yeah write #65 summer writer’s series continues: hosted by That Unique* Weblog

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Week Two: writing in your authentic voice

This week’s prompts are at the very end of this post. Please welcome back lurking judge Kristin W who tweets as @kdwald and blogs at That Unique* Weblog. If you have any questions or need any clarification on today’s topic or prompts, please feel free to begin a discussion in comments.

If you’re here just to hang out, click here for the yeah write #65 hangout grid.

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Show Me a Truth 

I’m wholly impressed with the posts about Creating an Authentic Voice and doing the hard work to find out what that Voice Sounds Like.  Anything I add on will either be redundant or busybody advice. Bottom line: writing is not necessarily a conversation. Once it leaves your hands (or IP address), millions of people (in my case, dozens!) will get a chance to take in your words, taste them, chew on them for a while, and then choose whether they want to spit them out or swallow them whole. If you want readers to stick around, give them a narrator worth reading, worth pondering. Does it need to be Truth to be Authentic? I have my doubts.

See, the thing is, the internet will let us say whatever we want. No arguments. No filters.  If I want to tell the world that my Ford Escape was just side-swiped by Stephen Colbert’s Cadillac Escalade as he made a left turn onto North Mountain Avenue, I can. It doesn’t matter that none of those details are true.  Just the possibility that Stephen Colbert could have done it (he lives in my town) is enough. All I need is for a few people to believe it, and suddenly, for those who can’t or won’t or don’t check up on the facts, it is Truth.

In Jesus Christ Superstar, the most fantastic musical* of all time, Pilate asks a weary Jesus  about Truth: Is truth a changing law? We both have truths. Are mine the same as yours? Keeping these lines in mind can be very useful when reading (which any writer – aspiring or established – must do constantly) or writing.  In reading through the posts for Yeah Write over the last several months, I’ve found that it doesn’t have to matter whether something is true or not.  I was not there to witness the authenticity of events described. And had I been, I may have seen things very differently from what the author describes. In personal blog posts, it is the author’s Truth that matters.

And now I’ll backtrack on all that and get up on my soapbox.  Ready?

Perception and memory are utterly subjective.  They are yours, and yours alone. But purposely lying to your readers, as some bloggers have recently pointed out, hurts your relationship with a potential following.  It chips away at the Trust (another capital T word!) readers have for all blogging writers.  Or writing bloggers.  Feeling desperate to get another post out, especially when it’s meant to be in response to a prompt, can bring on some – shall we say – misremembering.  And as prompts get more specific, it can feel claustrophobic for those who haven’t had a lot of practice with checking out a prompt from all of its jaunty angles.

So here’s my challenge to those who wish to attack this week’s prompts: Try some fiction. It’s more work than telling a story about that cray-zee thing that happened in grocery aisle three, but it can also be freeing. I went to fiction last week because none of the prompts brought out an immediate response in my memory banks.  And that’s okay.  The one thing I strongly (auto-correct changed that to sternly) recommend when approaching fiction in a personal blog is to identify it as a work of fiction.  Your readers, and especially your commenters, will appreciate a clear identification at the start of your post.

Sound like a plan?

So, how does one look at prompts when thinking about fiction? How about writing from the perspective of an inanimate object? For this week’s prompts, be the “thing” that makes life livable, the chess piece, the neglected moment. They can all have a voice, a personality. Give emotion to the chess board, feeling the rooks glide over its body – but don’t ever mention that it’s “just” a piece of cardboard. Create an attitude, values, longing, a person. See how that works?  And suddenly you’ve got 50 Shades of Chess.  You’ll make a million dollars on Amazon!

*And that’s the Truth.

Keep in mind that the standards of the yeah write grids still apply. Bring us your very best stuff.  Before submitting a post to the summer writing series, consider whether it’s up to snuff regarding the FAQs and Guides that Erica has provided. If you just can’t stick to the 500-word limit, add your link to the hangout grid.

 

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all your story are belong to you

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  • Read the summer FAQ page for other details: the grid is being moderated and if you’re missing an element outlined in the summer FAQ, your post will not be published on the grid
  • Let the prompt lead you, but do not include the prompt in any way in your post, not at the beginning as an intro, not at the end as a footnote. If you reference the prompt in your post, your post will not be published on the grid
  • Remember: no more than 500 words. If your post exceeds 500 words, yup, you guessed it—no publish for you
  • If the prompt takes you from thunderstorms to watching TV at your grandma’s house to how much you love Pat Sajak to the oldest person you’ve ever kissed, we want that story the furthest away in your imagination from the original prompt. Let your imagination loose
  • Keep your writing style! Do you tell stories with humor? Prose? Verse? Photos? Illustrations? Keep doing that. We’ll read Shakespearean drama on our own time
  • Cut away at everything unnecessary to your story
  • Not ready to add your entry today? Still perfecting and reading other posts? No problem: you’ve got until Thursday at noon EDT [-4GMT]
  • Don’t forget to badge your post
  • Have fun!

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[divider_header_h3] This week’s prompts [courtesy of Tom Slatin] [/divider_header_h3]

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  • What is the one thing you cannot live without?
  • What is your favorite chess piece?
  • What is one thing nobody knows about you because nobody’s ever cared to ask?

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Yeah write #65 summer grid continues…

 


19 Responses to “yeah write #65 summer writer’s series continues: hosted by That Unique* Weblog”

  1. Wonderful food for thought! You may have just made me brave enough to finally tackle a fiction piece! Question: how do you suggest we go about delving into fiction, while still keeping true to our OWN voices? I feel like I’m going to fall down the rabbit hole and wind up far away from ‘me’… Does that makes any sense?

    • You can’t lose your own voice. And you don’t just have one. An easy way to dip in is to choose an even from your life and tell it from the POV of someone else. Have you ever played the game of making up stories while people watching? Try that!

      (Don’t I sound so authoritative? That’s one of my voices.)

      • I cannot wait to try this!! I think I have the right story to start with in mind. And whatwhatwhat? I have more than one voice? Whoa. (blink blink) um. I’m just getting this one figured out, but why the hell not? I’ll try on another pair of heels if it’ll make the whole package look better. ;)

  2. Interesting handling of the subject of authentic voice and the development of it through fiction. I now have the seemingly opposites true voice, fiction, and authentic flirting with each other in my brain. Points to ponder. Ellen

    • I know it doesn’t appeal to everyone – but (see below) I had the feeling some people were having a hard time with the prompts by this third day. What a beautiful flirty dance you’ve described. Your brain must be a fun place!

  3. I wish I had read this before I posted! I was so blocked this week. None of the prompts took me anywhere at first and I thought I would just have to skip. I even thought about doing fiction instead and just accepting that my life was currently boring, but I wasn’t sure how that would be received. I love fiction. I’m in the car 3 hours a day and I spend most of it thinking of stories to keep myself from remembering that I’m in the car 3 hours a day. Your post has inspired me to revive my fiction site this weekend.

    • I wrote this because I saw some TwitterTalk about being blocked. My guess is that the prompts were chosen to challenge some alternate thinking; they aren’t tailored to dredge up specific memories. Even the “gimme” of something no one knows about it is tough to share. To me, that screams FICTION – – but as I’ve said before: Confessional writing doesn’t come easily to me.

      Please share your fiction site with me when you breathe life back into it. I’d love to take a look.

  4. I’m with the others who say fiction is frightening. I’m a classic overthinker. If I’m making it up then it better be spot-on perfect, no? Non-fiction is easiER (note I didn’t say easy). I hope that if my voice can be authentic, people will believe. I’m sure that’s not always the case.

    Very interesting post and good food for thought!

    • Non-fiction is only easier because you are re-telling a story instead of creating a story. The process of writing (ought to) have the same rigor and sharp eye that fiction does. It’s still a story you are putting out into the world.

      And that voice still exists – your voice will be different if you’re telling the time you pooped your pants a little because of the bad rice pudding you ate rather than the time you accepted an award from Betty Crocker for Best Rice Pudding. (I just woke up, and I want good rice pudding.) Both are still yours. Both are authentic.

      Take a look at Erica’s fast and furious post for today – it discusses some of that. Thank you for joining the conversation!

      • I’ve never had rice pudding…

        You make good points. I’m going to think about this. I get bogged down in details. I’m learning to tell necessary from unnecessary ones in the NF but making up details AND making them good ones seems daunting. I’ve always wanted to write fiction but the few attempts I’ve made (a very long time ago) were not met with any positive comments. Not any.

        But I do like a good challenge, so…

  5. Love this. I haven’t written fiction since the 4th grade. OK, fine, I haven’t WRITTEN since the 4th grade. I just started blogging a month ago but am loving the supportive nature of Yeah Write, and you are no exception. Thank you for giving us permission to free ourselves. I’m going to revise my entry about my Double D’s and make them perfect C’s. And if enough people believe me, it. shall. be. TRUE.

    • That wasn’t *quite* the freedom I was going for, but sure! Your blog, your boobs. Does that mean I can make myself a Barely B up from a Barely A? Woohoo!

      I’m glad you see this as supportive. Usually I lose friends and stop influencing people when I start handing out unsolicited advice.

      Wait. Are you being facetious? Oh dear.

  6. Writing fiction scares the bejesus out of me. I’m sure part of it is that I’ve only been blogging for a few months and, before that, I hadn’t written much of anything creative for 20 years.

    I have a great deal of respect for those on the grid, like you last week, who make it look so effortless. I just read your Highlander piece. Well done.

    • It needn’t be scary, but I can see why it might be. For those of us who aren’t great “sharers” in the public sphere, it’s a lot more comfortable than the confessional writing that seems to come easily to so many. That scares me!

      Even when I write about my own life, I often disguise it by using the third person. I wrote about my daughter’s arthritis in that way.

      And just because you write it doesn’t mean you have to share it. This summer’s series is all about challenging yourself and forcing writers’ hands (so to speak). One more comfortable method is to write about your own experience from another person’s perspective. What was Stephen Colbert thinking when he side-swiped me? Hmmmm.

  7. i think fiction is the hardest thing to write. non-fiction i can do (and do every day in my job as a reporter). but i’ve tried fiction, and it just feels unnatural. but i think in blogging it’s a matter of perspective. i have two siblings. if you ask our memory of a specific childhood event, we would have three different versions. none of them is a “lie.” it’s just how we each experienced the event from our perspective.

    • That’s exactly right. We can call it perspective, memory, baggage, hazy childhoods. But really, it’s just subjectivity. And non-fiction has it too, obviously. Beginning with deciding what to write about.

      Just now, listening to Brian Lehrer, and getting enraged with the justifications for cheating at Stuyvesant, I realized that to some people, it was merely explanation – not justification. As a teacher and former dean of security, I see cheating from a narrow context.

      That said, there are blatant lies masquerading as Truths out there. But that’s an entirely different category of blogging. Fictional Memoirs are nothing new either.

      Oh the joys of the human brain!

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