[header_box_1 title=”yeah write summer writer’s series, part 2!”]
Week Two: writing in your authentic voice
This week’s prompts are at the very end of this post. Please welcome our second guest editor Bill Dameron who tweets as @wcdameron and blogs at The Authentic Life. You can also find him in his new digs at The Huffington Post. 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.
[divider_header_h3] Hello! Is it you you’re looking for? [/divider_header_h3]
A year after he died I was determined to visit Dad’s graveside and tell him who I was: disclosure and closure. I searched the cemetery for hours in tears looking for his tombstone. While I knew exactly where he was buried, I couldn’t find him. Later I learned that my brother had neglected to order the headstone. Even in death, my father never could say goodbye.
This is an excerpt from one of my blog posts. After reading this, my friend Judy left a comment I cherish:
I could hear your voice while reading this.
Judy has known me for fifteen years. She knows when I speak, I use my hands and that my voice gets soft when I am serious. But she couldn’t see my hands or hear my voice when she read my blog post. What this comment implied was my story resonated with her. It was expressed simply and realistically as if I were speaking to a friend. It was my thoughts, my language and my opinions told in a way that was uniquely me. It was authentic.
Finding your authentic voice is not difficult because you already have it. Translating this to an authentic writing voice simply takes practice. If you want people to hear your voice when they are reading your words, follow these steps:
When you speak to your friends, do you pause so they can Google the words you have used? Of course you don’t. Use the same type of language when writing that you use when you speak. This does not mean that you can’t fancy things up a bit and throw in a large word every now and then, but that should be the exception. Be parsimonious with the big words. (Did you catch what I did there?) If you use too many large or rarely used words, your audience will think you are trying too hard and are being pompous.
On the other end of the scale, you also need to triple-check for grammar and punctuation errors. While writing for yourself, you’re still writing for an audience and you do not have a free pass on getting it right.
Reveal your thoughts
My friends are not mind readers. Sometimes I need to tell them what I am feeling. There is a big difference between saying “I searched the cemetery for hours” and “I searched the cemetery for hours in tears.” I have added just a couple more words but it expresses the frustration and sadness that I was feeling. This adds to the story and helps the reader identify with me.
No matter what my husband Paul tells me, I am not perfect. I hate to break your bubble, but you are not either. The good news? When you write about yourself and expose your flaws, people will empathize with you and recognize a bit of themselves in your story. But don’t be a Debbie Downer. No one likes to be around people who are constantly tough on themselves.
Make a point
If you ramble and people don’t find you interesting in real life, they are not going to read your blog. Be clear. Cut out the unimportant stuff. Writing gives you the opportunity to edit yourself and add a few metaphors and little surprises in a way that speaking does not. You’re taking the time to share your personal experiences and, at the end of the story, the reader should not be left wondering what you were trying to say.
Vary your emotions
Have you noticed when some people speak, you become tired just listening to them? And when certain others are talking, it seems as if all of the air has been sucked out of the room? Monotony kills. Some of the best writing employs a variety of emotions. I have found that juxtaposing humor with sadness gives the reader a much needed break.
Dolly Parton’s quote in Steel Magnolias is famous because it is real: “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion”. Let your writing show how multi-dimensional you can be.
Find your beginning
Find an author who inspires you. You can practice writing in the same style in order to find your authentic writing voice. But, remember: you are not that writer and that writer is not you. Think of your words as the human body—a beautiful composition of microscopic organisms that has evolved into a single, unique entity. No one else can be who you are. Your writing should reflect that.
[header_box_1 title=”yeah write #65 writing prompts”]
all your story are belong to you
- 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!
[divider_header_h3] This week’s prompts [courtesy of Tom Slatin] [/divider_header_h3]
- 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?
Yeah write #65 summer grid is open…