Voice in Feature Writing

Some pointers on how to develop your voice and revise your work with voice in mind.


  1. It's important to be aware that everyone has advice on how to find your voice.  There are many books with good advice, but unless you actually take time to analyze your work and revise with honesty and clarity in mind, then your voice will sound fake, put-on. 
  2. Susan Orlean, one of the most successful and famous feature writers of the last twenty years,  says that "finding" your voice is as much a matter of "unlearning" bad habits as it is learning new ones.  Orlean says of her famous article "The American Male at Age Ten" in which she adopts the voice of her subject, a ten year old boy, that it doesn't represent her fully mature voice, just an ability to write cleverly.  Check out Orlean's collection of profiles (below) for a sense of how her voice changed and matured over time.
  3. The best advice I have about voice is akin to what Orlean says: it's more a process of pairing away, eliminating all of that bluster and "fluff" that stands in the way of honest writing.  And by honest I don't mean the opposite of lying, I mean lacking pretension--you mean what you say.  Much of our training as young writers feels more like performing for our teachers.  To write well you have to begin writing for yourself.  You have to see writing as way of figuring out what you think, not what other people want to hear.

    The exercise below might be an interesting exercise for some of you.