Voice: The Music of Your Muse

There is music in our words. Or should I say, there should be music in our words. Poets know this. In poems every word counts, each one working on several different levels. They must not only convey the right meaning, but also have the right number of syllables, the right stresses, the right rhymes. Ultimately they must have–the right sound.


Picture book writers also know the value of each word. With such a tight word count, every one is carefully chosen. Like a poem, a picture book is meant to be heard. The best picture books can be read over and over, their words, a song shared by both the reader and the listener.


But what of longer works, novels are seldom read aloud, do their words have music? The answer is, if they are truly well written, they do. Even though a novelist can’t consciously agonize over every one of the thousands of words in his work, the music must be there. It lies in that mystical, indefinable quality called voice.


Writers quest after voice like knights searching for the Holy Grail. What is it? How do we get it? If we think about it, it becomes less mysterious. Why is it called voice? Voice implies sound, but written words are read not heard. That is where we make a mistake. Words always have sound, whether read aloud or heard within the mind of the reader. Realizing this, it becomes clear what voice is. Voice is nothing more or less than the author’s choice of words and the sounds and rhythms created by those choices, over and above the meanings of the words. It is the author singing his song, the music of his words.


That is why voice cannot be taught. It is something developed with time and practice. Novelists choose each and every word just as surely as poets do. But because of the large number of words, we do it subconsciously. We use the poetic techniques of assonance and alliteration. We chose words with the right stresses and syllables. We vary the length of our sentences. We use harsh consonants or long smooth vowels. We learn, after years of writing, to hear the song in our heads, our words have music, and we find our voice.  






About roxanne werner

Mild mannered mom by day, free time lost in my imagination. My journey started with Santa. Every year I raced to the Christmas tree and searched until I found the special present, the heavy one, signed 'love Santa'--a book. I would curl up and start reading, often not coming up for air until the story was done. As an adult I still look for the one special present under my tree, signed from Santa. It's the heavy one I open first--a new book, a new world to explore. I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey but reading let me travel through space and time. I visited the future with H.G. Wells, Middle Earth with J.R.R.Tolkien. I had the best of companions, characters who made me laugh, cry, and catch my breath. My sixth grade teacher opened up another world for me. Each week we were assigned to write a story. I had made up stories in my head before, but never attempted to write them down. It was the best homework I ever had. I couldn't wait to put down my ideas and create characters of my own. I was hooked on writing. Time passed and though I remained an avid reader, writing was put aside. I had a family to raise and a full time job. Now that my son is going to be sixteen, I'm getting ready to retire my 'mom hat.' Two years ago I decided to pursue writing as more than a hobby. I packed up my imagination, a pen, my PC, mustered up my courage, and began a new journey. It's been filled with ups and downs, but I won't ever go back. Like Frodo, I've learned there's a big wide world out there. Once you take one step out of your door, you are swept up and taken for an adventure. It's scary and wonderful. I've made great friends and learned so much. If I'm brave and don't give up, one day a child will pick up a heavy present under their tree and open it to find one of my stories.
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One Response to Voice: The Music of Your Muse

  1. Kimberly says:

    I love my voice,as a writer it is still in the growing stages, but I\’m OK with that. What I love about my voice is that I now have one. I use to be afraid to say the thinks that made me unique-now I dare. I still take baby steps but it doesn\’t matter my voice and I will get there eventually. Awesome post Rox. I\’d be curious to see what other people feel about their voices.Kimmie

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