When discussing voice, in connection with writing fiction, we need to distinguish between author and character voice.
Author voice refers to the style of the author.
This can include word choice and tone. Author voice will be somewhat consistent, although there may be variations between voice used in one work and the next.
Consider your favourite authors, and what it is that appeals to you about their particular writing style. When you read their work, you just know it’s that author’s work, right? Even if the writer in question writes in multiple genres, there’s something that marks each story out as being their own. Daphne du Maurier comes to mind for me, personally.
All writers, then, have a voice – but should you consciously develop that voice?
Such as, intentionally focus upon absorbing the styles of other specific authors, so that this will influence your own?
As with most other aspects of being a writer, this is an individual choice. Most of us like to at least have some degree of awareness, when it comes to our personal writing styles.
But, yes – voice comes naturally, and will develop simply through the fact that we write and read, and live in general.
Character voice is also “exactly what it says on the tin”.
Each character in each story should, ideally, have a clearly defined voice – although it can be challenging to achieve in practice, and a common writing problem is that multiple characters, within a particular story, seem the same, or very similar, in terms of voice.
Character voice is distinct from author voice, although paradoxically, it’s also an element of author voice.
The extent to which author and character voice merge into one, definitely varies. The general tendency would be for character voice to blend most with author voice in a first person, single viewpoint narrative. However, this is by no means always the case.
The concept of character voice does tend to refer to viewpoint characters, but it’s worth remembering that it applies to other characters, too. But, if a character isn’t a POV character, we’re going to be relying upon dialogue exclusively, to convey voice.
As I mentioned, author voice does tend to take care of itself, but it can’t hurt to be aware of our own developing styles. And, when it comes to character voice – that’s definitely an area on which many of us need to focus.