Thursday, April 30, 2009

Writer's Voice and Where to Get Yours

Having a hard time finding your voice?

Open up your current work in progress. That's it. Open it up to any old page, or new page--even a page of which you're rather fond--and read it aloud.

Sound like you?
Not, "does it sound like you wrote it?", but
Does it sound like you? Were those words you use in your everyday conversation? If your book is historical civil war they wouldn't be, but how about the tempo, the cadence? How about the character's thoughts? Even delivered with a drawl, a brogue, or sliding off the tongue in french, did you hear yourself in there?

Do you suppose Janet Evanovich is a sarcastic woman? You bet your bippie. You can't write sarcasm like that and not be soaking in it. I think for JE to NOT write sarcasm would sound...dishonest.

Look at that page again. Not your words? Not your thoughts? Ask yourself who you were trying to impress, then stop trying to impress them if you can't recognize your own voice in what you write.

You want a voice? You have one. You just have to be honest about it.

At the first writers conference I attended, I believe it was the author Lynn Kurland told us we should just worry about writing to an audience of five--not to the masses, just to five people. She said we could even pick the people, or envision them, but we only need to be able to impress five people.

Boy, does that take the pressure off, right? Not writing to a million people you need to convince to buy your next book, not even a thousand, just five. Easy breezy.

But guess what else it does. It puts you into a nice intimate little circle of associates with whom you can finally be completely honest. Think a character is a turd? Let another character call him a turd. Let your characters be honest and call a turd a turd. Think a character is going to hell for his morals? Say it. Be bold. Be judgemental. Be biased. Be snide. Be paranoid. But be honest.

Another place you're supposed to be flat out shameful and shameless is at your friendly neighborhood shrink's office. Right? So put your characters on that couch and let them spill their guts. Let them rant.

And when they are all done ranting, throw those ethics out the window 'cause you're a quack anyway, and share their dirty little secrets with the reader. Let the honesty flow, babe. Shout it from the rooftops; whisper it through a hole in the fence.

Spill, baby, spill. And when you're done, you will hear something familiar...the sound of your own VOICE.