Workshop > What is Voice?
Sep 30

What is Voice?

Examples of writers and their work which display very distinct voices:


"Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief --oh, no! --it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me."

Edgar Allan Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart


"The soldier in white was encased from head to toe in plaster and gauze. He had two useless legs and two useless arms. He had been smuggled into the ward during the night, and the men had no idea he was among them until they woke in the morning and saw the two strange legs hoisted from the hips, the two strange arms anchored up perpendicularly, all four limbs pinioned strangely in the air by lead weights suspeneded darkly above him that never moved... All they ever really saw of the stranger in white was a frayed black hole over his mouth.
The soldier in white had been filed next to the Texan, and the Texan sat sideways on his own bed, and talked to him throughout the morning, afternoon, and evening in a pleasant, sympathetic drawl. The Texan never minded that he got no reply."

Joseph Heller, Catch-22


"Zaphod Beeblebrox has two heads--there's no clearer way to say it. If you know that going in, then the whole Galactic-president-on-the-run thing will only be a single whammy. Reading about Zaphod is the literary equivalent of strapping oneself to the roof of a nuclear train that has jumped the rails and is running down a plasma tunnel with only a wedge of lemon to use as a brake. Obviously, one would be naked with a tiny demon jabbing a trident into one's rear end while this is going on."

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy


"In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.
'Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,' he told me, 'just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the same advantages that you've had.'
He didn't say any more, but we've always been unusually communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence, I'm inclined to reserve all judgements, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores."

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby



Read through the excerpts above. Pick two that you're drawn to. As a response to this XP, write a short description (a paragraph or a list of characteristics) of the voice the author is using. Try to focus less on what is being said in the excerpts and more on how it is being said.

Also include a note about what sort of story would you expect, after seeing a bit of the author's voice. Think about what genre it would be in, but also think about what sort of story within that genre. For instance, a story might be in the sci-fi genre, but is it an exciting sci-fi adventure, or a scary sci-fi tale? How do you think this story will make you feel when you read it?

Post your descriptions of the author's voice, and your expectations for the story as a response to this XP.