Your voice is special. I’m not talking about your speaking voice, – although that’s special, too – but your writing voice. Your writing voice is the tone and style that makes your writing expressly unique. It’s what makes your writing so completely you.
When I was in High School, I wrote novel after novel that pretty much sucked. Sure, the effort was admirable, but the style? The tone? The prose? Lousy. And why was that? Because I wasn’t writing in my voice. But maybe we need a definition of ‘voice.’
Voice: When your writing becomes yours and people can read it and go, “Yeah, that’s your writing! Definitely yours. I can hear you in there!”
Let me give you an example. I wrote a three hundred-page novel last March. I put a lot of time into it, and at the end of everything my critique partners laid the truth on me: it just wasn’t real. The writing wasn’t authentic. And it was true, even though I didn’t want to admit it back then. Writers have egos, you know.
Your voice is basically how you would say something in your more natural, relaxed state. My mom did something for me that really helped. The person in the world who I’m most comfortable with – and most myself around – is my brother. We’re just really close. So my mom took a post-it note and wrote this on it:
How Would I Tell Rocklin?
How would I tell this story to my brother? I wouldn’t try to embellish it using fancy words or lingo, that’s for sure. I would probably make it funny, a little sarcastic, and straight to the point. The reason she did this was because I was writing like other people at the time. You know. Trying to emulate a certain style or form? What’s wrong with that is that you can lose your own voice in the process and just come across as imitative and tinny. It’s fine to draw inspiration and education from other writing, but don’t become their voice, because it will be obvious that it’s not yours, and as a result, your writing won’t ring true.
Here’s a final example.
I ran down the stairwell, my blood pumping through my body. Adrenaline seizing me. All was lost. That’s the only thought I had, drifting in and out of my mind like a wisp of smoke. The doorway was open. I flung myself outside, under the clear blue sky, sparkling like a diamond against the green grass. Oh, freedom. I’d escaped. If only for a few minutes, I was free.
I ran down the stairwell like an Olympic sprinter, knowing that if I took one misstep I’d end up on my butt. And how would that look? Embarrassing. Maybe a little mortifying.
Totally not an option.
The doorway was open, so I continued outside. It was sunny, hot. I should have brought my sunscreen, but I could think of worse things than getting sunburned on the shores of a gorgeous lake. Things like staying inside the house.
No. Today was all mine.
Today I was going to have a little fun.
There’s really not a lot of difference between the two paragraphs, but one of them is obviously more relaxed than the other, which would be the second example. I wouldn’t say to someone: “I flung myself under the crystalline sky and cried tears of deep sorrow.” I would say, “I ran outside and started sobbing like an overly emotional child.”
|Merry Christmas, NA Lovers!|
That's me. That may not be you, but in my case, example two rings truer because that's pretty much how I would say it in real life. All I'm saying is, inject reality into fiction. Transfer it. Just pretend that your story is like one long personal letter to your best friend on planet earth, and hold nothing back. And your voice will naturally pop out!
This is the last Monday post before NA Alley takes a Christmas vacation for a couple of weeks in December, so make sure you stick around for #NALitChat on Thursday, since it will be the last one for a couple of weeks.
Merry Christmas! J