Finding your Non-fiction Voice

 

Writing a non-fiction book is a huge undertaking whether you are writing a memoir, a self-help or expository text. Unlike fiction, you do not get to make things up. What you write has to be factually accurate. That is what makes it nonfiction. Unless, of course, you are writing a narrative memoir. While you are aiming for factual accuracy, you can only write your own truth. Depending on what genre you are focusing, you have to determine the non-fiction voice in which you will write your book. The most important element in finding your non-fiction voice is who you are writing to, or your target audience. While you always want the voice you use to be authentic, we all have many voices.

In my last blog, I talked about the target audience. This is your market base for the book you are writing. If you are writing a memoir, your voice can show your attitude about the specific event in your life that you have chosen to memorialize. If you are writing a self-help book, your voice needs to reflect the tone of how and whom you are helping with your book. Are you writing a scientific tome or lessons for a specific group of people? Are you writing to men, women or children? Does your target audience require a certain knowledge base or are you writing for a beginner? Those are all considerations when determining the voice you will write in.

The importance of Consistency

It is imperative that your voice remains consistent throughout the entire book. Changing your voice from a professional tone to a casual, conversational tone will make your book seem disjointed to the reader. In fiction writing, each character should have their own voice pattern so that they can be identified by how they speak. In non-fiction, you, as the author are the character and you and your message must be consistent to be credible. Making your voice decision before you begin writing, determined by your target audience, provides you with a guideline to follow regarding your word choice, sentence structure, and presentation of your information. Do you need to include all of your research data with citations or can you just describe the process in general terms. How much detail do you need? Are you the professor or the guy on the next treadmill at the gym?

The order of things

Choosing your voice is the third thing you must decide on before you even begin writing. The first is of course, your message. What is the topic or subject of your book? The second is your target audience. To whom are you writing? Whom do you want to reach with your book? And the third, voice, is how you want to present your information so that your target audience can both understand and benefit from your book.

If you have any questions, please feel free to send me an email in the comment section.

Comments

  1. Amber says:

    The topic of “voice” has been SO much on my mind as it pertains to non fiction. I tend to
    believe that the choice of voice should absolutely be your own for memoir/non fiction.
    I remember a quote by Albert Einstein, ” I talk to everyone the same way, whether he is
    the garbage man or the president of the University ” I believe with non fiction, it’s important
    to be yourself at all times.
    On the other hand, if writing a Novel, ” being yourself at No Time” is crucial for the story.
    If we slip and show our true identity in the story of a Novel, it’s over. The book can be ruined.
    The reader needs to be entertained with the ongoing voice of your characters. Just like if you are an Actor in the movies, would you suddenly go “out of character ” to make a statement coming from your true identity ? I personally find that writing a Novel “for me” would be
    difficult for that reason. One has to be ready to use and enjoy his chosen Characters through out his book.
    Student writer: New Jersey

    1. Cynde Christie says:

      Hello Amber,
      Thank you for commenting on my new blog, we love feedback! The voice issue is certainly a big one. This is why I spend time with my authors discussing it. And, while Einstein is correct, we all absolutely have our authentic self and we should always write with it, our target audience is the primary determinant of how we use that voice. Would you explain a triangle to a two year old the same way you would to a 20 year old? Probably not. The 20 year old would likely understand about angles and geometry, but a two year old would only see the shape. Although this is a simple example, I hope it illustrates what I meant when I said that we all have many voices. They are all our voice, the difference is with whom we seek to communicate. If I can be of more help, let me know. I am happy to have a chat about this with you!
      Best,
      Cynde

      1. Amber says:

        That was really good ! ” You got me ” is there a song like that ?
        Just kidding 🙂 Well, Cynde, i see what you mean. That comes in
        really handy – i’ll tell you why, because without that perspective
        in mind, we can just go on rattling and never knowing who is able
        to connect ? is that right ? Oh God ! I got it ! That you SO much :))

        1. Cynde Christie says:

          Great! Amber congratulations on writing your narrative memoir, that is quite a journey. If I can be of further help, let me know.
          All my best,
          Cynde

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *