So Diane Sherlock, good friend and amazing writer, is running my blogs on Vonnegut’s eight rules of writing. I’m honored to run a few of her blog posts over the next few weeks. Be sure to check out her blog each week. Some great advise there.
Voice and Narrative
An essential element for good writing is a good ear: One must listen to the sound of one’s own prose. – Barbara Tuchman
I’ve found that I’m not alone in the experience of writing at least in part because I didn’t have a voice growing up. Many find their voice when they escape their families or when the overbearing parent loses theirs through illness or death. Writing well is the best revenge in so many ways. So then, what about your voice as a writer?
The word prose comes from the Latin prosa, meaning straightforward, the language ordinary people use to write or speak. One of the many challenges for the novelist is how to create a compelling connection with the reader; one of the points of connection is the author’s voice. According to structuralist Seymour Chatman, “Voice … refers to the speech or other overt means through which events and existents are communicated to the audience.” He goes on to add that voice is “the medium through which perception, conception, and everything else are communicated.” Just as a person has his or her own unique voice whether speaking, groaning, shouting, or singing, so an author has a unique writing voice. The primary objective in exploring and mastering your own writing voice is to enliven prose in order to hold the attention of the reader.
A writer’s exclusive style is based on many things: life experience, books read, schooling, taste, and choices made in the creation of narrative. Individual writing voice transcends the general concept of idiolects (singular word and grammar choices each individual writer makes), as well as choice of narrator, tense, point of view, time, and setting. The sum is greater than its parts. You have a voice. Use it. Go write something amazing.
Diane Sherlock is the author of four novels, Dead Weight, Willful Ignorance, Growing Chocolate, and the upcoming Wrestling Alligators. Her writing has appeared in The Rumpus, scissors and spackle, The Citron Review, Mo+th (Bombshelter), and Bird in the Hand: Risk & Flight (Outrider).
She is one of the co-founders and fiction editors for AnnotationNation.com, a site for writers to annotate books in terms of craft and maintains a blog on the craft of fiction writing. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles in 2009. Born in La Jolla, CA, she currently lives in Los Angeles. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter @Diane_Sherlock