Monday, May 6, 2013

Writing Craft: Audience and Voice

Getting out of bed this morning was hard for a reason... 
Anybody else just love Game of Thrones?

Our lecturer has decided to push all the weeks back one seeing as we missed out on the lecture last week and had an extra week at the end of the semester. So while it is the 8th week of classes, today we completed week 7's lecture and tutorial.

Who: Audience and Voice

Readings for week 7 were Rich chocolate cake á la Irvine Welsh by Mark Crick (pages 20-28), Everything is illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (pages 1-7), Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates (pages 1, 3-5, 7, 9-25) and The white tiger by Aravind Adiga (pages 3-42).

When we talk about 'voice' in writing, we're talking about that thing about a piece that makes it seem alive; the thing that seduces us to keep reading and/or writing it. Having a good voice is what will stop the reader from putting the book down and never giving it a second glance, and it is what stops the writer from getting bored of a project they've started.

The difference between voice and style can be hard to distinguish, mostly because they reflect on and feed off each other. My lecturer believes that style can be imitated, but voice can not. My tutorial group discussed the difference after the lecture and my tutor asked us to consider a few things: Does the writer's style change or stay the same over different pieces they write? Does each separate piece have it's own unique voice? Is it possible for writer's to have more than one voice? My tutor agreed that style could be mimicked, but questioned whether or not the same could be said for voice. Personally, I think that each piece has a unique voice that can't be replicated, and that writers might have multiple styles and voices.

An audience for writers are their readers, but each writer has a different set of readers or person they are aiming to please when they write. With a little bit of practice, it can become quite easy to automatically adjust our language or our 'voice' for whoever our readers are. After all, audience has a crucial effect on how we write. While we all automatically write for an audience, it is not always clear in the first instance who that audience is. Although some writers are super-ultra-organized and plan out everything about their next project to a T, many do not and when the urge to start writing strikes, a lot of people will go for it without considering who we are writing for.

Who do you write for? 

We brainstormed some possible answers in the lecture and tutorial. While the obvious answers of "teenagers", "young adults", "my best friend", "my mother" or "myself" came up, there were some more interesting contributions. Our lecturer suggested that sometimes we write for someone who once strongly praised us or someone who once harshly criticized us. Or in the case of 'anxiety of influence', some of us feel that we are writing for the whole of literary history, with the weight of all the other awesome authors who came before us resting on our shoulders as they peer at the pages before us and tut quietly under their breaths, shaking their heads... or whispering encouragement to us from beyond the grave. They can't ALL be mean and filled with superiority.

The final thing we touched on in the lecture was 'Audience as the addressee of your narrative'; a technique in which we mobilize the notion of an audience to produce a particular effect in terms of voice, by letting your narrator talk to/write to/complain to/fantasize to etc... a particular person.

My tutor left us on a note of caution: Don't try to please EVERYBODY when you write. You can't write for EVERYBODY at the same time. Pick your age group, gender, or whatever demographic makes up your target audience and aim to please them before anybody else. Otherwise you'll just turn into a hopeless too-far-stretched mess trying to please too many people and most likely not succeeding.

Who do you write for? Do you think you have a style of your own yet, or are you still finding it? Do you think each of your individual pieces of writing has its own voice? 

- Bonnee.


  1. Such good questions! I definitely think each of my pieces has its own voice ... but at the same time, I also think each of my characters has a unique voice, too, and that probably influences it more than any conscious decision on my part to switch things up. I've found that to be especially important with my current project, since I'm switching back and forth between two characters' perspectives. It's so fun to see how their voices differ!

    1. I have a feeling one of the next weeks to come will focus on character in my classes, but interesting that you should point out that each character has their own unique voice though it wasn't mentioned in my lecture. I guess they're saving that analysis for another lesson. Different characters are great when you switch between them in a story. The reader gets a more well-rounded idea of what's going on, I love it.

  2. So cliche, but I really do write to please myself first. I write the story to entertain me, and then when I'm ready to send it out to readers, I panic a little and make a few revisions. :)

    And, yeah, a strong voice can definitely carry the story. More than style, I think it's the writers unique view of the world, the things they choose to take notice of and share with the reader.

    Great post again. :)

    1. I think everybody has a little panic just before the send it out to readers :) But more so I guess if you've been writing for yourself.

      It is great to see what parts of themselves the writer shares through what they put in their writing. Always interesting to say the least.

      Thanks for stopping by :)

  3. I'm enjoying your first semester at university quite a bit, thanks for sharing!

    I agree, I don't think 'voice' can really be replicated. I think you can develop a style and voice similar to others, but to be most effective, it has to come from you. As for the sticky question of 'who do you write for?' I'm still not sure. Like L.G., I just write what I want, the story that's fighting to get out at that particular moment, but I can't say I'm aiming them at one particular person. I know Stephen King says his wife is his 'ideal reader,' but I'm not sure who mine is.

  4. Oh, just watched your clip. Is it getting cold down there now? We're finally firmly entrenched in spring here.

    1. Glad you're enjoying my education :D Haha!

      My lecturer spoke of how while we are still developing, we tend to write like other writers, whoever we're reading, until we find our own voice. But ultimately, yes, having our own unique voices is most effective. If it makes you feel any better, I don't know who my ideal reader is either, or who I am aiming for specifically (more specifically than YA anyway).

      And yes, winter is coming to Australia. So far I have managed not to turn the heater on, but it's getting harder and harder each morning. Enjoy the springtime weather :)

  5. Interesting lecture. One thing that I don't get is "The Voice". Many literary agents and editors for book publishers are looking for manuscript with Voice. I have no idea if my two novels have a Voice or not. I guess that don't have a voice, because otherwise they will be taken by now. Hopefully I can see somewhere an example of a few lines with no Voice an then changing the few lines to have a Voice. I have to go over your post again to read about style vs. voice. For whom do I write for is much easier. My two novels were written for specific groups of readers that hopefully will buy them. They were not written for the general population and I know, for example, that some groups of readers will not buy my second novel. Waiting for the next class ..:)

    1. I think that the voice is a hard thing to define exactly. I guess the most we can do is our best to give our writing one.

      It's definitely a good thing that you know who your intended readers are :) Thanks for stopping by, as always, Giora :)

  6. Excellent points! I always find that my main character speaks to me as I'm writing. Each character always sounds so different. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. I think it's important to listen to the main character while you're writing and balance it with whatever the original plan for the story was. Thanks for stopping by :)

  7. AnonymousMay 11, 2013

    Great post~~ Hmm, well I think I do have a specific style, but I hope that is continues to grow and change!

    1. I think a continuously changing style is something that is a part of writing often and I think it is a good thing :)

  8. Interesting Post..Bonnee Smiles:)) GOD<3U

  9. Glad you though so :) Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Hi Bonnee,
    Nice to be here.
    I am here via one of my a to z friends' page,
    this is really interesting and educative too,
    since you have done it in a systematic way.
    Indeed a well written piece.
    I like the concluding para your tutor's warning/caution:
    "Don't try to please EVERYBODY when you write. You can't write for EVERYBODY at the same time. Pick your age group, gender, or whatever demographic makes up your target audience and aim to please them before anybody else. Otherwise you'll just turn into a hopeless too-far-stretched mess trying to please too many people and most likely not succeeding."
    this is really a wonderful piece of advice to the readers.
    Keep inform
    Keep writing.
    Best Regards
    I am
    Philip @ Philipscom
    An ambassador to A to Z Challenge @ Tina's Life is Good
    And My Bio-blog

    1. Hey Philip, thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you thought this post was educational and I hope it was helpful to you as a writer. :)


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