Yes, I already hear you groaning. Don't worry. I'm groaning, too.
It is the most unexplainable je-ne-sais-quois crucial ingredient to a book getting picked up by an agent or publisher, of a short story getting sold to a journal, or creating a compelling read in general. Yet no one can explain it. You've either got it, or you don't.
Okay, fine. I'll concede that it's either there or it's not. But there are different ways to develop voice. It does exist, and we all have it, but we have to find a way to get it out there.
Let's start with the 1st person voice. I think it's easier—for me—to accomplish a compelling voice in first person. I imagine the narrator as an actual person, which is far from daunting since the narrator is also a character with a backstory and a personality. In other words, s/he has a voice of her/his own, and this comes out in the narration.
When I started writing again, most of what I wrote was in 1st person. Perhaps this was the path of least resistance—and may also be the reason why writing instructors prefer 3rd person—but it worked, sort of. Maybe the voice wasn't great (trust me, it really wasn't), maybe it was inconsistent, but it was there sometimes. And with some work, I could bring it out more and more.
Here's the problem: I recently decided, for various reasons, that one particular novel should be in 3rd person instead of 1st. I need to be able to track more than just the MC through her travels. (I could, potentially, have two 1st person narrators, though I'm not sure how I feel about that.) So I chose to try my hand at 3rd person and rewrite.
And the voice................. disappeared.
So my question(s): If a 1st person narrator's voice can be developed through the character his/herself, how does one develop a compelling 3rd person omniscient narrator? These narrators are amorphous, misty creatures, based solely off a voice that comes from the nether-regions of our imaginations. But who ARE they? Are they characters? My HS English teacher would say "yes". How do you define them? How do you create them in such a way to give them that je-ne-sais-quois factor, which is in and of itself amorphous and particularly misty?
I'm clearly missing something, but creating an amorphous, misty narrator with an amorphous, misty, je-ne-sais-quois voice seems... well, nothing is impossible or we'd only ever read 1st person literature.
What am I missing, folks? Please help me uncover the secrets to a compelling, 3rd person voice.