After Research, I Know What the Elusive Writer’s Voice Really Is

“To me, your writer’s voice is the expression of YOU on the page.
— Rachelle Gardner

image by CSTRSK
image by CSTRSK

A few years ago, I found my writer’s voice while I wrote a short story. At that time, I couldn’t define what writer’s voice is. Now I’ve done research, and made a list of writers’ definitions.

On my list, every time another writer agreed with one aspect, I added a checkmark after the aspect. Now, I think I know what writer’s voice really is.

None of the multiple-checked aspects won.

But reading them all pushed me to my aha moment. Rachel Gardner’s blog post, What is Writer’s Voice?, particularly struck me. Here are quotes from Gardner’s blog that pushed my bingo button:

image by OpenClipartVectors
image by OpenClipartVectors

“Your voice is all about honesty. It’s the unfettered, non-derivative, unique, conglomeration of your thoughts, feelings, passions, dreams, beliefs, fears and attitudes, coming through in every word you write.”

“How, then, are you failing to express that on the page?”

“I think it’s because most of us spend our lives presenting to the world anything and everything except who we really are.”

 

 

Ding, ding, ding! I get it! I get it!

image by PublicDomainPictures
image by PublicDomainPictures

 

1.  What came to mind while reading Gardner’s blog post is a statement someone said about Alzheimer’s disease. People dealing with the disease slowly lose the filter they have that takes what’s in their minds, what’s in their very being, and “cleans” it up before they speak or act.

Call it a social filter. Some people with Alzheimer’s disease become blustery or mean when they lose their social filter. Others become serene or friendly, after years of being private or reserved.

image by vdavasad
image by vdavasad

2. Because I still have my social filter, what goes on inside me is often different than what I say or do. Except now, I’ve split off a second filter for writing. The mesh in my writer’s filter has larger holes than my social filter. As Gardner alluded to, I’m more honest when I write now.

 

 

3.  In my non-writing life, the only person I employ a larger-holed social filter for is my husband. I love to make him laugh and banter with him. I can be funny, sassy, and occasionally, snarky.

4.  Now, I understand why I’ve had to rewrite two heroines since I found my writer’s voice. I was having too much fun allowing sassier and snarkier thoughts to invade them. Heroines were coming across unlikeable, reflecting poor inner characters.

Conversely, perseverance, loyalty, honesty, humor, and spiritual seeking streamed to my heroines through my writer’s filter.

But, I needed to tone down the sass and get rid of snarky attitudes.

5. Another writer helped me manage one unlikeable character. She suggested my heroine often say what I had her thinking. Better yet, for the sake of my heroine’s inner character, I had my heroine think thoughts that she would say. Now I understand why that worked. Of course, my character would put up her social filter and convert snarky thoughts into sass. So, I used the milder sass for her thoughts.

After research, I know what writer’s voice really is. Click to tweet.

What’s something you’ve identified in your writer’s voice, something you’ve allowed through the mesh of your writer’s filter?

10 Awesome Quotes from Writing Experts to Stick on Your Computer

The skill of a skilled writer tricks you into thinking that there is no skill.
—Dwight V. Swain (Techniques of the Selling Writer)

Image by Kaz
Image by Kaz

I recommend the following books on the craft of writing. Here are quotes from each to inspire you to get a copy or reread the one on your shelf.

image by skeeze
image by skeeze

On Writing by Stephen King. “Words create sentences; sentences create paragraphs; sometimes paragraphs quicken and begin to breathe. Imagine, if you like, Frankenstein’s monster on its slab. Here comes lightning, not from the sky but from a humble paragraph of English words. … You feel as Victor Frankenstein must have when the dead conglomeration of sewn-together spare parts suddenly opened its watery yellow eyes.”

 

 

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass “What about your premise? Is it truly a fresh look at your subject, a perspective that no one else but you can bring to it? Is it the opposite of what we expect or a mix of elements such as we’ve never seen before? If not, you have some work to do.”

image by freefaithgraphics
image by freefaithgraphics

Hooked by Les Edgerton. “A tremendous number of possibly good and even brilliant novels and short stories never get read beyond the first few paragraphs or pages by agents and editors. Why? Simple: The stories don’t begin in the right place.”

 

 

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein “We are driven through life by our needs and wants. … If your character doesn’t want anything badly enough, readers will have a hard time rooting for him to attain his goal, which is what compels readers to continue reading. The more urgent the want, the greater the reader’s interest.”

image by geralt
image by geralt

Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon. “Motivation is possibly the most important of the three elements of GMC because you can do anything in fiction. … Everything truly is possible as long as you help your reader understand why your characters do what they do. Why they land themselves in impossible situations. Why they make the choices they make.”

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. “So when you come across an explanation of the character’s emotion, simply cut the explanation. If the emotion is still shown, then the explanation wasn’t needed. If the emotion isn’t shown, then rewrite the passage so that it is.”

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. “Dialogue helps to create original characters and move the plot along. If it isn’t doing either of those things, it probably should be cut.”

image by geralt
image by geralt

Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. “In Deep [Point of View], we don’t want thoughts or actions told or explained by a third-party; we want to live the events inside the [Point of View Character’s] head.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. “And the truth of your experience can only come through in your own voice. If it is wrapped in someone else’s voice, we readers will feel suspicious, as if you are dressed up in someone else’s clothes. You cannot write out of someone else’s big dark place; you can only write out of your own.”

What writing experts say to push us to write better. Click to tweet.

As a writer, what craft book has spoken to you?

You Can Find the Creative Sweet Spot to Connect with Your Audience

“The sweet spot of every person lies at the intersection of our greatest strength and greatest passion.” —Ken Coleman

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Has your approach to engage an audience gone awry like a shanked golf ball that speeds away from the cup?

If so, finding the creative sweet spot in your activity will propel your desired result forward.

The sweet spot is the point that creates the most power for the least effort. To visualize this, try the following.

Suspend a golf putter between your forefinger and thumb. Then lightly tap the putterhead on either the toe or the heel. The putterhead turns slightly, but the putter doesn’t swing. Now, tap it where the manufacturer has marked the sweet spot between the toe and the heel. The putter swings like a pendulum, ready to send a ball forward.

3 Examples

1. Connecting with a preschool boy.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At Bible Study Fellowship, a volunteer sat on a chair. She asked a little boy about the car he played with during free play. The boy muttered something as he rolled his car on the rug with pre-printed roads.

She made a connection. But compare it with what I’ve used with preschool boys in several venues. I sit on the floor near the boy. I select another car and a police car. I make my first car speed and then take on the role of the policeman inside my police car. I speak what the policeman thinks and says and sound the police siren as my police car chases my speeding car.

In no time, we’re playing police-chase. Sometimes the boy likes to be the policeman, stopping my speeding car: “You were speeding. Speeding is bad. Here’s a ticket.” I dramatically plead my case, and sometimes I zoom off.

The sweet spot in this case is the dramatic story while entering the boy’s circle of play.

2. Connecting with readers.

inner voiceI wrote four “practice” novels. I received nibbles from editors, but the novels lacked one main thing. When I found it, I had two short stories published and landed a book contract. The sweet spot? Writer’s voice.

Donald Maass says in Writing the Breakout Novel, “By voice, I think they mean not only a unique way of putting words together, but a unique sensibility, a distinctive way of looking at the world, an outlook that enriches an author’s oeuvre.”

After learning other aspects of the craft, I finally had fun and let my inner personality and attitude come through in my writing. Ta-da. My voice.

 3. Connecting with young male prisoners.

nativityWhen I joined a prison ministry, I felt something was missing in the verbal messages.

For the Christmas lesson, I brought in a large nativity scene, and as I told the story of Jesus’ birth, I arranged different scenes from the pieces: Mary, Joseph, an angel, a stable, animals, infant Jesus, and shepherds. After the story, a wide-eyed young man approached me and wanted to know more.

The sweet spot was the drama of my visual scenes.

Like a golfer uses his putterhead’s sweet spot to send his golf ball to the cup, you can find something creative to move your audience.

What have been sweet spots in your activities?