We all have voices, which we tend to use often and with force. Losing one’s voice usually means a trip to the doctor to find it. But the trip to find your literary voice isn’t as easy as a prescription and bed rest.
In our group we have a lady who has taken this journey and has founded her voice. More specifically, she found the voice of the wonderfully creative and sensitive pre-teen character called Izzy B. In that moment where the words stopped being Susan writing and Izzy B talking, Izzy B went from two dimensional to 3D sensational.
I’m not there yet. In fact I only realized I’d lost my voice on Wed. Maybe it was never even there to start with? As a writer I had so concentrated on plot and setting and story arc and humor and and and; I didn’t realize that this was still me writing, not Ben talking.
How do you do that?
It helps to have a real live person to imitate. But if like me you don’t have a handy 8 year old boy to use as a muse; you can use some of the tricks Krysti Sibley lists on this website:
•Study writers who have a strong voice. “Never hesitate to imitate another writer. Imitation is an important part of the creative process for anyone learning an art or craft.” (Zinsser 238) Find the best writers in a field that interests you and read their work aloud. Get their voice and taste into your ear. “You too will shed your imitative skins and become who you are supposed to become.”
•Do frequent and regular freewriting exercises. Peter Elbow suggests, “Try to make up for all the writing you haven’t done. Use writing for as many different tasks as you can. Keep a notebook or journal to explore thoughts for yourself.” (Elbow 306)
•Write a lot without an audience. Try different tones and voices to discover what your inner self sounds like. “Fool around, jump from one mood or voice to another, mimic, play-act, dramatize, and exaggerate. Let your writing be outrageous. Practice relinquishing control.” (Elbow 306)
•Direct all your efforts into experiencing or re-experiencing what you are writing about. Be there. See it. Participate in what you are writing about and let the words come out.
•Write about what is important to you. If it is important, you’ll probably find the psychic energy you need to really connect with it or open yourself to it.
•Trust yourself and don’t think too hard about what you want to do to the reader.
•Don’t ask for too big an experience from your reader too soon.
•Learn to coach yourself, to give yourself pep talks as you write — especially if you sense yourself losing contact with what you are trying to write about.
•Whenever you get feedback, always ask readers to point out the bits that actually made them see, hear, or experience something. Strive for this in a few paragraphs in your next writing without a grade and then gradually build yourself up.
•Omit clichés. Taste chooses words that have surprise, strength and precision. Also, writing that will endure tends to consist of words that are short and strong; words that sedate are three, four, and five syllables.
•Say the sentence out loud before you write it. As Writing Tutor Todd Ferrante says, “By actually saying it aloud, they not only focus on their argument, but also create an original voice all their own.” Writing Fellow Anne Bolton agrees. “Read your paper aloud,” she says, “see if you would be bored to death or be passionate about reading the essay.”
So I’m off to stock-up on writer’s “cough drops and Halls”.
Good luck with finding yours.
Image from “A DRAGON IN MY THROAT” by Jeanne Stewart