What Is Writing Voice?

[W]hat many people call and value as “voice” in fiction is often the author manipulating grammatical rules and mechanisms in order to best support their story. The best editors & CEs I know read for voice and believe in/seek out internal consistency.

Tracy Deonn

This answer is in response to a tweet by Wesley Chu, who said, “When it comes to storytelling, the point of grammar is to clarify the author’s intent, not to be grammatically correct.”

Elisabeth Sonrel Jeanne d’Arc écoutant ses voix (Joan of Arc listening to her voices), 1900


Depends who’s saying it.

For some people, ‘voicey’ is desirable. You’ll see literary agents asking for voicey writers. In this case they mean ‘a strong, original and distinctive voice’.

Others in the industry use the word differently:

“I use ‘voicey’ to describe a book in which the narrator is louder than the story warrants”

@RogerReads, Roger Sutton of The Horn Book

Roger explains that a lot of post-Bridget Jones chick lit was voicey. “Whether that’s a compliment or not depend on the reader, I guess.”

‘Voicey’ is a good thing if readers like the voice, and a bad thing if readers don’t.

Remember: No single author will appeal to everyone, and no one should aim for universal appeal. Once you appeal to ‘everyone’ (impossible), you appeal to no one.

Header painting: La Voix du Mal (The Voice of Evil), 1895 by Georges de Feure (French 1868-1943)