The Language of Books

Language is one of the most important aspects of storytelling.

There is a fine line between writing that appears intelligent and well thought out, and writing that feels annoyingly superior. Between words that connect you with the author, and words that seem to be written for someone else. 

An author’s use of language is key to striking just the right tone.

Image of voice artist.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

The art of being quotable

Crafting an elegant sentence is not an innate skill. Of course, there is skill involved. But most sentences in most books have been adjusted and refined, often several times. Quotable sentences are not too wordy, and have a comfortable flow. This isn’t usually how they are originally written. It is how they are shaped during the editing stage.

When the language is just right, it feels like the author is reading the book to you. Perhaps that’s why the style of the narrative is often called the ‘narrative voice’.

Who is telling the story?

Sometimes one of the characters is the narrator. Sometimes the narrator is outside the story. Whoever is doing the storytelling, they give the book its narrative voice. 

If a character tells the story, they may use a different register to address the reader. When they interact with another character, they may be more casual – or possibly more formal – depending on the situation. When addressing the reader, they use a consistent, generally neutral, tone.

If the narrator is outside the story, the narrative voice will be distinct from any of the characters. It is the voice of the story itself.

You influence the narrative voice too. How you read the story will always be just a little different to how the author wrote it.

Because reading is always a unique experience.

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