I have come up with three examples of voice. These are sentences that cannot be improved. They capture and move the audience more in a few words than I could with an entire book.
“The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” (Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address 1863)
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” (Winston Churchill, 1940)
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.” (Declaration of Independence. 1776)
A couple of observations
- Lincoln’s phrases go from 6 syllables to 5 syllables, then down to 4 syllables. I am sure this was intentional and lends to a sense of building tension.
- The rule of three repeatedly shows up. Lincolns starts with 3 phrases, both Churchill and Jefferson end with 3 phrases.
- Churchill uses 3 words in each phrase
- Jefferson’s ends his passage with phrases starting short and ending long, 1 sylable, 3 Syllables, 6 syllables. Building to and ending. Opposite of Lincoln’s starting long and ending short.
- All three use BOLD declarative statements (World can never forget), (Never in the field of human conflict), (Truths to be self evident). Each statement is surrounded by 3 bold phrases.
- Try rearranging the words, even if the meaning is the same, the strength and art is lost. EX: “Among these are pursuing happiness, life, and liberty.”I have come to believe that the ‘voice’ part of writing is the real art. It’s like telling Picasso how to shape a curve when painting a face. You either have it or you don’t. Training and practice can greatly improve it, but talent will take it to the next level.