Can writers retain a recognizable voice throughout different books and genres?

There is – at least to me- an inherent struggle in finding a voice as an aspiring author (a published writer). The type of writing challenge does not minimize this, although speaking to you via this blog is somewhat more organic to me. It can be a short story or a long-form piece of fiction, the struggle remains.

However, the struggle is not as much about finding a voice. I feel that as I delve into the guts and soul of a piece of writing, a voice does emerge. Sometimes I need to polish a bit; sometimes I have to do more serious, heavy lifting and try to bring myself to the surface – even when it isn’t about me, but my character. The true challenge is how to reconcile the voice I employed yesterday with the one I find myself writing with today. It is a very real challenge because forcing myself to employ a certain voice or imitate my approach last time feels disingenuous.

When I “find” this voice, when it comes out swinging, I let it rip and try to understand if there is a cadence, a style or a particular structure to study later. However, I will find myself sometimes lacking the feeling that this is taking place with another piece of writing later on. Is it a sign that I’m not ready to publish? Is it something that I have to trust is there even when I don’t feel it? Could it be that this voice I find present or absent is something I fail to detect, but is actually happening?

When I think of both classic and contemporary fiction greats like Hemingway, Orwell, Fitzgerald, Atwood, King, even Rowling… I think they have a voice that I can recognize. But upon more close observation – they are almost always leveraging their own ideas and experiences to breathe life into characters, shape situations, and inject lifeblood into dialogue. When moving between their works, they often do not sound the same, there’s a deep inherent value or substantive idea or proposition that is indeed part of their known author persona, their agenda.

So I’ve arrived at the conclusion (which is my own and your mileage may vary), that while the author may indeed be thinking of voice consciously as a literary craft element, we – as readers and fans – buy into that voice. We buy into that artistic fingerprint, that signature that is more complex than just tone or perspective. We buy into the author’s deep ideas. We buy into the subtext and we too play a role in helping carry the voice from one of their books to brand new ones, regardless of how vastly different they may be.


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