What is the Difference Between Your Author Voice and Character Voice?

Are you funny? Sarcastic? What type of personality do you have?

One of the most confusing aspects of writing is this elusive idea of the author voice. What always used to confuse me is that I’m supposed to have a voice as the author, but my characters also have a voice. If I’m writing from my character’s POV, then shouldn’t I be using her voice to tell the story?

In some stories, especially those told in the first person, the narrative is written using the main character’s voice, that’s true, and that’s good. But the overall author voice is evident by the type of character she writes as well as the plots and general tone and vocabulary of the story.

Author Voice

If we look at a body of work from an author, we can begin to see the pattern. Steven King has his own style and his own voice. And this is a good way to think about author voice. What style does the author have, meaning what is his attitude toward the genre and topics he chooses.


In literary fiction there is a pronounced difference between John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway. Steinbeck’s themes focusing on the everyday man and the hardships of everyday life and though his words are simple, he can spend an entire page describing the scenery. You can feel that Steinbeck loves his settings and knows them intimately. Hemingway also has a simple style of writing, but he does not waste words and is more journalistic in his writing. He doesn’t have an attachment to the setting. These differences have to do with their unique styles and the author voice is part of all that.

Character Voice

The character’s voice is how we are going to experience the story. Everything that happens is going to be filtered through this character’s eyes and perspective, so as the reader it’s the character’s voice that we hear, and we bond with. This means that we want each character’s voice to be unique and distinguishable from other characters.