Tell (acapella song)


I only vaguely remember what inspired this song.

Some TV show, that classic scene of a doctor telling the main character that “time will tell” if their loved one would make it. A thought burst in my mind: “What a filthy lie! Time doesn’t talk!” And then I had a voice in my head, getting angry at time.

Ten minutes later, I was singing a song, but it felt incomplete. I’ve been toying with it for three years, coming back to the verses cyclically. I wanted it to have a certain pattern, to tell a certain story with a certain level of details.

Lately, I’ve been listening to a bit more progressive music, and it hit me: I needed the pattern and details. I couldn’t put these last verses in because the song doesn’t want need them.

At least I don’t think it does, anymore. You be the judge!

As usual, this is recorded acapella on my phone, so don’t expect full orchestral, studio quality.

Hope you enjoy! Comments and critics always welcome!

Time Will Never Tell

Time will never tell
Where it went
When it covered its tracks with your smile.

No, it’ll never tell me.

Time will never tell
Where it flew
While we swapped stories about our scars.

No, it’ll never tell me.

So where does it get the right?
Why should I wait for it to tell me
If we can fix this?

And will it stand still at last?
Will it stay here for you because you need it
Just like I need you?

I’ll be here by your side
Getting you to your next breath
I promise I won’t cry much
I would mortgage my soul
To borrow hours for you to heal
And I’ll kill time before it runs out on us

So listen to me, Time
Listen to my plea
‘cause if you come for him
There’ll be nothing distracting me
From tracking you down
From haunting you ‘round the clock
From stalking all your seconds
All your tic and all your toc
So do us all a favor
And tell me he’ll be fine

I’ll be here by your side
Getting you to your next breath
I promise I won’t cry much
I would mortgage my soul
To borrow hours for you to heal
And I’ll kill time before it runs out on us


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