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Voice: A touch of style and a lot of heart.

You can be the grammar wiz of our generation, the structural master of our century, and still not be a good storyteller. Great story concepts are passed over all the time, dismissed like tumbleweeds, because the voice behind the concept was lacking.


Most people are aware of the first rule of writing: Show Don't Tell. It's coveted across the genre's and repeated so much it might as well be our theme song. The general idea being that Sam and Dean explaining to us that their family hunts monsters is a lot less cool than Sam and Dean actually hunting monsters. However, there is a very important third portion of this that is barely talked about. Voice.


Where showing is Sam and Dean hunting monsters, Voice is about the aesthetics of it, the style in which they speak to each other. Sam and Dean don't just hunt monsters, they bicker and bitch at each other while they hunt monsters. Their general demeanor is exasperated and fed up even while they pull each other out of one scrap after another.


Voice is the storytelling aspect unique to the storyteller. It is the difference between two people hunting monsters and Sam and Dean hunting monsters. It's the difference between A kid with magic and Harry Potter. The difference between the son of a Villain and Luke Skywalker.


Voice is the personality leaking through the pages of the book or script.


There are better and smarter writers than me. People who can plot better than me. But no one can write a Neil Gaiman story like I can.” -Neil Gaiman


We know Rowling for her magic, Terry Pratchet for his humor, Stephen King for his horror, Orson Scott Card for his epic Sci-Fi's, Nicolas Sparks for his Romance that is not actually shelved in the romance section for some unfathomable reason. The little tics we think about when we think of these authors are part of Voice. Sure, there's plenty of people in the world that write about aliens and wizards, that have quirky storytelling or dark concepts, but the style and voice these writers bring to the table is what makes them sell more than anyone else in their genres.



 

Now that we've discussed what Voice is, I'd like to put forward a much more solid example of what separates Telling, Showing, and Voice.


"Ideas are Cheap," -Brandon Sanderson


Essentially what he means is that ideas are a dime a dozen. There's been a million stories about pretty much every concept that can be conceived, but what makes them worth their salt is when an idea goes from being a concept to being conceptualized in a unique way with a voice that is distinct.


Here I will present an Concept with three versions.

1) Telling.

2) Showing.

3) Incorporating my own Voice into the scene, my own style



Concept:

Audrey's home acts a as a Safehouse for Superheroes.


Telling:

Audrey had experienced a lot of dangers in her as a host for heroes in her house. It terrified her at times, but she'd learned to deal for the sake of the damaged and broken fighters who showed up on her door.


Showing:

The black lights above her kitchen cabinets turned on in the middle of the day. The muscles in her shoulders tensed even as she smiled at Kyle, her human student who would very much not understand the probably not human guest entering her upstairs window.


"Seth singled me out for morning shifts even though he knows I have classes," her student complained, gesturing out the window at late afternoon sun. "I think he's trying to get me fired."


Audrey hummed in response as she flipped the black lights off, the stiffness in her shoulder's worsened as she forced herself to not look towards her stairwell in the next room. Had she replaced the supplies in her medical cabinet?


"Do you think the Professor would let me switch to night shifts? I really can't afford to lose this job."


"Of course he will," Audrey said distractedly, "I'll talk to him myself. Kyle, would you mind postponing this? I..."


"Again?" Kylie frowned at her and she knew she'd regret dismissing him later, like she always did. Kyle drummed his fingers against the table before sighing. "Fine. Whatever. Okay. I'll go."


The teenager flipped his backpack over his shoulder and heading out.


Audrey waiting until his steps no longer creaked on the old wood before bolting for the stairs.


Voice:


The Grim Reaper could appear in her kitchen and it wouldn't be as ominous as those damn black lights turning on. They were dim, sitting atop the cabinets, barely noticeable if she hadn't spent an obscene amount of time watching out for its glow.


Across from her Kyle chatted on, unaware that they were no longer alone in the house, that the presence upstairs could easily kill them if they chose. Not for the first time she wondered if she was addled in the mind for doing this.


'You done a lot of stupid things in your life,' Gram was fond of telling her, 'but there's a lot of stupid things in this world worth doing.'


Audrey considered herself mild mannered and boring, but she'd spent too many nights taking a knife to tentacles and levitating babes to deny that her life style was anything but. Muscles tense, movements stiff, she grabbed Kyle by the arm and gently tugged him toward her front door.


"What? Where are we going?" Kyle asked, his eyes had widened and his voice sounded perturbed. She pulled harder as she went through her list of 'bullshit excuses for every occasion and invasion.'


"The coffee shop closes at five," she reached into her pocket and pulled out a twenty. "Magic us some coffee and I'll meet you at the library in a bit."


"Okay?" Kyle said, unsure, "but like, do you really mean that or are you going to ditc…"


She closed the door in his face. Poor kid already knew, but she'd make it up to him later. When there wasn't a possibly dying entity of unknown power in her upstairs bedroom that could accidentally slice her in half.



 

Quite the difference when we go from simply showing a scene to demonstrating my own style of writing, right? Often times this is the difference between a first draft where you are simply trying to get it out onto the page and a fourth draft when you are trying to bring the story to life. Bringing your own flair to how a story is told.


So what exactly is my Voice and how did I find it?


There isn't a simple list out there where you can pick and choose what you feel is best. Which is one of the reasons why Voice is often so hard to define. It is something deeply personal that is found not from one or two pieces of writing, but an extended time period.


For example: The tone of the story is tense above is serious, in all three pieces this can be seen. However, in the third piece, the one that had my Voice incorporated into the piece, there was a touch of humor to it. When I 'showed' the scene the first time, I made it clear that the person upstairs was an ally, but when I infused my own style, my voice, I hid that fact in order to ramp up the stakes.


This is something I consistently do throughout all of my work. I write about dark topics, ramping up the tension, but adding touches of humor through the character's own mindset. I'm fond of grumpy characters and those that are too honest for their own good.


The Voice in my stories is candid, layered with dark humor and empathy, character driven tales about strife and platonic love.


It's impossible to pin down voice when you are first exploring your writing, as it is a literary device that grows and changes with you and can only be seen from a distance and with time.


I found it by fucking up a lot and by trying to write stories that I wasn't prepared to write. That's why I wanted this to be one of the first topics I talk about. If you always play it safe in your writing then you will never grow. You have to try to write things that you aren't ready for, that you don't think you can do.


You have to fail at writing them because the sheer experience you garner from trying helps you to learn how to do that task you weren't prepared for the first time around. By experimenting with writing styles and structure, you are able to see what works for you. Exploring the different genre's and the different point of view types will do nothing but expand your abilities.


Finding your Voice is all about the journey you take and the things you pick up along the way. Defining Voice is nearly impossible until you as a writer learn how to define yourself and what you want from your craft.


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