Module 2: Planning

Planning Your Book, Part Two: Writing Voice and Point of View

Jim Menick, an editor from Reader's Digest, introduces a lesson in finding the voice that best represents you as an author, as well as choosing your story's point of view. This video shows you how to find both your genre-based writing voice and your individual voice as a writer. You'll also learn about the different points of view in writing, including which viewpoint works best for each genre.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Jim Menick, and I'm happy to welcome you to the webinar, "Planning Your Book Part 2." In this section, we're going to talk about the writer's voice. The writer's voice changes depending on the kind of book that you're writing. So if you're writing a mystery, you might have a dark, sinister kind of voice, whereas if you're writing a romance, you're going to have a much different approach. And if you're writing nonfiction, you're going to have yet another approach. Depending on the genre, depending on what you're writing, you need to adjust the voice accordingly. I think a great example of this that you may know is Roald Dahl. He is famous, most famous probably, for his children's books, but he also wrote adult fiction, and that adult fiction is quite a bit different from the way he wrote the children's fiction. The voice is quite different, and at the same time, he also wrote some memoir, some nonfiction books. And again, a different a voice, a different voice in all three, and this is important that you have the right voice speaking to the reader at the right time. So let's get started with part two.

Writing is a craft. This craft is challenging and requires careful attention to detail. Great books are entertaining, engaging with lively scenes and believable characters. Writers who invest time in learning their craft make the creation of their book seem effortless. Great books are created by authors who have full toolboxes. This webinar will help you fill that toolbox with some of the essentials for writing well: voice and point of view.

Developing your voice as a writer is one of the most challenging, yet enjoyable, creative and fulfilling parts of writing. So what does voice mean? There are two different kinds of voices in writing. One is genre-based and the other is individual. We're going to look at each to help you find the voice that best represents you as an author.

The genre-based voice varies from genre to genre and sets the general tone of the book. For example, writers speak in different voice in a nonfiction book versus a young adult fantasy book versus a thriller. The sentence structure, language pacing and tone are different in each. One way you can master this voice is by reading books within your genre. Become fluent, so you are accustomed to the tone and flow. Of course you can always push the boundaries within a genre and experiment with your individual style. That's where the second type of voice comes in.

The second kind of voice is your individual voice as a writer. This is much more personal and is up to you to discover and express. It is made up of all the choices you make as you write. Do you use humor or sarcasm? What word choices do you make? Who is telling the story: a voice of authority or a casual friend? What is the point of view? All of these decisions defined your voice. So how do you know when you've found the right voice for your book? The best way to discover your voice is through practice. Through trial and error, you'll begin to find what works for you and what doesn't. Remember your voice is what makes your writing unique, different, unexpected and probably most importantly, you. Rely on your favorite authors for inspiration, but don't try to directly imitate other authors; just be yourself. Finding your voice isn't easy. It may take a few drafts, and sometimes it takes an outside perspective such as an editor, but with hard work, you will find the voice that best represents you as an author.

So now let's look at point of view. The point of view, or POV, of your book determines from which perspective you'll tell your story, such as first, second or third person. If you're using the first person, the story is told from an "I" viewpoint, and it's the most intimate point of view. The strength of this viewpoint is that the reader experiences the story in a sensory way. The reader feels each sensation of the character, such as anger, joy or pain. First-person POV is popular for detective novels, confessional novels, memoirs and thrillers. The downside of first person – it's very limiting in terms of the story. Everything that happens must be filtered through the experience of the main character. The thoughts of no other character may be revealed except through dialogue and the assumptions of the main character.

Now with second person, it's told from the "you" viewpoint. It is not as popular as first and third person, but it's often used for nonfiction, especially in self-help books. It's also used in literary fiction. Mysteries are rarely written from this POV, though sometimes it is used in prologues. The downside of the second person is that it's considered one of the most difficult to master. It takes a skilled writer to pull it off effectively.

Third person, or the "he said, she said" point of view, comes in three varieties: limited, subjective multiple and all-knowing. The limited version of third person is told from the main character point of view, and it's in past tense. Readers are only privy to what the main character experiences – his feelings and thoughts. At no time does the narrative flow dip into the feelings or thoughts of any other character. The strength of this straightforward POV is its readability. Hence it's desired by many publishers. The subjective multiple viewpoint version of the third person involves shifting from one limited viewpoint to the other. At each shift, characters are only privy to what the main character for that section experiences. The shifting of viewpoint offers a wider perspective of the story and the play between what different characters are thinking. This POV is used often in the romance genre. Its main drawback rests in the transition shifts between the viewpoints. The final viewpoint is all-knowing. This viewpoint offers the bird's-eye view. No part of the story is shown through one character, but everything comes from an invisible narrator who knows all and sees all. Third person is a popular choice for epics with complicated plots and many characters. It's considered difficult to master.

This concludes the webinar, "Planning Your Book." The next webinar in the series is "Writing Your First Draft." For information about publishing your book, go to, where you can get some information and a free consultation.