Ah, voice. Voice is this slippery elusive weird thing that writers need to be good at. You might recall that I recently summarised my experience at this year’s Perth Writers Festival and concluded above all other points that developing a voice was so essential to fiction writing.
In yet another “the universe throws its stuff at you and you can’t help but notice” moment, voice has been all around me the past week or so. A book-loving friend pointed me in the direction of this rather distressing Christopher Hitchens piece on voice – in which (among sadder parts) he muses on the link between your speaking voice and your writing voice, and again emphasises how important it is to find your voice. A few days later, my writer friend Kristan linked up to a post by screenwriter John August on writing the way you speak which was also inspired by the Christopher Hitchens piece, and said a lot of what I’d been thinking since then, but a bit more eloquently. (So you might as well go and read all that first, then come back. Because I know all you readers have oodles and oodles of free time to go read everything I suggest …!)
So, voice. At the moment, I can’t figure out if I don’t like the fiction I’ve written because it sounds too much like me or not enough like me. How can a writer really read their fiction as if it’s not theirs, and figure out if there’s actually one of these mysterious voices there or not? Putting stuff away in the metaphorical drawer for as long as possible seems to help me a little, but even when I do that and I “enjoy” something I’ve written, I can’t tell you why it works, or what about the chapter or story seems to go together to actually make a “voice”.
Voice works well enough for me (most of the time) when I’m blogging – especially on my travel blog (Not A Ballerina; shameless plug). When I’m blogging I do actually feel like I’m speaking to people, that this is more or less my speaking voice (a bit more casual on my travel blog – like I’m chatting in a hostel, perhaps – and perhaps a touch more formal over here, because fiction writing seems a more academic subject to me). But this is not the voice I want to express in my novels. Or am I trying to be too serious when I write fiction?
… Anyway, I’ve sat on this post for a couple of days, hoping to come to some meaningful conclusions about my fiction writing voice. Alas, I have not. Basically, all I’ve done is identify (for the trillionth time) that voice is important. Whether or not I have a good one remains to be seen. Perhaps the forces of the universe that got me thinking about this topic could actually send me some stuff that resolves it? I will be waiting.