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Though recommended is to write using phrases having a natural sound, the desire of many, including myself, is to write in the voices of their choice. Now, a voice can have a distinctive sound, one that reflects a character, and can have these three qualities -- rhythm, harmony, beauty – along with others. To write in a voice, it is necessary to write using phrases that recreate these qualities.

And in this is the problem: A virtue of writing is a natural sound, and a good voice is natural, because it has character. This is true regardless of whether there is rhythm in it. But choosing phrases to conform to a voice allows for an unnatural sound, because of creativity or usage that is unidiomatic.

My question is: How do you choose phrases that sound natural, while writing in a voice with the qualities you desire?

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2 Answers 2

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Practice.

For this, there are two steps that can help master voices:

  1. Reading writers with distinctive voices that you want to emulate.
  2. Writing pastiches of those writers.

Doing this for many writers helps develop skills to pick and choose the effect you want. One writer may leave your style too dependent on that writer's effects.

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What I find very useful is experience with acting.

As an actor, you need to incarnate in the character you're portraying. Be the person they are, live in the world they live in, find yourself in the situation they find themself in, want what they want, feel what they're feeling.

As a writer, you pretty much need to do the same for every character in your work. Every character that speaks needs to speak in the words that come naturally to them. This includes the narrator, regardless whether the narrator is one of the heroes of the story, or stands extra. Since the narrator has the longest part of the text, you spend a lot of time in that role.

A third-person narrator is often a ghost that doesn't have a lot of personality (though this is by no means a rule - you can meet some quite colourful third-person narrators out there), but ze is still immersed in the setting and speaks in a style that would be considered mainstream and unremarkable in-universe (not necessarily out-of-universe). If that's what your narrator is supposed to be like, become that ghost.

Or if you're writing in first person, become the protagonist. With all their backstory and every quirk, and none of your own.

If you successfully incarnate in the role, the words should come to you.

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