Monday, April 26, 2010

CC Askew; the Writer's Voice

Rabbit Moon by Christopher Conn Askew. Askew was a tattoo artist for 16 years before bringing his style to other mediums. There is nothing in his gallery that I don't love. Clean lines, attention to detail, Japanese-inspired style, compositions and colors that draw the eye and hold them. This isn't disposable art; this is simply amazing.


Another blogger was talking about the "writer's voice." She ended up being a bit vague about it, and I'm not going to fault her for it. This may be the most difficult thing to teach budding writers. I can talk to you about sentence structure (clunky vs. elegant, for instance), I can go into dialogue tags, editing, the amount and kind of detail a scene requires to put the reader in the scene without weighing them down with unnecessary information. But when it comes to the writer's voice, how to teach that?

When I had built a bit of a fanbase, I decided to try anonymous competitions. I wanted to see if I was getting attention based on name-recognition alone, or if my work really stood up compared to others. Readers had no problems picking mine out. In fact, sometimes it's the reviewers who point out things that make a piece "mine." Things that I didn't even realize, consciously, that I was doing. One of these is the voice. I don't think that a piece written by me would be mistaken for a piece written by someone else.

But how do I do this, and how do I know when others are not doing it? Some pieces lack so much in the execution that there are obvious flaws to point to. But other pieces are fine... Fine, sure, but they still lack something. What is it? A lot of the time, I think it's that voice, particular to them. It's not there. It's a piece with a generic voice that could've been written by anyone. And it falls flat.

So does voice = style? I don't think so, but they must be related. Unfortunately, I know I'm not being any more specific than the writer I referenced at the beginning of this, but she did state an intriguing bit of information: that, supposedly, your true voice doesn't cement itself until you've written 100,000 words. I'm not even sure this is an iron-clad statement. I know writers who have written far above that and still can't claim a specific voice. And as someone who's written well above that number (probably several times above it, at least), I think my voice changes depending on the piece, depending on the time of day, depending on my mood.

And that is the definitive answer to the "writer's voice." ;)


Rabbit moon -- to war.
Ask Owl to take the word,
A letter -- we charge.

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