These aren’t tips or exercises, they’re tricks because surprise, they don’t really work; not on their own, anyway. Instead they trick you into thinking voice is a to-do list away.
Actually, it’s easy to develop voice. Time plus writing equals voice.
Voice is a journey more than a thing. It’s a quest and a longing. When you finally reach it, and write something as brilliant as a reflection of your soul, and then read it the next day and wonder who hacked your computer and replaced your magnum opus with drivel, then you realize that voice is a creature of rabbit holes. We’re always chasing after it. It changes as we change. We write, make mistakes, grow wiser, and try again; each time reflecting a little bit more of who we are with our words.
Strive to put yourself on paper. That’s voice. Release your inhibitions! Yes! Fly free!
That’s voice. Whoever you are and however you write, be you.
Sometimes you have to chase after it, so how about 6 tricks to help catch it?
1. Sing out loud, but not like the singer
Turn on some tunes and sing along, but whatever you do, don’t emulate the singer – don’t try to sound like them – instead, bust it from deep in your gut and see what comes out. Sing like no one’s listening; be vulnerable. Make the song your own. Keep the beat but experiment with tone and syncopation. Become used to being yourself no matter how far off key you might be, and if you’re a good singer, then show ’em what for! Don’t worry about sounding like the singer. Bet they can’t write like you.
2. Wait. Then keep waiting.
Patience is a virtue because if it weren’t, then no one would bother. What good is patience? Who actually likes to wait? Alas, patience lets us look back on our mistakes without judging ourselves too harshly. It offers an objective view of what we’ve done and how to make it better. So keep writing; write, write, write, no matter what. As Jennifer Jenkins, author of Nameless once said at a Magic & Mayhem book signing, “Let yourself write poop.”
3. Try different styles and extremes
Oooh, ever rage write? Yeah, just go nuts? Anyone ever nickname you F-Bomb? No? Just me? Huh. Okay, well here’s how it goes: first, turn down the lights – this is essential (people are less inhibited in the dark) – and then write like you’ve never written before! Literally. Try something totally, fantastically new. Write sultry, tawdry, angry, bubbly, deviously cold or gushingly warm; whatever you’re not used to. You should feel a little naughty or even a bit embarrassed; it’s okay. Experiment. Don’t just push your boundaries, shove them off the f-bombing cliff.
4. Narrate out loud and then transcribe
This little trick is all too often lost in the modern world. With backspace, delete, and cut-and-paste at our fingertips, we can pretty much transcribe our thoughts onto paper in near real time. But man oh man, can I fixate on what I just wrote. I am the ultimate fixator. Seeing all those words makes me want to go back and immediately fix them; during which, my word count grabs a lawn chair and a margarita and laaauuughs. Instead, talk it out and let it flow. Here’s a compromise for the recording impaired – don’t worry about recording, but speak your story all the same while driving or cooking or showering or scuba diving. By definition, your brain will be working differently and you might surprise yourself with what comes out of the ol’ pie hole.
5. Make a list of what makes you, you, and let your writing reflect that
Ambitious, optimistic, realistic, trusting, coyly subversive and occasionally naive. I’m not perfect, but I’m a perfect me. Who are you? Why? What are your innate qualities, and which memories do you associate with those feelings? Jot it all down. Do a bit of self-discovery. Find out what makes you tick and include some of the strongest real-life examples of when you felt that way the most. Nurture those qualities in your writing. Voice entails exaggerating the best and worst of those traits in your characters, so dig deep and find out more about you than you care to know. Unleash the demons.
Yup. Went there. Dropped the ‘o’ word. Outlines stink. They take all the fun out of writing. It’s not prose; it’s hardly the acme of creativity; heck, it’s not even a rough draft. It’s the tube socks and underwear of birthday presents. It’s boring. True confession? I always wound up wearing those socks and underwear. Thanks, Grandma. Mm’yeah, outlines aren’t always the most fun – how often when working on one do we want to just forget about it and get back to writing, like, paragraphs and full sentences and stuff? But outlining, story-boarding, diagramming, flow-charting (new verb alert!) all help to see where the story is going, develop plot twists, deepen foreshadowing, and strengthen characters, and with that, comes comfort in knowing what to write, right now, because you know where you’re going. When you’re comfortable, you’re more likely to be yourself. You’ll still sweat blood getting it all out, but it’ll be with a secure smile on your face.
On that rather gruesome note, hopefully these tricks will provide some extra fuel for the journey of voice. Do you have any tricks for developing voice? Any tips, exercises, or full on suggestions? How do you define voice? How did you feel when you first discovered your true writing voice, and how do you maintain it? Leave your insights in the comments!