Friday, October 14, 2016

Where Voice Diverges from the Writer -- by Rachel

Last week we talked about how voice flows out of an author’s own personality. However, there is a place where voice diverges from the writer.

A writing voice is more fluent than a spoken voice.
The writing clan has more than its fair share of introverts and social misfits. The beauty of writing is that you get to play with the text until it’s just right, so while you may stumble through spoken speech, your writing will flow. Even if you’re a great speaker, people will shoot odd looks your way if you wax too poetic or get too philosophical in spoken conversation. But in fiction, lyrical writing and depth always have their place.

Characters have a voice too.
Especially if you’re writing in first person, your character’s voice may come across in ways that aren’t reflective of your own voice. At least not directly. I’ve heard Suzanne Collins speak and can tell you she comes across as a placid woman, nothing like her Hunger Games protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. Now, undoubtedly Collins’ voice comes through in other ways in the story but in some important ways, the author’s voice and the narrator’s voice are not the same.

If you write in third person, the character’s voice may not come across with such force. Still, your voice will need to convey the essence of your character. So if you’re a confident person writing a self-doubter, your voice will need to convey that. Additionally, if you have a foreign character, they will use an occasional word or sentence structure in their narrative that is not characteristic of your own voice.

Experimenting will alter voice.
Yes, if you play with style, character or language, the voice of your work will invariably be changed. It won’t disappear, but telling a story with a broken chronology or an unreliable narrator, for example, is going to separate the writing from your natural personality and style.

Now don’t get me wrong. If you write more fluently than you speak, you do have that fluent person inside of you. If you’re writing poetically or exploring deep themes, you have that within you too. Every character and every bit of experimenting arises from what you know and who you are. But does your voice sound like you as you have dinner with your family or friends? Not likely. It has diverged from the public persona that your loved ones know best. But, then, maybe that is the truest self there is – the one hidden deep within, who only comes out on paper.

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