by April Erwin
George Washington never told a lie. Abe Lincoln was honest as he was long. February has us honoring both great men’s birthdays as well as President’s day to honor our fearless leaders. Seems like Truth and Honesty rate as high this month as True Love.
Why bring that up? Because those things are also the key to finding your true voice.
Have you been told you need to find your ‘voice’? Maybe so many times you want to throw your laptop out a window? I feel for you.
First let’s talk about what ‘voice’ is. Ginny Wiehardt had this to say on Fictionwriting.about.com
Definition: Voice has two meanings as it concerns creative writers:
- Voice is the author's style, the quality that makes his or her writing unique, and which conveys the author's attitude, personality, and character; or
- Voice is the characteristic speech and thought patterns of a first-person narrator; a persona. Because voice has so much to do with the reader's experience of a work of literature, it is one of the most important elements of a piece of writing.
Although both parts are important, for our discussion today, we’re focusing on the first part of the definition - that hard to put your finger on thing, the je ne sais quoi of a writer’s work that makes it uniquely theirs, the IT factor.
When I started writing Dysfunction Junction, I began with what I knew. I was comfortable writing in third person omniscient, often from at least two points of view. It’s also what I was used to reading in general.
I struggled over those first few chapters. They didn’t sound or feel right. Prayer finally brought me to the decision to try First Person present tense, limited. That would mean everything unfolded as it happened, and it all had to be through the eyes of Kianna, the main character. Funny how something that should have felt so limiting, actually freed the story immensely.
There was the first part of the lesson I learned: Be willing to consider something new. Don’t be afraid to step outside your normal boundaries.
That step outside also scared me. Sure first person is becoming more common, but present tense is still not very common, especially in this genre. All the articles and blog posts I had read about studying your market and genre kept floating through my mind. As writer’s we’re encouraged to be unique, different, stand out from the crowd – but don’t rock the boat too much, it’s best to stay within what’s common for your market.
I’m not saying that’s always wrong or even poor advice. We’re creative people and we need some tethers to ground us at times. That said, when you’ve weighed your options, prayed about it and feel God's leading in certain direction – THAT’S the advice to take.
So is finding your tense all there is to finding your voice? I wish! If it were that simple, there wouldn’t be so much discussion about finding the elusive beast. Your voice comes into play when you put you in your writing. Point of view, no matter which you choose, gives you a frame for the picture, a direction to take, but it requires your personal spark to bring it to life.
That was the second part of the lesson I learned: Get personal – and honest - with you. You’ve most likely created a strong background for your character. You know her personality traits, her looks, job, likes and dislikes. Now it’s time to immerse yourself in the character’s shoes and live their life.
That’s how a story comes to life and a character’s voice rings true. Honesty, truth, love and all the different facets of life they encompass. Readers identify with Kianna for a lot of things – size, faith, friends, family, and dysfunction – but what makes that all connect is the honesty in her character. The reader sees it all. They see and hear her feelings, her insecurities, and her mistakes as well as how she thinks and prays about them. Her Emotional Voice is as important as her Technical Voice or POV such as First person or Third Person. If the reader can’t connect with the character, then the character hasn’t reached their full potential and you may lose your readers interest.
Emotional honesty comes from within you as a writer. Sure, it may be fiction, and you aren’t your character. But your emotions, and how you as the writer feels about your character’s situation, that has to be how you truly feel. There is where you finally add that elusive little bit that makes it YOUR voice.
There are plenty of stories about plus-sized women or women that struggle with body image. Comedic love stories are thick in the market. Spousal abuse, the desire to be a song writer, being cynical about love or even searching for true love certainly aren’t new themes. So why did Dysfunction Junction finally get a contract after so long? I found my voice. I opened my heart and put it all in to the story. When I practiced my faith and gave way to the emotions, everything became real, and so did the voice.
You may wonder how I knew I’d found my voice. That sometimes can be a little elusive as well. One, I had reader feedback. They were excited! The story they had liked all along, had come to life. Second, not only were my readers saying it, I finally felt like I’d found my voice. But as Paul said in Hebrews chapter 11, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I put my faith in action and trusted that newly given self-assurance. It paid off.Finding your voice is a process, a journey to the center of you. You have a unique voice; one God gave only to you. It’s time to dig a little deeper and set it free. Get ready for an adventure.
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Twenty-six and never been kissed. That's about to change...
Finding true love these days feels impossible to Kianna Ravencamp, only dysfunction surrounds her. She dreams of true love and a family, but she’s never even been kissed. For the first time in her life, she will have to navigate dating and flirtation. Will her inexperience be her downfall? Letting go and trusting God is the only answer that brings the path to real love and success.
April website: http://aprilerwin.com/