Monday, September 26, 2011

Writing in Voice

Last month, I won second place in the short story category for the Pacific Northwest Writer's Association literary contest. It was and is a proud moment for me, but I know you didn't stop by to read some BSP, so please excuse me for starting out like that. But I have a point about writing that I'd like to share--an insight that surprised me and might give inspiration to you.
The voice in my award-winning story was not the voice you're reading now.
The setting for my story is in western Kansas, a place where I spent most of my childhood summers and a place where my parents were born and raised. All my life I grew up hearing the distinctive western twang, the curt, bottom-line judgments, the simple distillation of events that are indicative to the region. Those voices settled deep in my subconscious and even though I am more southern/midwestern than western, (my family moved to Missouri after I was born) those voices are a part of my life.
When I started writing the story, those voices came alive. What came out was a story I didn't expect; one of those pieces of writing where you remember the actual writing, where you remember the music that was playing during the composition, but a piece where upon re-reading, you ask yourself, "Did I write that?"
I can do a pretty good British voice on the page, too, I think. Although I've never published a piece that included that voice, I enjoy writing it. I've only been to Great Britain once, but I love a number of British writers. I'm wondering now if their voices, too, have meandered their way into my brain.
What voices do you have lurking inside? Your parents or grandparents? The voices of a place or a time that intrigues you? Or a voice in your imagination: your muse whispering in your ear?


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Authentic voice is so important in writing. It brands fiction as quality lit. We're kind of back to the idea of writing what you know. It works well for mystery writers and literary authors in particular--in my opinion. Some years ago my teenage sons and I wrote a mystery novel together WHERE IS ROBERT? One son provided the voice and the other the actual story. I merely did the writing. There was no way I could have written that book without them. It was a truly authentic teen novel.

Congrats on winning the contest! It is a big deal and I'm sure has encouraged your continued writing.

Mary F. Schoenecker said...

I'll add kudos for winning the Literary Contest. That is something to be proud of!
Voice can be considered a painting - a picture on a page of your book.I believe the voice of my ancestors lurked in my brain and readers have complemented me for including voices from their geographic region in my books. Thanks for sharing about a component of the craft that is very important.

Susan Oleksiw said...

Discovering an unusual voice while you're writing is one of the best experiences in this work. Congratulations on your award. (This comment may show up twice because, well, something happened but I don't know what--my first comment evaporated.)

BDTharp said...

Voice is one of the most wonderful things about writing. The writer's voice and the character's voices make the story real. I, too, hear their voices in my head - it might be called muse, or imagination, or insanity. Who knows, but if there's a story there, I'm listening. Thanks for the great blog, and congrats on the award! -BD