hearing your own voice
It took me a while to find my voice. In writing, I mean. Let’s not go all melodramatic. People hate that.
I’m in the gooey middle of an experiment called Tweet Mystery of Death. It’s a 6-week “play” of sorts on Twitter. A critique buddy of mine identified the character I play without my telling her.
She recognized my “voice” in my tweets of in-character dialogue. Even though I’m playing a young, male go-fer for a movie star. With an unhealthy yen for bananas and a penchant for blackmail.
His voice is different from my WIP’s MC’s voice, an admirable teen who has had a lot of bad breaks. Yet you can still identify that author’s voice as mine, too. Just like my non-fiction pieces, @mermensing tweets, blogs, grocery lists…
So what is voice?
Part of it has to be sense of humor. While my sense of humor will change slightly for each character, in the end it still has to make me laugh too, so there will be similarities.
Syntax, sure. Whether a writer uses a lot of passive sentences, inverts the subject, “ing”s or “ly”s. Goes choppy. Or uses long, flowery, flowing discussions that seem to run on and on and describe every single detail until there’s nothing for the reader to imagine for him or herself because the writer has covered every stinking thing that could possibly occur to the reader to think about. I have a writer friend that likes to describe exactly what her characters look like, so a police sketch artist could draw a wanted poster. I like to throw in a few key details, and let the reader fill in what they think is good-looking, or ugly.
Word choice. Here ya go. This is probably the key way to figure me out. I admit that I have favorite words: detritus, flabbergast, bubble, jitter, harridan, smirk, boobs. (YA here, okay?) I always have to do that word search thing to make sure I haven’t put “detritus” in my MS 42 times. (This is a separate issue from “weasel words” like: well, just, started to, etc.)
I can hear all you Sweet Young Writers out there saying, “How do I get me some Voice?”
Well Grasshopper, snatch the pebble from my hand.
Or better yet, get a blog.
Because the only way to “get” voice is to write it out of you. The harder you try to get a voice, the less natural your voice is. Bad voice is formal, artificial, stilted. Good voice is–you. In the old days, you would fill 100 notebooks. But now getting a voice is more fun. Get a blog, and write.
Make your goal something just out of the range that you’re comfortable with. If you’re sure that you can do 100 words, make it 200. If you’re sure 200 words will be a snap, make it 300. DO IT EVERY DAY. Pick a subject and go. For a beginner, LiveJournal might be the best choice, because you can link easily with other writers, support each other, have a dialogue.
And hey! When you get started, come back and tell me about it–in your own voice!
SHAMELESS PLUG: HAVE A CHEAP THRILL AND FOLLOW ME AND A HALF-DOZEN OTHER KIDLIT WRITERS AS WE ADLIB OUR WAY THROUGH AN UNSCRIPTED MYSTERY/COMEDY: TWEET MYSTERY OF DEATH ON TWITTER. WE’VE JUST COMPLETED THE FIRST OF SIX WEEKS. WE’VE GOT A NING WITH SYNOPSES AND OUR BIOS HERE. THE BEST WAY TO WATCH US FALL APART UNFOLD IS FOLLOW @coffee_boy ON TWITTER AND FOLLOW ALL THE PEOPLE COFFEE BOY’S FOLLOWING. PUT THEM ALL IN ONE COLUMN ON TWEETDECK AND YOU WILL HAVE ALL THE TWEETS IN ONE PLACE LIKE A SCRIPT.