How To Write Fiction Without The Fuss: finding your voice


Welcome to Part Ten of our popular fiction series. This week, Lucy looks at finding your voice. 

For all the articles in this series check out the category “Fiction Without The Fuss.” Click on <<<— this link or go to the sidebar on the right —>>>

How to write fiction without the fussNow all the preparation for your work of fiction is done, you are ready to start writing.

The day you truly enter the alternative world that you will inhabit for the next few weeks, months or even years, is an exciting moment – and sometimes a scary one. At least you are not facing a blank page or screen: you have your completed story ‘bible’, with its plot overview and section breakdowns, character descriptions, setting and theme. Your hard work will have paid off, in that you know where your story will start and end, as well as most of the twists and turns along the way.

To keep yourself focused, pin a copy of your 1-page plot outline somewhere in view of your desk and open the chapter breakdown of Section 1 outlining your Beginning. You could copy these pages and use them as a template from which to expand your narrative, section by section.

If you find it hard to get started, remember that at this point you don’t have to write something brilliant – or even something good; you just have to write something. This is only your first draft; later it can be polished, revised or cut entirely.

“Get it down, take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything good.”
William Faulkner 

Many authors have advised that once you have finished a book you should go back to the start and ruthlessly cut your original opening, up to the point at which, it will now be clear, the action really starts. The paragraphs, or even chapters, with which you initially felt your way into the story, can often simply be dispensed with. So don’t feel too attached to what you write today; it is a beginning, and an important first step in your story, but it might not survive through to the end.

Your first job when you start a new piece of fiction is to find your writing voice and to do that you may have to experiment a bit. The first decision to be made is about the narrative point of view you are going to take – in other words, who is going to be telling your story? There are a number of tried and tested options.

A First-person view is where your story is narrated by one of your characters using the first person pronoun (“I…”). All of the action is relayed from his or her point of view and nothing can be told (unless reported to your narrator by another character or device) without this person having witnessed it. This means that the story is also interpreted through your main character’s understanding, and gives you the opportunity for her or his incomplete knowledge and misunderstandings to be a key part of the plot development.

First-person narrative is usually, but not always, written from the main protagonist’s point of view; it can also come from someone close to the main character(s), an observer of the action or someone discovering events that happened earlier. It allows you to convey their internal thoughts and feelings directly to the reader and to develop their complexity. When you write as a first person narrator, your style will be the voice of the character.

Alternating first-person view is another choice you could make for your narrative voice(s). If you have two, or more, characters who are key to the action, you might switch between their viewpoints, writing as “I…” for each of them in turn. You need to find a way of clearly differentiating between these characters’ voices for the reader in terms of writing style and point of view, possibly even typographically or heading their individual sections with the characters’ names. This split narrative point of view works particularly well if your plot takes place in different times or places and gives you the chance to develop writing styles from both genders, other eras and opposing perspectives.

Third-person view, where your narrator is an unspecified person or being outside the action, and therefore refers to all the characters as “he”, “she” or “they”, provides you as an author with the most flexibility and is the most commonly used narrative mode in fiction.

The third-person narrator can be an “objective” voice, describing the action but not the thoughts or feelings of any characters from the inside (which doesn’t stop the characters talking about their own feelings to each other). Or you can write “subjective” third-person narration, which is privy either to one, some or all of the characters’ inner lives. A third-person narrator can also be omniscient, and have access to all events, times, people and places; or they can be limited to having full knowledge from one character’s point of view, but not from the others (making this closer to first-person narration).

Alternating third-person view involves the narrator describing the characters from the outside (“he…”, “she…”), but only having intimate knowledge of one at a time, so telling the story from alternate characters’ points of view whilst remaining an exterior entity. In this case, you can choose either to maintain a single, objective narrator’s voice for describing all the characters, or the voice can change to reflect the individual styles of each character, as the narrator focuses on them.

Even if you have already decided on the narrator view for your novel or short story, get your writing started with a few experiments from different viewpoints. Try out two or three of the characters as possible narrators – in first-person and third-person voices – and test some different styles for a limited or omniscient narrator. They might be naïve or cynical; take an humorous or dark approach. Do they speak informally to the reader, or do they have a literary turn of phrase? Don’t commit yourself to a voice until you feel comfortable about taking it right through your story.

Next week we’ll look in more depth at your opening chapters and how to engage your readers from the very start.

For all the articles in this series check out the category “Fiction Without The Fuss.” Click on <<<— this link or go to the sidebar up a way on the right —>>>

Lucy McCarraher

Lucy McCarraher


Managing Editor, Rethink Press.


Meanwhile, let’s perfect your non-fiction, too…

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”...over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English … INSTANT DOWNLOAD now available!
“How To Write Winning Non-fiction”…all you need to know to write a good non-fiction book and get it published
…plus take a look at Lucy’s novels here


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