Writers hear it all the time: “VOICE.”
It’s probably the second most repeated thing, just behind the number one most popular: “SHOW DON’T TELL.”
Voice is basically the unique tone of your writing and the distinct way your MC thinks. We’re encouraged to find our voice, hone it, and make sure it stands out from all the other amazing authors’ voices out there.
I actually had a voice before I knew it, and then I fought against it to the point where I lost it. So for me, the trouble was never finding my voice: it was getting it back.
I was always really lucky to have GREAT English teachers. But it was my college English professor who read one of my pieces and asked if I’d ever read the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella. I hadn’t even heard of her at the time. She said she couldn’t tell if it was just a coincidence, or if I was heavily influenced, but my character’s voice was similar to Kinsella’s. She wrote down the books and her name and told me to go out and buy the series, since I’d probably love it.
I did love it. I still do. I’ve re-read the Shopaholic books countless times since.
But at the time it also freaked me out a little. Becky Bloomwood’s fun, fashion-loving observations were eerily similar to a variety of my characters’ thoughts and feelings.
Looking back, I still had my own twist on all things girly, but at the time I was afraid people would think I was unoriginal. So, I fought it. I read a bunch of books, hoping I could figure out a way to create a new voice. Maybe somehow meld a moodier tone with my girly themes.
This really didn’t work so great.
Fast forward a few years to when I developed Lacey Robbins, my MC in THE MAKEUP DIARIES. In the early stages of this manuscript, the plot was different. Lacey was a famous beauty guru trying to get away from the fame, and live a normal life. This was a direct result from my influence of the moodier teen voices.
One of the earliest comments I got from Carrie (who, at the time wasn’t my agent but the I-really-hope-I-get-to-work-with-this-agent-someday agent) was that she liked Lacey’s voice in the Sephora scene and Lacey’s overall exuberance and zest for makeup. She encouraged me to make that zest resonate more throughout the MS.
Lacey’s observations in Sephora were light and girly. Basically, it was me slipping into my old voice because it felt natural.
After that comment I was like…hmmm. Maybe it’s okay to go back to my original voice. The one I had already well-developed in 2005 completely unknowingly. The one that feels as natural to me as breathing: Girly girl who adores all things pink and pretty and has absolutely no apologies to society for it.