I've been thinking about voice a lot lately and have come to this realization: Don't Censor Yourself.
I'm not talking about swear words here. I'm talking about those times when we're writing and we think something that maybe is a little weird or confusing and so we change it, streamline it, make it more "normal" for our readers. Or maybe we haven't done that- maybe we've written without censoring ourselves, and then a beta reads it and says, huh? Or strikes it out. And so we go along with it because we don't want our readers to be confused.
The more I think about voice, the more I realize it's our uniqueness that makes our voice. The way we say things in a completely different way than someone else. The truly great writers don't censor out their uniqueness- they go with it. They write it. Those are the sentences we are wowed by.
Example. The Book Thief is full of this kind of writing which is why it's one of my favorites.
The last time I saw her was red.
Does this sentence really make sense? No, it doesn't. But you keep reading anyway because you're intrigued...
The sky was like soup, boiling and stirring. In some places, it was burned. There were black crumbs, and pepper, streaked across the redness. (page 12)
Amazing. Seriously. To think of comparing sky to soup for one, and then for making it work so easily. The Book Thief is full of sentences like this. Even simpler ones, where the author uses one unexpected word to convey his meaning. Like this:
Of course, there was also the scratchy feeling of sin. (page 169)
Instead of using a word like awful or horrible, he uses scratchy. Which really doesn't make a lot of sense, but yet it DOES. It conveys an image more vivid than horrible ever would have done.
We can't censor out those interesting/different/weird/crazy ways of saying things. That's what will make us stand out as writers. That's what gives us VOICE.