Voice in literary fiction is one of those intangible qualities that separate the artist from the craftsman. It is something no one can teach us, either to develop in our own writing or to recognize in the writing of others, because it is such an individual thing. It is the manifestation of a person on the page, and exists only in the writing of those for whom the pen or the keyboard transmits the soul.
Voice is an audible quality, as if the writer himself were present in the room engaging our attention directly, instead of the pages of a book. Anyone who is literate can hear it, provided one reads widely enough to encounter those who have it. When we do, the experience is magical. Suddenly, it’s not about the story anymore, nor the action, the suspense, or the romance. It’s all about that charming person sitting there in my lap, speaking to me and me alone, telling me the most fascinating things in a manner I might recognize as that of a Boston Irish gangster, Italian auto mechanic, or Park Avenue socialite. The few who have that power endure, provided they can also tell us a tale that rings eternally true.