So I'm driving in my car with my radio on, and this country-Western song comes on that makes me roll up the windows and crank it up.
Come on baby, give me a little more of you. . .
It rocks. And it speaks to the writer in me. I have myself a country-Western epiphany: that's what readers and editors want from us writers. Come on baby, give me a little more of you. . .
Exactly! Why, it's the very definition of what we call "voice." A little more of you. You, the writer. I, the writer. We, the writers. It's a huge part of what hoists books into publication and then onto best-seller lists. It's part of what makes Jane Austen and Louie L'Amour so well loved. Voice. Loud and clear, whether in a proper English village or a rough country town. It's distinctive and unmistakeable, like your baby's cry. You'd know it anywhere. Nobody else could write Robert B. Parker or Sue Grafton, because only those two writers have their particular voices. Voice is personality, strength, confidence--even when it's "voiced" in a shy character who doesn't seem to have any of those qualities. Voice is the author behind the scenes-- unabashed, unshy, unwilling to shut up and pretend to be who he is not, or to write what she is not. Voice is also what makes some blogs so popular. And leaders so followed. It has no moral quality, only a tonal one.
I learned a big lesson in voice when I wrote three novels for the estate of an author who had died. (Don't you just hate that, when a favorite author dies? How dare they?) While I could mimic her voice to some degree, the books I did in her series were really me doing ventriloquism, instead of her writing in the pureness of her own voice, or me in the whatever of mine. And it was really hard work, harder than I dreamed it would be. To get the first one of them finished, I wrote two different versions, which is to say--two books for the price of one. The problem with the first failed version was that I was trying too hard to be her, instead of me. When I surrendered to that truth, and wrote it my way, it worked better.
By the way, the movie I was on my way to see when I heard that song (Who IS that singer?) was the new Harry Potter. Talk about voice! J.K. Rowling got voice. :)
Hmm, it appears that I'm still talking about "letting go," aren't I?
And a happy start of a new week to you. May you crank it up. May you speak with your voice that nobody else in the whole history of the world could ever speak with instead of you. May you write, live, and laugh like a whole English village is running after you with pitchforks on one side, and the posse from Butch Cassidy and the Sunday Kid is chasing you on the other side. ("Who ARE those guys?")