What is your voice? What pictures do you paint in the minds of your readers when you write? Is your voice distinctive? How do you make your words carry an emotional punch?
I met a wonderful teacher from Victoria last week who said, “I am always asking my students – what is your voice? How can you make your voice unique? ”
These are very good questions. Important questions. Our own unique perspective is what makes writing enjoyable, exciting and interesting.
It is something that can be highly valued as well. In her recent book, The Vanity Fair Diaries, writer Tina Brown scribbled, voice “is the most precious and allusive quality a magazine can offer its readers”. This is true.
1. Be brave
Read, read, read. Write. Write. Write.
Read the best novels and articles, watch the most wonderful films, listen to podcasts – in part to gain permission to write what is in your head.
Look at how Charles Dickens describes Magwitch eating – it is so wonderfully and uniquely observed that in turn tells a universal truth of hunger.
I had often watched a large dog of ours eating his food; and I now noticed a decided similarity between the dog’s way of eating, and the man’s. The man took strong sharp sudden bites, just like the dog. He swallowed, or rather snapped up, every mouthful, too soon and too fast; and he looked sideways here and there while he ate, as if he thought there was danger in every direction, of somebody’s coming to take the pie away. He was altogether too unsettled in his mind over it, to appreciate it comfortably, I thought, or to have anybody to dine with him, without making a chop with his jaws at the visitor. In all of which particulars he was very like the dog.
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
2. Engage with the language of film and text
Watch and read what you love and work out what the composer has done to make you love the work.
Steal. Engage. Work out what packs emotion and interest.
The TV producer Rebecca Easton, described the actor John Shaw who played the detective Inspector Morse as “Catnip for women” – that’s a great expression to steal.
His sad eyes were catnip for her. Always.
Don’t plagiarise but as TS Eliot wrote, “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.”
Rowan Woods, says engage with the language of the screen. Break down your favourite TV scene or movie and work out how that screen language delivers an emotional punch.
3. Specificity always
Not hear it? — yes, I hear it, and have heard it. Long — long — long — many minutes, many hours, many days, have I heard it — yet I dared not — oh, pity me, miserable wretch that I am! — I dared not — I dared not speak! We have put her living in the tomb!
Fall of the House of Usher
Edgar Allan Poe
How do you feel? Is this a unique voice? Why yes it is…
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