The Importance of Voice

I never understood the attraction to what I was writing. Maybe in the many attempts to analyse the creative process (the one I went through, anyway), I somehow demystified an inherently magical activity. Sure, I love the ideas that I have, but when I put in down, I never considered it to be anything special.

It’s possible that the people I’ve shown my stuff to just have a few missing synapses that prevent the centre for critical thought from interacting with the rest of their brain, but I try to take things at face value – if someone likes what I’ve written, I’m not going to over-analyse it.

Try not to.

Mostly not?

The point is that I’d look at my writing and see it as nothing major. It’s just what I wrote, the way I always wrote it. Sometimes it’d be more embellished, though hopefully not overwrought. Sometimes it’d be shorter, perhaps flat, but ultimately I stuck close to what first came to mind. I write down what I think, and don’t spend a huge amount of time trying to spruce it up with prettier language. I didn’t recognise

One of the most influential books on writing that I’ve ever read is Les Edgerton’s Finding Your Voice. I’m a huge believer in writing the way that is natural to you, instead of trying to emulate your heroes or peers. It’s something you can’t escape anyway, so why go out of your way to NOT be yourself? Everyone has their own way of speaking, of expressing themselves. There’s similarities between people, especially those that spend most of their time together, and our language is affected by the popular. It’s still just your voice.

When you write, words come to you. They either feel right, or they don’t. If they do, there’s no real better alternative. If you want a character to stroke another’s arm, that’s what you have. If someone else suggests they brush over the arm instead, trust your own instincts. Both can work, and for the person that suggested, the latter probably sounds better – because that’s how they would express themselves. It’s probably why it bothers me (more than it should) when I hear other people say that they can’t write well. If you want to write, there’s no need to emulate your favourite author, or even the author you hate most that you feel represents what an author should be.

Write the way you want to. Nobody can do you like you!*

Some people go for the intrusive narrator, the one that grabs their expression and wide-mouth it – going for the colloquial, or the round-about way of getting to what they’re saying. They want an embellishment, the little chew where you let the food sit in your mouth so that the juices envelop your tongue with flavour. Others go dispassionate – straight to the point. There’s even a mix where you go in-between, rolling back and forth between them. None of it’s wrong. Not everybody is going to like it, but you’re not getting that no matter what. No piece of writing is universally loved (and even if there were, there’d be people that expressed hate about it just to be different).

Ever read something of your own that’s been sitting on a shelf for a while, that you found resonated with you? You were in shock to know you could write like that, because you’re certain everything you’ve been doing recently has been abysmal? That’s the kind of insight distance gives you, and what you’re probably identifying most with in those circumstances (especially if the plot still feels contrived, but the way of expression rings true), is the voice. Your voice. A dozen people could write the same story, and end up with very different books, all because of voice.

* Motto of the lonely everywhere.

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