Enhance Your Voice, Sharpen Your Word Choice by Alicia Rasley

Please welcome back author, Alicia Rasley as she shares with us about about how to enhance your voice. Enjoy!


Thanks, Beth, for inviting me here to talk a bit about that elusive concept “voice” and tell writers about my Vivid Voice class coming up. (Editor’s note: how to register below!)

I’m just going to give a few quick tips on enhancing your voice by sharpening your word choice.

Sharpness. Vague isn’t voice. Voice is sharp and precise — not so precise as to be annoying and “beside the point,” but just enough to make it clear you know what you’re talking about.

The bartender mixes a gin-and-tonic, not just a drink.

John walks in through the kitchen door, not just the door.

The precision of detail — not annoying, just sharp — tells the reader that this action is really happening within the fictional world.

Here are a few tips to make your voice precise and clear just by sharpening your choice of words.

I’ll put the “vague” version first, and then the sharp version in italics:

  1. Specific is sharper than vague:
    VAGUE: Out there, some wild animal growled.
    Sharper: In the darkness, a wildcat growled.
  1. One is sharper than more than one:
    VAGUE: Out there, wildcats growled.
    Sharper:  In the darkness, a wildcat growled.
  1. Simple past for verb tense is stronger than progressive past:
    VAGUE: In the distance, a wildcat was growling.
    Sharper:  In the distance, a wildcat growled.
  1. Real is sharper than conditional:
    VAGUE: This is the time of day when wildcats would start growling.
    Sharper: At that moment, just as the sun slid below the horizon, the wildcat started growling.

These are just a few simple ways to make the scene more real — not vague, not conditional, not generic — but sharp and authentic and descriptive.

And it doesn’t require a lot of fancy sentences or purple prose — just a decision to focus on the real and immediate with more precise terminology.

Challenge yourself when you’re describing a place or an action to give the reader a moment of clarity and purpose, something that says, “This is really happening.”

(Okay, so it’s not really happening. Sharp word-choice can get even cynical readers into imagining it’s real.)

For an intensive and SHARP experience in discovering and refining your own voice, take Alicia Rasley’s Vivid Voice course, a two-week masterclass. Feb. 13-24, 2017. Topics will include:

  • Defining — and refining — your voice
  • Point of view and voice
  • Character voice vs. Author voice
  • Using voice to individualize the story
  • The perils of a strong voice
  • Making your voice your brand

Class registration here at Writer’s Univ

Sign up for Alicia’s writing newsletter to get a free plotting article!

(Editor’s note: The article is so useful!)



Alicia Rasley lives in Regency England — well, no. She just writes about it! She lives in the American midwest, surrounded by books about Regency England. Her Regency romances have won several awards, including the prestigious RITA for Best Regency Romance. She has also written women’s fiction, mystery, and non-fiction books. She teaches writing online and at a state university, hoping to instill the love of commas into today’s college students. Alicia blogs here. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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