Can you hear me?

Medieval illustration of a Christian scribe wr...
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The third piece of writing advice in the Writer’s Digest article titled 25 Ways to Improve Your Writing in 30 Minutes a Day is about developing one’s ‘voice’.

Of course, you already have voice.  If not, then my apologies if I offend.  But most of us, by the time we hit our twenties, pretty much talk the way we are gonna talk for the rest of our lives.  Each of us has a cadre of words we use repeatedly because we like them or because we just don’t know too many. Our voice catches on certain sounds and syllables.  And we all have a tone that is unique to you – because no one has exactly the same throat, nasal cavity, mouth shape, etc.

Our voices are so unique, it’s taken years for the speech recognition engineers and experts to get it close to being right.  And, you probably didn’t consciously do anything to develop that unique voice.  It’s just there, making you sound like you.

For newbie writers, however, finding our ‘voice’ in writing is a bit more difficult.  Some of us may never develop a unique writing voice.  But if we wanted to, how the heck does one go about doing that?  And while we are at it, what truly is a writing voice?  Let’s see what Mr. Art Spikol has to say about it.

3. Voice
Your voice is how you write, the way you handle language, your style—if you have one. Do I? I write like I think. I like spontaneity. I push and pull, change speed and rhythm, balance short and long sentences. I compare it to jazz riffs and drumrolls. I’m economical with words, but I won’t interrupt a nice solo.
I never have to think about this. It’s me.

But does it rise to the level of “voice”—and does it even matter? I’ve known excellent writers who don’t have a recognizable voice, but have earned awards and attracted readers through their work. Your voice, ultimately, will be what comes out of you. And you’re entitled to it. But how you use it will also depend upon the audience at which it’s aimed and/or the market to which it’s sold.

The desire to develop a voice of your own may make you wish you could write like some others you’ve read. Feel no guilt; all artists stand on the shoulders of those they admire. Thus, for 30 minutes: Rewrite a page of your writing in the style of someone you admire. Don’t worry about losing yourself in the process—you’ll be doing just the opposite.
—Art Spikol

Eek!  Write in the style of someone you admire?  Sheesh, I can barely write…now you want me to write like someone else…

Okay, here it goes.

One of my favorite authors is Carlos Ruiz Zafón.  He’s written the popular The Shadow of the Wind, and most recently, The Angel’s Game.  He definitely has a unique voice.  I suspect I would recognize his writing style if given a blind reading test.

DIVERSION: Isn’t it odd there are so many allusions to sight and sound when I’m talking about writing?

Anyway, I think his work is marked by his sarcastic tone, a penchant for striking and beautiful imagery, and that way he has of making you feel like you should be looking over your shoulder while reading about his character looking over their shoulder.

I’ll go ahead and re-write the same chunk of writing I used in my last post on precise writing, just so we have a frame of reference.  Keep in mind, this is my first stab at it, but let me know if you think I’ve captured Zafón.

He opened the door to his room and stopped, a prickly sensation running down his spine.

Pedro sat on the bed, his bare feet propped up on the bed-frame with Andreas’ sketches laid out on his lap like so many discarded petals of a decimated flower.  He looked up at Andreas, a bemused look on his dark face.  “I thought all marranos could do was make money.”  He held up one of Andreas’ landscape drawings from one corner as if he handled a dead cockroach.  “Now I see you are all artists as well.”  He allowed the sheet of paper to fall.  The warm breeze from the open window lifted it briefly before depositing it down upon the wooden floorboards as gently as a lover.

Andreas took a step into the room, his hands itching for his crossbow or anything to wipe the stain of Pedro out of his room.  He glanced about.  The bow still leaned up against the wash basin where he had left it under the window.  Pedro sat on the bed to its right, facing the door.  Thinking about whether he had the courage to kill the man, Andreas crouched to pick up his sketch.  As he rose above Pedro, he asked in a calm voice, “What are you doing here?”

Eh.  Didn’t change that much.  And not sure I was getting it.  Ah, well.  I’ll have to try it out with a new piece.

Until next time,


2 thoughts on “Can you hear me?

  1. This is insightful!

    My current professor recommends freewriting to develop your own voice, which he just calls the Muse or Originality. Basically, just sit down and churn out words for fifteen minutes at a sitting. They don’t have to make sense. It really works for me, so you should give it a try!

    1. I agree that is a very powerful technique. I have to be careful employing it, though. Just about every time I just “let ‘er rip”, I end up with a novel. Or the start of one. I must keep focused… 🙂

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