Voice. We’ve talked about what it is and why it’s important. We’ve talked about how your writer’s voice differs from your character’s voice. But what we haven’t talked about is how to get your voice to come out.
The simple and complicated answer is: practice. I think there is also an element of discovery. You have to know who are before you can starting fully being it.
So first, take a look at what you write. Look at your favorite pieces. What sort of tone do they have? What style comes out of you naturally? When you are really tired and in that silly place in your mind, what kind of stuff creeps out? In the first part of this series, I mentioned trying different styles. That will help you discover what is not your style so that you know what is.
Once you figure it out or are close, the key (like with so many things in life) is to practice. Don’t just send boring text messages all the time. Make them interesting and fun (or whatever your style is.) My husband is good for this sort of thing because he’s as silly and strange as I am. Well. Almost.
I get texts from him like this:
If Mork is from ork then where are the orks from? And don’t even bother mentioning that Swedish chef guy.
I’m sure that we’re one of those annoying couples who has so many inside jokes that we can laugh and entertain ourselves while everyone around us has no idea what’s going on. This above text came to me in the middle of the work day and is a reference to a goofy video we saw years and years ago.
My response was:
The orks aren’t “from” anywhere. They appear when you put too much torque on your fork, but only while you’re eating pork in New York. It’s a weird quirk.
Looking at these, I’m wondering if they’re half as amusing to anyone else as they are to us. If it’s not funny, sorry. It made me crack up. But, like I said, that’s just us.
So onto maybe a better example. I love to have fun at work. I do web sites and I work at my church, which is a super loving and encouraging environment. They love me and we have lots of fun while we work. They also embrace my creativity and weirdness. So, on the rare occasion that I get to send out a staff-wide email to my 50ish co-workers, I like to make it good.
Here’s an email that I sent to a select few people who had not yet adopted the new email signature standards we put into place:
Congratulations finalists! Unfortunately, the only thing you win is another email from me, nagging you to do your email signature :)
I know several of you have legitimate reasons, like being out of town or crazy busy with Small Groups, and I’ve received a first signature from a few that needed changes, but I haven’t received the corrected version yet. Still, there are a few who haven’t sent me anything yet. Nothing. At all.
It really only takes a few minutes, and I am willing to help if you need it! [Name removed] requested that this be completed by August 1, and since it’s now August 6… I want it off my list! I’ll bug you daily if I have to, and I can be REALLY annoying (You all know this to be true).
I could have just said, “Hey this is a friendly reminder…” blah, blah. But, by doing it this way, it gives me the chance to practice my personal uniqueness, it entertains me, it entertains them, and makes them laugh. It’s much easier to get people to do what you want if you make them laugh while yelling at them for not doing it :)
Here’s another fun example of an email I sent out to announce our Amazon affiliate link, which happened to be on Talk Like a Pirate Day:
Yup, it’s Talk Like a Pirate Day. Unfortunately, this email has nothing to do with that!
Did you know that when you order your [insert any item you can possibly think of here] from Amazon, you can give Victory a kickback? Doesn’t matter if it’s personal, ministry related, or just something you gotta have (like a new case for your iPhone 5). All orders are eligible.
Amazon has a really cool affiliate program. All you have to do is use this link to get to Amazon, then when you place your order, Victory will get a percentage of it! Notice the little [info removed] in the link? That’s us! Nice, huh? We be gathering some great, grand booty if we all use that there link!
So, bookmark that link, set a reminder, or tie a string around your finger. Whatever you need to do to remember to use it for all of your Amazon needs.
Thanks ye all! Oh, and if you don’t use this link to order from Amazon, you might be forced to walk the plank! Yarr!
The thing is, when I’m writing these emails, I’m usually cracking up. (I love to amuse myself, and I’m easily amused). The best part is, after sending this email, I will get back numerous responses of thanks from my coworkers for making their inboxes a little more exciting. They love it as much as I do and in the end, isn’t the point of writing to entertain your audience?
It doesn’t matter what you’re saying or who your audience is, you can find ways to make it interesting! Like I try to do with every blog post. I know there are 43095709 blogs out there and your time is limited. I hope when you stop by my posts, you learn something and click away encouraged and somewhat entertained.
That’s what voice is really all about. Being you so much that it comes out in every word. Every description, dialogue, narration is you and only you. You aren’t like anyone else. You won’t describe things the same way or notice the same details.
A great example of this is the Writers Weekly 24-Hour Short Story contest. This contest sends out a prompt and you have exactly 24 hours to send back a flash length piece. The prompts are somewhat specific, so you would think the stories would be similar. While some elements are the same, it’s amazing to me, when I read the winners and when I’m critiquing my friends’ pieces who have entered the contest with me, that we all interpret things very differently. (I got an honorable mention in the spring 24-hour contest!)
Be uniquely you. Let it show in your writing. This will set you apart. This will make your piece stand out from the others in a contest or slush pile. Agents want it. Publishers want it. Readers want it. Make it interesting. Make it entertaining. Make it YOU.
Miss last week’s post? Read part 2 of Finding Your Writing Voice – You vs. Your Characters here.