Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Testing One, Two, Three, Can You Hear Me?

I've heard a lot of people talk about writing voice lately and thought I'd throw my two cents in.  It's not as complicated as you might think. 

I lived in Kentucky for awhile when I was in my twenties, doing missionary work.  One day I needed to call the operator to get a local phone number for someone named Chris.  I have a Rhode Island accent, more Bostonized now that I've lived here longer than anywhere else.  I told the man on the line that I needed the number for Chirs So and So, pronounced Kris.  He didn't understand me.  So I said it again.  No recognition...  Finally feeling stranded in another country, I realized it was my accent he didn't get, so I put on my Southern drawl and asked him if he could please give me the number for Kree-iss So and So.  Immediately he relaxed, apologized and gave me the number.  It was a great lesson in communication for me.  He couldn't understand my voice, although he knew for sure that I had one.

The next time you are thinking about your writers voice, try inserting the word accent instead.  What's your writing accent?  If someone had to compare your work with someone else, like one of those soda tasting commercials, would they know it was you if you didn't sign your name?  This is what you are aiming for.  It's the way you use your grammar unconsciously, the way you describe a mountain or an ocean or a prisoner. 

You can't run away from your voice, it follows you wherever you go.  When editors or publishers tell you you voice is not developed, they don't mean you can't write well, what we mean is your writing needs more time to evolve from the mechanics of writing to the point where writing becomes the tool used to communicate your writing speak.  Keep writing is an old mantra but it's so true.  The more you write, the more your voice will spill out onto your pages.  Kind of like your home.  The more you decorate the more your style evolves.  Some people have that Victorian look going on, others are eclectic.  Some are minimalists and some aren't.  One thing is for certain, none of us is exactly like another. 

Can you tell a Stephen King novel from Tolkien?  Most people will say yes, maily because of the genre.  Can you tell King from Poe?  If you studied Poe in high school, I bet you can tell the difference.  That is voice.  The genre, horror, is the same but the writing and description and tones are very different.  You can't hide your voice but you can obscure by trying to write like someone else.  Give that up quick.  You are you and only you can write like you.  So let the world hear your voice.  If it's an abrupt voice, that's fine.  If you tend to be flowery, go ahead.  If you don't like your voice, do it anyway and you may find the reason you don't like it is because you've never heard anyone else similar before.  That just means your voice is unique.  So go for it.

Testing one, two, three, Ok, your turn to speak on paper.  Go for it!


  1. Well, this is very interesting, Karen. I've never thought about writing style, peculiar technique, as accent. BTW, I like your Blog.

  2. Interesting post Karen. Different way of looking at the writing voice.

  3. Excellent post, Karen and nice clean-looking blog.


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