Shelley Widhalm

Voice vs. Personality in Writing

In 52: A Writer's Life, Shelley Widhalm, Writing, Writing Processes on September 15, 2013 at 11:00 am

Writers often talk about voice and style in writing, but there also can be a third element of personality.

A writer’s voice, which is recognizable and distinct, is how the writer sounds and appears on the page.

Voice is an overarching term that includes a writer’s style, or the way she uses words to describe things. It’s how she handles language, the words she chooses and her techniques for putting together sentences and paragraphs.

But voice extends beyond language.

It is how a writer tells a story. It’s her worldview, or the way she sees the world and interprets events. It’s the feeling and tone of what she writes.

The writer’s personality comes across when the reader can see the writer, as narrator of the story, as a real live person.

Generally, personality is evidenced by how people hold themselves and their gestures, facial expressions and choice of words, as well as what they talk about and what they like to do.

According to the American Psychological Association, personality refers to the individual differences in how people think, feel and behave, such as being an introvert versus an extrovert or being methodical versus impulsive.

In writing, the writer’s personality comes through in her voice, style or word choice, and her approach. Does she write out of emotions, logic, intuition and/or her senses? Does she write in isolation or as a collaborator? Is she an outliner? Is she a procrastinator or results-oriented? Is her writing descriptive and wandering (does she fail to stay on topic), or witty and snappy? Is it overly sentimental?

The writer’s personality is that list of traits you would use to describe her as a person, as well as a writer, so that they are almost one and the same.

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