In order to write in a certain voice, there are two things you may need to do, according to some articles I read.

  1. Describe the qualities of the voice you wish your piece to have.
  2. Revise your drafts to provide them with those qualities.

My question is this: How do I describe an authorial voice? And what are the terms I should utilize to achieve this?

  • 1
    What kind of writing are you doing? Nonfiction? Literary fiction? Magazine articles? I'm not sure definitions can answer this. It's like asking someone how to copy their fingerprint. You know it when you see it, but only an expert can define it (and it's bland and pointless when described). Those same experts might disagree, though, so good luck.
    – DWKraus
    Jun 27, 2021 at 4:49
  • I haven't been writing much of anything except for prose poems lately. Besides that, I am undecided as to whether I want to write fiction or non-fiction. I tried writing some blog posts but I gave up on them.
    – garbia
    Jun 27, 2021 at 14:04
  • As for your comment that you can't describe voice unless you're an expert, that might be correct. I guess the only way to write in a certain voice is to first imagine it, or to emulate an existing one. Perhaps I have to experiment with different voices by revising a first sentence of mine.
    – garbia
    Jun 27, 2021 at 14:07

1 Answer 1


The authorial or narrative voice is no different than the voices of any of the other characters in your story. It should be distinct and clear because it will be more pervasive than any other voice, but it should also be rich with character and mannerisms. With the exception of dialogue and the thoughts of your POV characters, the rest of your book will be in this voice. So investing some time developing it is always worth the effort.

I like to step back from my story and imagine the narrator sitting in a comfortable setting with a few attentive friends, telling my story to educate or entertain them. I imagine their clothing, their education-level and any racial ancestry which might manifest in their voice, word choice and delivery. I make note of their emotions, their mood, energy-level and excitement level. Depending on the story, I might add in a little fear or anxiety. Who this character is and why they are telling my story are important factors in determining exactly how they are telling my story.

Then with my narrator thoroughly imagined, just like every other character in my story, I pretend to be them and start to write.

Edit : Upon review, I realized that I failed to actually ask the question. I was enjoying the subject and lost the goal, which is a not uncommon event for me these days.

How do you describe your narrator? I would describe them like I would describe any other character, but from the point of view of a blind person. Since the voice is the only part that matters, I would leave out all the visuals from the story telling scene with the attentive friends, but allude to all of the voice-influencers discovered during that scene. Additionally, I might explore the narrator's goal in telling the story. Is he bestowing a gift upon his friends or trying to earn their acceptance and approval? Does he use his voice to comfort them or in the manner of a camp fire story, is he trying to keep them on edge. Describe what makes this voice, vocabulary and slang distinct. Describe its affect on its audience, the characteristics which keep those friends attentive.

The main purpose for writing a description of the narrative voice is to help you reacquire it at the beginning of every writing session. So as you progress in using this voice, update your description with any key words and phrases which help you get back into character. You may also find that reading a few pages from your most recent writing session can help you recapture the voice and get back in sync with all the voice-influencers (energy, anxiety, excitement) which might change from one chapter to the next.

  • "The main purpose for writing a description of the narrative voice is to help you reacquire it at the beginning of every writing session." This. I don't think there's any need for technical terms, or to describe the narrrative voice in a way other people could understand. It's just for your own benefit. Jun 27, 2021 at 7:34

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