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The Author's Voice

Author: Sydney Bauer


It can sometimes be tricky to separate the voice of the narrator, the point of view through which the story is told, from the voice of the author. Authors do this on purpose by taking on several personas (both as narrator and as the creator of the narrator). The narrator’s tone, or attitude towards the subject, might not always be the same as the author’s. And even if the narration is in first person and the narrator claims to be the author of the story, that voice is still a persona (or mask) that the author has created. Only in autobiographical works can it be said that the narrator is the voice of the author, and the author is the voice of the narrator.

We must think about the person behind all of the dramatic personas and fictional characters that we meet and hear in a piece of fiction. We must remember that there is a controlling presence that has created and arranged the world in that work of fiction. The author has gone through a lot of work to make him or herself invisible in the story, but they are there, and we can catch glimpses of them throughout the story.

The author’s voice is expressed through:

  • word choice
  • sentence structure/rhythm
  • the figures of speech that the author uses (such as simile or metaphor)
  • the author’s use of humor and irony

It is the personality of the writer shining through the characters, narrator, and descriptions.

The narrator is the speaker of the story; he or she is the storyteller. Don’t mistake the author’s voice for the narrator’s; that’s just the point of view created by the author to tell the story. As we discussed earlier, it is tricky to see the author’s voice behind that of the narrator. Sometimes it helps to compare two works by the same author that have different types of narrators. For example, it would be interesting to look at a novel by Virginia Woolf or Ernest Hemingway with a first-person narrator and one with a third-person neutral narrator (one who is very removed from the events). Woolf or Hemingway’s voice might be more noticeable because you are no longer looking at content (the message), but the form (how the message is expressed).

The mood is the overall emotion or feeling that seems to exist throughout the text. A great example of mood is the eerie feeling of suspicion, tension, paranoia and fear that is obvious in Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories. Tone is the speaker’s attitude towards the subject matter. Voice is the author’s choice of vocabulary, word order, and sentence structure/rhythm whether those choices help create the mood or not. The components of voice do help create the mood, as well as the tone, but are not the same thing as mood, or tone.


The Author's Voice