Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Got Voice?

A few evenings ago, I attended a writers workshop about voice. I’m still not sure what I learned. Or even if I learned anything. Perhaps my expectations were too high. Or not right. Or something.

For a writer, voice is akin to style and tone. All three are hard to define, but they’re all related. (Note: If you’re not a writer, you can stop reading here. Trust me, there will be nothing to interest you in the rest of this post.)

I searched online for a good definition of voice. According to the University of Maryland’s Effective Writing Center (which is mainly about academic writing): “Style, voice, and tone in writing express the attitude of a writer at that moment and in relation to a particular subject and audience.”

OK, that tells what they do, but not what they are. Maybe this info from the website makes it a bit clearer:

Voice and tone reflect your attitude about your subject and your readers. Voice is who the readers hear talking in your paper, and tone is the way in which you are doing the writing. Voice can be institutional or academic—that is, objective and formal. Or voice can be personal—in fact, your distinct voice. You will need to decide whether you want your tone to be informative or affective. Do you want to inform your readers or to persuade them in some way? Your style and attitude toward your subject combine to create your voice and tone.

Everybody got that? OK, I’ll try again. From this article, “Finding Your Writing Style, Finding Your Voice”: “Sometimes your writing voice is your thinking voice; sometimes it’s your speaking voice. Sometimes it can be drastically different from who you seem to be entirely.”

Well, yeah, but what is voice?

Anyhow, at the workshop, I was hoping to get some suggestions to make my voice more emphatic in articles that I write. Or maybe more definite. Or something. Anyhow, I thought that maybe the workshop would address what voice is, how to improve it, etc. Maybe there’d even be a handy checklist of what to do and what not to do. Maybe there’d be an in-depth discussion.

There wasn’t. The workshop was (I think) about finding your character’s voice in fiction. We did several exercises, so more than half the time was spent in writing. Then some of us “shared” what we wrote.

I’m not a fan of exercises at workshops. If exercises are necessary, I think participants should be given the assignment in advance, so the group can spend time in discussion about what worked and what didn’t.

I did the exercises, but I didn’t get anything I can use with my current work-in-progress. I didn’t even get what the workshop was about. (I’m not the only one who didn’t get it. See Amy's post here.)

Anyhow, I'm still searching for my voice. If you find it, please send it my way.



Blogger Amy Tate said...

Ditto. Hopefully the next one will be more beneficial. If not, then let's grab dessert afterwards!

9:56 AM  
Blogger Debi Kelly Van Cleave said...

What voice I use depends on what I am writing. When I write my country stories for my blog, I write like I speak. The voice is like the flavor.

10:29 PM  

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