Finding whose voice?

When I started to get more serious about my writing, one piece of advice I frequently heard was, “Find your voice.” Like most advice, it’s nebulous and somewhat misleading.

Writing is not just about finding your voice, because books are about so much more than the author. Beyond finding your “authorial” voice (whatever that is), you have to find the voice of your narrator and each of your characters.

It’s amazing how much characterization can be done solely through the way your character talks—the words, the tone, the speed, the volume, and so forth. Good voice characterization makes each character distinct and memorable.

So here is my writing challenge for you this week:


Write an exchange between two (or more) of your characters with no dialogue markers whatsoever. Make it clear from the voice alone who is talking.


Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout?!

So I’m reading this book right now. Well, I’m reading several books right now, but I’m talking about one in particular. I like the concept well enough, but the dialogue is so stilted it hurts. I feel like I’m getting poked in the eye with weird, starchy words.

So can you guess what the writing prompt is going to be about today?


Write a bare-bones dialogue, with just enough markers to know who’s talking and what’s going on. Sit back and see if you can read it aloud like you’re having a conversation in a friend. In fact, go get a friend, strap her to a chair if necessary, and read it back and forth. Make necessary revisions until you don’t sound like a snooty Victorian. (Unless, of course, your character is a snooty Victorian.)