This week I’ve struggled with a cold or sinus something-or-other which resulted in me losing my voice. I spent three days alternating between a whisper, a whisper-yell (which is really just a cranky whisper), and a bizarre screeching squeak. While putting my rowdy boys to bed one of these nights, I actually made Sawyer cry.
“Mommy,” he said. “You sound so SCARY!”
While his tears made me really sad and wonder about the way I talk to my kids on a normal basis, it also made me think of this. You just can’t convince me that Mean Girls doesn’t relate to everyday life, every day. Mean Girls always finds a way.
Those few days with my scary voice, I thought of the importance of my words. But more than my words themselves—the sound and delivery as well. The same words, uttered in my shriek-squawk, inspired terror and tears.
In the same way, great writing does not simply come through choosing correct words. There is something magical that happens when a writer can take words and arrange them in order to create a distinct voice. This voice in writing becomes almost palpable: you can picture the writer. You can almost hear the writer, as though you are in fact transported from reading the words to a small table at a coffee bar where the writer tells you the story in person. For me, voice is one of my absolute favorite marks of good writing.
So how does this idea translate to a blog?
Depends on the blog. We can’t all be humor writers, but take a look at this post from Larks in last week’s linky. Here is an excerpt that shows a great glimpse of her voice.
Even though I’ve seen, like, fifty pictures of these five dudes, I *still* have difficulty telling them apart, because they’re all essentially young dudes who sing generic feelings at you while wearing those red trousers that you’re apparently legally required to wear at regular intervals if you’re douchey and British.
Do you HEAR her? I know I do. There is a pacing to the words, a pairing and structure to this one long sentence that makes it conversational. There are details peppered in, but in a way that accentuates the voice. As opposed to writing something like: “I still can’t tell these guys apart even though I’ve seen fifty pictures. They are all young men who sing generic love songs while wearing distinctly British red pants.” That (terrible) sentence conveys the same information, but without any of the bells and whistles that give it a personality. Because voice is all about becoming distinct.
Voice isn’t always about humor. In a post with a more serious scope, Anita Ojeda writes about doing laps in the hospital with her husband while he struggles through cancer.
He: holding the IV pole loaded with saline, morphine, platelets or blood and a bendable magnetic dog named “Farthing” given to him by a sweet intern as a last-minute birthday gift.
Me: shuffling at his pace, smile loaded and ready to aim.
I think the structure of this little bit reveals something, as do the choices of details and the way of talking about her smile, “loaded and ready to aim.” Love that. How different would this feel if written as such: He walked through the halls, holding the IV pole. It held a bag with saline, morphine, platelets or blood and a magnetic dog that had been a gift from an intern. I shuffled slowly beside him, ready to smile in encouragement.” Yuck, right? Stripped of magic and just clinical.
I wonder if all our blog posts would get better if we started by writing a draft that was just the straight-out story, told in that stripped down, point-A-to-point-B style. I think that reveals where we need meat, where we need a change of pace, of structure, or a big dose of personality. Would a reader know that YOU are the writer? Would a reader want to meet you for coffee or feel as though they were having coffee and conversation?
Do your posts have a voice? YOUR voice?
This week as you are writing, I encourage you to work with it a little bit. When you know what you want to write about, write a few drafts. Try one that’s total dictionary. Only the facts. No bells or whistles. See how it makes you itch for life and then maybe write it again as fast as you can as though you were writing to your best friend or better yet, TALKING to your best friend. Play around. Think of what makes you YOU. Because as I wrote last week, no one can take your YOU-ness. The prompt for this week fits hand-in-glove with this idea of voice.
Week Five Prompt: Word. Speech. Language.
As always, I want this to inspire you, not shackle you. Perhaps the 90s song “Word Up” has really been on your mind lately. Or maybe you’re haunted by a beautiful speech you’ve heard or one you had to give that was terrifying. Perhaps you want to focus on dialogue, which is a form of speech. You don’t actually have to use the words “word” or “speech” or “language.” Again: this shouldn’t be restrictive. It’s a prompt.
Can’t wait to read what you guys have to say about…words. While thinking about voice. Keep the community alive by visiting and commenting on all the other posters. And join the Facebook community if you want to have some say-so in what we write about or get the prompt a few days ahead.
-Write in ANY genre, but at least loosely find inspiration from the prompt.
-Please include a link to this post or use the handy button over in my main sidebar. If you don’t, I’ll politely ask, and if you still don’t, I’ll un-link you. This just helps keep building the community and bringing new readers to the linky itself.
-Link to your specific post, not to your whole blog.
-Write a new post or use a post that fits from within the last week.
-Please visit ALL the other blogs. A comment is a great way to show you were there and if you love something, share it!
-Don’t be spammy or link to a giveaway or another linky or something weird like that. Just a post.
-Try to find a sweet spot under 1000 words, if possible between 500-750.
-Be free, but don’t be overly violent or sexual or just creepy. This is a varied group, but that’s not the best fit.