Sunday Reflections on Voice

Just taking a moment to reflect on voice. Voice is a super important aspect of writing and what makes an author unique. I definitely have favorite authors and their voices are part of why I love them. Meanwhile, there are others I don’t enjoy as much and sometimes it is their voice I don’t care for. But what is voice?

While the term “voice” seems easy enough to understand, the more I think about it the more complex it is. It is the sum of all the choices a writer makes. It is the specific words that are chosen, the punctuation used, the balance between narrative and dialogue and dozens of other, sometimes subtle, characteristics of their writing. This has me really reflecting on first, the voice of the writers I really like, second, what my voice is beginning to sounds like and third, whether it is the voice I want or if I should try to shape it into something else.

I thought about George Orwell, for sure one of my top three writers. His writing was very witty. His analogy in Animal Farm and the short story “Shooting an Elephant” was masterful. 1984 was not only prophetic but also brilliant. He uses certain words regularly like “countenance.” His real brilliance though is in his portrayal of suffering, internal conflict and in creating tragedy. He is a realist and his stories are very relatable. His endings are never happy, but then, in my experience happy endings are few and far between.

Another of my favorites is John Steinbeck. He too is a realist and his stories are about people and our struggles. Steinbeck was fantastic at illustrating human pain and conflict and his work is immortal. There are no happy endings in Steinbeck’s work either. There is mostly pain and the acceptance of suffering as part of the human condition but he brilliantly wrote about how people endure and even overcome the pain of our world.

Lastly, I love Mark Twain. He is very different from my previous two and is much more of an optimist. Twain was absolutely hilarious. His wit and humor are to be admired and emulated. Most are familiar with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn but A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is my favorite Twain book. So sarcastic and clever. Twain also had a tendency toward run on sentences. Comma after comma after comma and before you know it, an entire paragraph was only one sentence. It was all part of his voice and I love it.

So where am I? Well, I for sure sense that my voice has solidified a little. The Sureshot Rises was mostly written years ago while I was very young and completely unaware of voice and had basically no idea what I was doing. In rewrites, including the most recent this year as I published it, it contained more of my voice and reflected my story telling style better but still, I would say my voice is naive and weak in that work. In Sureshot the Assassin the voice is stronger but still forming. It better reflects my affinity towards realism and tragedy that the authors I adore were masters of. Since then I’ve done a ton of writing. Especially in the last year. As a result I’ve become mindful of my voice as it solidifies and strengthens and I’m not disappointed.

So far my story telling is characterized by a decent ability to describe scenes and people using analogy and simile. I actually intentionally compare people to an animal and then use those characteristics to help form the character. I spend a bit of time trying to connect the reader to the senses through my writing as a way to elicit emotions. I lean towards the dark tragedy of humanity as a theme in my writing. I would love to get to the point where my writing reflects the realism of the authors I value so highly. I also tend to write deep and flawed characters trying to not only show the external conflicts they have to deal with but also the internal ones we all wrestle with. It’s real. That’s what I’m going for.

I’m going to be mindful moving forward and really monitor my voice try to find ways to improve but then also be true to it. My goal at the moment is to try to meld the tragedy with the humor and wit that Twain had. I’m a funny dude and I want that to be reflected in my work. No matter what, It’ll be fun and I’m enjoying the journey. Cheers.

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