Day 17 – Finding Your Ancestor’s Voice


It takes time to bring your ancestor’s full personality to the page. This is why writing a draft is so important. It is an opportunity to learn who your ancestor really was and what about your ancestor you want to bring to your story. If your ancestor is vague to you, then he will be unclear to your reader as well. Not only do we want our ancestor’s physical description to be vivid in our reader’s mind but we also want their voice to be in their ear.

Voice refers to both the actual way a person’s voice sounds to the ear, it includes pitch, volume, placement, and overall tone. Was your ancestor soft spoken, or had a deep throaty base, did they speak with sound? Voice also means the personality that comes across, how an ancestor expresses him or herself.

Your ancestor’s voice and the dialogue they speak can also help to reveal our ancestor’s character or personality. Our ancestor’s voice comes out when they speak, and how they speak, what they say, what they don’t say, what they avoid saying, it all can tell the reader a great deal.  Dialogue and your ancestor’s voice reveal who they are, just as much as what they do. Dialogue offers up information about the story, but it also is an opportunity to show character and bring your ancestor’s voice to the page.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you write your first draft and try to find your ancestor’s voice.

Voice Checklist

  • Does my ancestor’s speech reflect their place and time?
  • Is there something distinctive about my ancestor’s voice and the way they speak?
  • Does my ancestor’s voice reflect the personality I wish to show?
  • How educated is my ancestor and does that show in his speech?
  • Where is my ancestor from, does his speech reflect their heritage?
  • What is my ancestor’s social status, am I using words that reflect his social status?
  • Is she privileged/underprivileged in relation to other characters in the story, does it show in her voice by comparison?
  • How does my ancestor talk to other characters, and what does this say about her personality?
  • How old is my ancestor? Does my ancestor speak typically for his age?
  • Are there details about her speech that convey something out of the ordinary about her?
  • How does my character develop throughout the story, and what effect does this have on her voice?
  • Does my ancestor use gestures to complement her speech?