I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a little nuts about reading how-to books. I’ve received a new one, just today, called “Finding Your Voice: How to put personality in your writing” by Les Edgerton. So far, so good. I’m on page 19 and already I’ve run across some wonderful advice.
He has a theory about “natural voice” in which he says (on page 4), “…readers select certain authors to read in much the same way as they select their personal friends: on the basis of the ‘voice’ (personality) of that person. All human beings in the world have a circle of people who like them and want to be around them…and they also have folks who don’t like them all that much. The same is true of an author’s readership. They are the ‘friends’ he or she will accumulate.”
I can’t disagree with this statement, because I believe it. I read authors because I like the way they write. And if given the chance to get to know any of those authors, I’m sure I would like most of them. :-)
It’s very rare for me to enjoy reading only one book by an author, but not enjoy any others, and vice-versa. If I’ve had trouble reading one book by someone, usually I’ll have trouble reading the author’s other books too.
I also think that’s why voice is so important. It’s unique, it’s you. It’s your one chance to make an impression on someone, to let them know just what kind of person you are–for good or ill!
On page 19, Edgerton says, “…how you achieve your own voice is governed largely by the words you select to place on the page. When you select the only word you feel fits in a particular sentence, then you’ve made your choice–a choice many others wouldn’t have made–and the accumulation of those choices is largely what determines your own style.”
I know this, but it was nice to hear it so neatly explained. It also sheds light on an incident I had with another writer a few years ago about the use of the word “pervaded.” I wanted that word in my story. It was the exact word I felt it needed. She wasn’t fond of it, and she thought I should use a different word. Of course, it was my book, so I won the debate. :-) But the point is that she wasn’t wrong. And I wasn’t wrong either. She was just unknowingly trying to get me to rewrite something in her voice, instead of staying true to my own.
I like “pervaded,” just like I like lots of other words that aren’t words she likes. That’s what makes us different, and that’s what makes our stories unique and our voices our own. Our plots may end up similar (haven’t yet–but you never know what someday might bring!), and if they do, our stories will still end up totally different, because of our voices.
So why am I reading this book?
Because I can’t trust myself to trust my own voice. I’m hoping this book has the tips I need to learn that trust. :-) Wish me luck!