Perhaps you saw this one coming for V, but that is because it is one of those essential skills needed to Build a Writer.
Voice is what sets us apart from each other. It is our defined writing style and only comes with practice: writing and editing of our work. It can be a preferred perspective or viewpoint, or it can be the angle from which we approach the story. It also is about tone, tense and use or absence of descriptors. All of these terms can have a multitude of meanings so I will attempt to define them
Perspective & Viewpoint
These are two slightly different things. Perspective is which character you’re focusing on, viewpoint is to do with narration. To clarify perspective is to do with how many protagonists you write about. You can have a single protagonist, dual protagonists or multiple protagonists. Perspective is who’s side you write from and you should always be on one persons side through a chapter. Switching perspectives half way through a chapter is generally frowned upon as it can confuse the reader.
Viewpoint is how you narrate the different perspectives. For example is it first person ‘I’, second person ‘you’, or third person ‘he’ or ‘she’? You can also have single and multiple viewpoints in the third person viewpoint so that you can follow events occurring outside the direct experience of your protagonist.
Style refers to many factors that improve readability and tone of your prose. If you don’t know about Fowler’s Preferences already it is a great place to start to improve the tightness of your writing and therefore make it stronger. In Fowler’s book The King’s English he explains five rules to follow during your editing phase to help improve the way you communicate.
Common style blunders that obscure voice are circumlocution, cliche, gobbledegook (yes that’s actually a thing!), tautology and jargon. ‘Killing your Darlings’ is a phrase that is oft used to describe the process of removing these things.
Some writers can be heavily descriptive, others barely use any. This, in my mind, is a matter of taste, and where some say adverbs and adjectives are a tautological failure, I’d be more inclined to look less at the mechanics of the language and more at the smoothness of what you communicating. I love a good metaphor and I love reading wonderful descriptions because it helps paint a picture in my imagination of what is happening like a movie. Others find description slows the action too much and get frustrated. Ultimately, you will have to decide what is necessary to the story and go with that.
This is a term often used by non-fiction writers but I think applies equally to fiction though it is often termed as theme. How you convey a theme is highly personal and diverse and it is what makes each story worth telling now matter how many times it has been told before by others.
Listen to Your Inner Voice
Ultimately, a writer’s ‘voice’ develops as they grow in confidence. If you have confidence in yourself, and in your characters, the story will flow easily onto paper or screen. The clarity of what you write can always be improved but if you don’t allow your inner voice to take the reins and tell the story you’ll have nothing to work with.