This is the very last thing I give out at voice workshops and in the Voice I workshop, so bear in mind that the class has a lot of material to put this in context. It can still be a helpful tool for considering your voice and what matters to you.
1. Where did you grow up? What are the Old World or native languages that
predominate in that area? Any special accent?
anyone ever speak a language other than English around you/to you?
3. What were the main ethnic groups around you when you grew up?
If there’s a predominant ethnic group in that geography, do you know any of
the stories/legends/superstitions of that group? Did any of them stick with
you particularly when you were a child?
4. Have you ever felt a particular affinity for a geography or culture that
is not your own?
Why? What about it do you love or identify with?
5. What did you love more than anything on earth when you were twelve?
What did you want to be then?
6. What are your top five favorite novels of all time? What was your
favorite book when you were 12? Fourteen?
7. Can you point to a writer or a book that made you want to be a writer?
8. What book do you most deeply wish you’d written? Why? What parts of it
make you swoon? Characters? Voice? Plot?
Try typing a few pages from it, just to see how it feels to you. Where you’d
change the flow of the language, the way the paragraphs are broken.
9. What are your obvious passions? (Hobbies, avocations, etc.)
10 What are the defining characteristics of these passions? (for example,
gardeners and photographers are usually interested in light and color. Model
builders and cross-stitchers tend to like attention to detail.)
11. What would five friends all say about you if someone asked them to name
a defining passion?
12. What are your secret passions?
13, What charities speak to you? What one world or national ill would you
fix magically if you could? What world sorrows can move you to tears?
14. If you weren’t a writer, but could be any other kind of artist/musician,
what would you choose? What would be your tools? why?
15. Now focus on your own work: do you notice yourself returning to certain
Are there times/places that you use repeatedly? If so, can you identify the
reasons it appeals to you, and if so, are there other times/places that
might also stimulate your passions? Have you ever tried to use those other
What do readers/editors/outsiders seem to respond to most enthusiastically
in your work? Is there anything that they see as a strength that you don’t
notice or value?
What would you LIKE people to say about your voice?
If you could only write ONE book in your life, what book would it be?
Why aren’t you writing it?
Now, if you can, try to condense all these defining things into a paragraph,
or even better, one sentence.
My voice is……