Strengthening your voice

This week I’ve been working with school children on developing their writing voice. I know plenty of adults who would have a hard time defining this concept, so it might seem like a mature topic for kids. But the reality is – students are marked on their voice in NAPLAN tests, so, it’s an aspect of writing that has to be considered.

So, what is VOICE?

The Call of the Wild I would define a writing voice as a writer’s style. Just as singers all have a different style, writers also have different ways of telling their stories. A strong voice makes a story interesting and should touch the reader.

As I’ve mentioned on my blog before, the key to writing with an authentic and unique voice is writing from the heart, but that might not make a lot of sense if you’re eight years old.

So, here are some tips to help you tell a good story and strengthen your writing voice.

Set your story in a place you know well

A classroom or a bedroom might sound like a dull place for a story, but a lot of exciting things can happen there. You can only give your reader a clear idea of the setting for your story if you have a good picture of it in your own mind. If you’ve spent every day there, you’ll know it really well! Places you have visited on holidays might also work well as a setting for your story. Keep a map and some pictures as a reminder of how everything looks. If you are writing about a completely fictitious place, you will need to work out in your mind how it looks, sounds and smells. Find some pictures that resemble your made-up world and draw a map. The more details you have before you start, the better.

Write about things that you care about

BAT ATTACK by JE FisonWriting a story that touches your reader will be easier if you write about something that moves you. If you care, you can convince your reader to care, too. Endangered wildlife feature in a lot of my stories because that’s an issue I care about. In the Hazard River series, a gang of kids comes up against rogue developers, dodgy fishermen and smugglers while holidaying on Hazard River. It’s action packed adventure, but each story also has an environmental twist. My most recent story for girls – The Call of the Wild (part of the Choose Your Own Ever After series) also features endangered animals – orangutans. The main character – a nature-loving school girl, has to decide whether to go to a save-the-orangutan fundraiser or go to a party with her besties, in this pick-a-path story.

Get inside you characters’ heads

Work out what type of person your main character is – his or her strengths and weaknesses. You could even interview them to get a complete picture. Think about how your characters will react in different situations. Don’t tell your reader that your character is mean, or greedy. Show them. Demonstrate your character’s personality through how they behave, what they say and what they think.

Write with all of your senses

Don’t forget to include smells and sounds in your story. These help to create a picture in the reader’s mind. Also include how your characters are feeling. Once again, don’t just tell the reader that your character is scared, show them – with a droplet of sweat running down his forehead, or a shiver running down her spine.

Good luck!

BOOK Julie FISON for a school visit. 

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