Owling and Howling Voices


Twilight is encroaching on the afternoon and I can hear an owl in the trees. He can’t be seen as he perches among the cedar branches but from his hooty “Who cooks for you?” call I know he’s a Barred Owl. His voice is distinctive.

Some moonlit nights I hear coyotes on the hill beyond our marsh. I don’t need to see their long legs, prominent ears and bushy tails to identify them. Their yip-yip-yapping leaves no doubt they are coyotes and not dogs.

This has me thinking. What gives our voices distinction as writers? Do our written voices resonate with our familiar everyday speech patterns or is there a different inflection and tone? When someone reads a passage aloud do the words reflect and identify the author?

Don’t look at me for answers. I’m just asking. 🙂

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16 thoughts on “Owling and Howling Voices

  1. Jody Hedlund says:

    Great questions, Carol. What I’ve been learning in my study of birds over the past year or two, is that even among the same species, distinct differences exist. We might not be able to recognize the difference in the calls of cardinals, but they can.

    Among other historical fiction writers, my voice is hopefully unique. Maybe others who don’t read historical fiction won’t be able to “hear” my distinct voice, but I’m hoping it’s there.

  2. christicorbett says:

    I finally found my voice on the sixth draft of my novel. It took a really long time to find, but now that it’s here, I really appreciate all the things I learned along the way to finding it.
    Christi
    http://christicorbett.wordpress.com

  3. joylene says:

    I’m still searching. But I think experience and life have a great impact. Living and learning and listening.

    • That’s probably true, Joylene. If you look at books written by others, their later ones are often written in a voice that is recognizably theirs when their earlier ones seem more generic. At least that’s what I’ve found with a couple of the authors whose books I read.

  4. lauradroege says:

    I think my writing (at least the polished up, fit to be read by others writing) reflects my speaking voice. (Or the speaking voice I WISH I had!) In my novel, I have tried to make the narration “sound” like something my POV character would’ve written if they had been writing those pages; as you might expect, the rhythms of my teenage girl’s voice are different from her loudmouthed father and her college professor mom, and the narration reflects that.

  5. Laura Best says:

    The people who know me are often surprised when they read my stories because it is so different from how they perceive me as an individual. I usually leave my serious side for the page. It’s still who I am. It’s just that what I can express easily on the page I seem to stumble through in real life. I’ve been told my writing is dark. I do grief and sorrow quite often, I’ve noticed, but I don’t think of it as “dark.”

    I’m not sure what gives our voice distinction as writers but I expect it comes from our life experiences, then again maybe we’re just born with it. I think it comes from the centre of who we are, from that wisdom deep within.

    • “I think it comes from the centre of who we are, from that wisdom deep within.”

      Many writers seem to struggle with knowing how to identify their voices but I suspect you come closer than most to the reason. We don’t always know ourselves very well. Just as we struggle to “find” ourselves we struggle to hear our voices but both are often elusive. I’ve always believed honesty in writing is as important as honesty in life… drawing on that wisdom that is deep within, born of life experiences. When we finally allow total honesty in our writing our voice appears.

      Hmmm… I’m getting pretty philosophical here. Better step down from my soapbox! 😉

  6. My writing voice is quite different from my speaking voice but I’ve been told it is definitely reflective of my personality. Apparently people who know me can really see me in my writing (given the content at times I wonder if I should be concerned).
    A great post and I’m really glad you asked the question because it was interesting reading other people’s view point on voice.

    • Thanks, Cassandra. I wonder if our writing voices come, as Laura Best suggests, from a wisdom deep inside us and maybe the speaking voices reflect what we’re willing to reveal of ourselves. Like many writers I’m an introvert so living through my characters is often much easier than expressing myself to the people around me.

  7. Cher says:

    Still searching. Great comparison, we all do have our own ways of speaking. If you think about, our personalities are revealed within our voice, rather written or voiced.

    • In a sense I guess I’m still searching, too, although I think maybe Christi is onto something when she says that as you keep writing it comes. Joylene mentioned experience, too, so maybe we worry too much about identifying voice and not enough about doing the writing that will help develop it.

  8. JaxPop says:

    Uh hummmm…. (*cough*) (*sputter*) memememememememe!!! (*chugs water*) (*clears throat*) (*another cough*) (*gargles*) (*deep breath*)

    Forget it. “Owl” have to try to find it later

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