Finding Voices

I know the great and venerable “they” say that a writer should try to “find their voice”. I’m all for voices, and I’m all for finding something that fits you personally, not trying to imitate some other great voice you love. The problem I have with that statement is that They say “find your voice” like each person only has one. Perhaps it is presumptuous to correct They, but shouldn’t it read “find your voices?”

Do people only ever speak one way? Is their tone and pitch the same in any given situation? Do people speak to their baby, spouse, best friend, and boss the same way? I should hope not. Neither do I write for one character the same way I write for another, one genre the way I do another.

Heck, I don’t even talk to you guys in a consistent voice. A scroll down through my posts serves as evidence for that. Sometimes, I prefer to wax eloquent, sometimes, it’s more talky. I can go for casual, poetic, casually poetic, or straight-up poetry. Maybe such frequent change is a bad thing. Then again, maybe it’s good. Whichever way, those are my voices.

In Ever the Actor and Scriptless, the voice is on the more minimalistic side, for me. It’s occasionally witty (I’d like to think) and occasionally beautiful (again, I’d like to think), but largely, the voice is a background construct that, while it conforms to each character it speaks for, is really just there so the story can get told.

In a lot of my short stories (and in a new novel project), my voice is sarcastic and makes blatant use of its omniscience. This voice says blunt things like, “His mind was as dumb as his face, through no real fault of his own—his thoughts had been worn down to smooth blank lumps by the constant crashing, battering waves of spite.” It says opinionated things like “Talent, and even its well-wrought cousin skill, is abundant in the world of the arts.”

Then there is the poetry, but of course there is variance within even that. Take these three samples, from three of my short stories:

I don’t look down, and neither do you. Down is two pairs of bare toes. A rope of woven steel. Then thousands of cubic feet of air, then the streets and cars and sparse little trees, the sidewalks grey with damp, and the upturned pedestrian faces.

~

He played of songlight, spilling sparkling from a minstrel all in blue. She heard the words ‘neath melody, the truth beyond the tune.

~

A shadow grew in a being of light. It darkened his sight, and with a twist of perfection, the young universe knew pride.

And there are voices beyond that that I haven’t time to mention. Is this because I’m a young writer, still finding my voice? I don’t think so.

I am young, yes, and I am still searching out new voices and honing my old ones. There will be some I use more than others, I’m sure. There will likely be some I decide are best confined to flash fiction, and probably others I’ll come to favor for noveling. But they’re all mine.

What are your voices? Do you know their number? Do you think you’ll ever narrow them down to one? Do you think you’d want to?

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6 comments

      1. Many thanks for the shout-out, and you speak true: Few to none of my characters speak just alike, so the tone of their stories change to match them. Ornate word-music for minstrels; casual chatterbox style for friendly modern teens; one voice per book, or two or three per book (depending on what feels best for the tale), and all of them mine! …Or some of them mine, the rest those of the characters being given their say.

        It makes the job more fun, and sometimes more of a struggle. On the one hand, learning one’s new voices can be a challenge. On the other hand, there’s less room for boredom!

    1. You know, that’s distinctly possible. I have known people who have a fairly regular cross-genre voice, but I would bet that there are plenty with differing voices as well, and such is a perfectly good reason to have pen names.

      I could try getting pseudonyms for my various voices, but personally, I’d rather just make my readers put up with it. 😉

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