Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Write How You Speak

This is one of those basic concepts of writing that far too many people forget. It's one that I am constantly learning and relearning, myself.

While some pieces are going to demand a specific style - narrative, heavy dialogue, a first-person POV, more - you always hear about "finding your Voice" as a writer. And far too many people stress over that concept. The easiest way to "find your Voice" as a writer is to write like you speak.

Most writers don't talk "jive" or "street," but very few people speak in precise terms and perfectly grammatically correct. Those who do are generally assumed to be arrogant pedants, and often are, so I don't suggest that anyway. One of the most important gifts any writer can develop is an ear for language - how people use it, how they speak, the words they stress and what those emphases indicate - and you need to bring that to your overall writing. Penning good dialogue is incredibly hard and demands such an ear, but if your narrative is stilted or too far removed in style from the dialogue your characters speak, the effect is jarring and uneven to the reader.

The idea is to develop a "Voice" and by that, it means to develop an overall style in how you tell your stories by way of language selection, grammar, and general diction. You've likely noticed your favorite authors repeating certain phrases or concepts in works, or even across many of them, and this is part of what you "hear" when you experience that author's "Voice." It's the way in which the story is told and even if you can change your style dramatically to fit the specific genre in which you are working or the content you are tackling, you have to keep your body of work in mind, as well.

Unless you adopt a pseudonym - but that's a whole other story.

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