I feel like I’ve harped on this a lot, but understanding your character is CRITICAL to creating good voice. Your voice needs to match your character. I think this is true even if you’re writing in third person, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
The point is, voice is all about sounding like a believable, unique individual. And before you can sound like a a believable, unique individual you need to be well acquainted with said individual. Otherwise, it would be like trying to do an Elvis impersonation without ever having seen Elvis perform (I don’t know what rock you have to be living under not to have ever seen Elvis, but I think the metaphor still works). In the next couple of posts we’re going to be getting into the mechanics of voice, all of which rely on knowing who your main character is.
What about third person (I told you we’d talk about it). If you are writing in third person, your voice still needs to match your main character. Quite often, the third person narrator will sound a lot like what the main character sounds like. If not, the narrator needs to have a distinct voice, almost as if they were a character. Either way, the narrator voice needs to compliment the character.
Okay, I will stop beating this very dead horse. Just remember. Character needs to happen.