About

Writers’ Inner Voices

Writers’ Inner Voices is a study of literary creativity that explores the ways in which writers experience the presence, agency and voices of the characters they bring to life in their writing.

The project was launched in 2014 by Durham University’s Hearing the Voice, in collaboration with the Edinburgh International Book Festival. In addition to the research into inner voices presented at the festival as part of the Conversations with Ourselves events, the project conducted an anonymous survey in which writers attending the festival provided detailed descriptions of how they experienced their characters. A second series of events and a temporary exhibition were presented at the 2018 Festival, exploring the essential role voices play in the way we write and read literary works.

Over 180 authors from the 2014 and 2018 Festivals took part in the Writers’ Inner Voices survey. Our findings were published in this research paper, which is now available to read freely:

John Foxwell, Ben Alderson-Day, Charles Fernyhough and Angela Woods (2020). ‘I’ve learned I need to treat my characters like people’: Varieties of agency and interaction in Writers’ experiences of their Characters’ Voices. Consciousness and Cognition, 79

You can read an accessible summary here.

Readers’ Inner Voices

In 2014, Hearing the Voice collaborated with the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Guardian in order to investigate how readers hear (or don’t hear) the voices of characters when they read.

Over 1560 people participated in the study, which involved completing an online survey on their experience of characters’ voices, their inner speech and their proneness to hallucination-like experiences. The full research paper arising from Readers’ Inner Voices is freely accessible at the link below, or you can jump straight to a summary of the key findings here.

Ben Alderson-Day, Marco Bernini and Charles Fernyhough (2017). ‘Uncharted features and dynamics of reading: Voices, characters, and crossing of experiences‘, Consciousness and Cognition, 49.

Writers’ Inner Voices and Readers’ Inner Voices are both supported by the Wellcome Trust, as part of the Collaborative Award in Humanities and Social Sciences awarded to Hearing the Voice, Durham University.

You can find out more about both projects through exploring the news articles, blog posts, radio broadcasts, podcasts and other resources on our Media page.