When reading a story, one can perhaps immediately establish the tone the piece is taking. Sure, it’s easy to talk about in terms of technicalities: first person, or second person, omniscient, limited – these are things, tenses, that a piece takes on in order to ground the reader to some point in time, or to establish a relationship between the reader and the text. It forms boundaries – or a semblance of boundaries – so that the reader will be given a frame through which he or she views the text. It may sound to the reader as if the text is happening at the moment, or as if the text is talking or referring directly to the reader, or as if the text sounds so detached to the reader that even the narrator sees the entire narrative through a lens. There are a lot of ways in which the text could be viewed, and the tenses and the voice count.
The creative voice – the voice of the text – matters, precisely for the same reasons I’ve mentioned earlier. The voice – the manner in which the text was written, how it sounds, how the narrator sounds to the reader – counts a lot. If the reader is new to the text, and has just found it, the reader would most likely test out a line or two, maybe a paragraph, to see of the voice jives with him or her, to see if the voice is easy or jarring, and to use this immediate impression as a springboard from which the reader takes off. Will the reader continue to read? Is the voice too easy? Does it sound like a kid talking, or does it sound so complicated and technical that it could ward off the reader or not get the reader’s interest? It’s definitely important to consider that, whether in reading or in writing, the voice exists in that manner because the author did it that way, and therefore there must be some reason why the author did it a certain way.
I’m talking in vague terms here, and it’s easy to get confused. Let’s put it this way: think of the text as someone talking to you. Does the text talk with ease? Does the text talk in clipped sentences? Does the text engage you and involve you, in how it was written, or does it alienate you? If you think of the voice of the text in these terms, it will be easier to establish your footing and your relationship – whether emotional or otherwise – with the text. If you’re writing, especially, it might be good to consider what the effect of your narrative voice is on your reader.
What does this mean? Bottomline is, if the voice doesn’t sound good, or if it doesn’t flow well, or if it does not work with the narrative or achieve that desired effect, it will certainly be problematic to your reader. The effectiveness of the voice relies on how well it is written, and how well it sounds. You might have a good, beautiful, flowery text, with a lot of things and images going on, but if it doesn’t sound like the voice is doing you any good, it might be a problematic kind of voice for you. Or, think of it this way. If the text is read aloud to you, do you suppose you’d like how it sounds like, being read aloud?
Of course, the voice – and how good it sounds – may also be a matter of preference, but that’s one thing to think about, don’t you think? Don’t keep the voice too complicated – if you’re writing – or try at least not to alienate the reader with the way the narrative and your characters are speaking. Establishing a good first impression is key, wherever you are and whatever happens, and it’s in the sample that a reader randomly picks out and in the voice which presents itself immediately that may make or break the reader’s relationship with the text.