Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them. This city I am bringing you to is vast and intricate, and you have not been here before. You may imagine, from other stories you’ve read, that you know it well, but those stories flatter you, welcoming you as a friend, treating you as if you belonged. The truth is that you are an alien from another time and place altogether.When I was studying creative writing at university I was told every writer has, buried somewhere within them, a unique ‘voice’. By the end of the course I was beginning to write a bit like Nick Hornby used to, the way Jonathan Tropper writes now. My tutor congratulated me on ‘finding my voice’.
Now I’m not so sure. I wrote like that because I was writing semi-autobiographical ‘romantic’ fiction, and a Hornby/Tropper style just happened to be the right ‘voice’ for a male writing about modern sexual/romantic encounters. When I write fiction for women’s magazines I seem to adopt a completely different persona and my ‘voice’ is softer and less matey. And when I’m writing crime fiction I have a third persona – more hardboiled and cynical.
I’m not sure if this means I haven’t really found my ‘voice’. I just think a writer is different from the narrator of the story she is writing. This is obviously so in first-person narratives. But I think it is equally true of third-person (and the rare second-person) narrator, too.