Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Guest Blog by Normandie Fischer

Normandie Fischer, writer and editor

My favorite comments from the latest contest judges concerned my writing voice -- hugely encouraging. But they got me thinking about voice and how we learn it -- or if we learn it at all. Is the cadence of our writing bred into us like the language of our tongues?

I don't pretend to have an answer to that. I write, I've always written, the way I hear language. Yesterday I spent some hours revisiting an old story with Maryland's Eastern Shore as the backdrop. There I heard a different tone from my Beaufort stories, a different word patterning. The cadence of the South, which permeates conversation and thought as well as observation, fixes itself into the words of the Beaufort folk. Does that mean I as author see things differently when I'm in different places?

I think it does. I think the me who wrote from Mexico had images pressed into my mind that were slower, drier, perhaps friendlier. They held whiffs of deep sea and large expanses of open water and empty land, of mountains plunging toward the sea and whales cavorting off our bow.

The me who writes here in NC feels more confined to place. I'm no longer surrounded by the lilt or clip of foreign tongues or by the lazy days at anchor. Here, the world seems populated with issues that need to be solved, tempers that must be assuaged, emotions that must have reason...if only I could plumb deeply enough to discover them. Here, I'm awash in a world of care, which must translate somehow into the words I use to craft stories. (Or the ones I pluck from the moment to write on this blog.)

What are your thoughts on voice and writing? Do you think you've learned the voice with which you write, or is it merely you as you've always written on paper (or screen)? Please post a comment and let me know.


Linda Glaz said...

Great, now I'm not sure. I always felt as if the characters lead my voice. How I viewed them, thought about them, and where they seemed to be going.

Donn Taylor said...

Good post, Normandie. My voice varies with the situation. In poetry, it takes on the voice of the speaker of the poem. In first-person fiction it takes on the personality of the narrator. In third-person suspense fiction it becomes more objective. In military staff papers, I imitated the voice of the officer on whose responsibility the paper would be published. So I really don't know if I have a personal voice. Maybe my wife knows.

Normandie Fischer said...

Linda, don't you think there's a difference between the voice you hear in your head spoken by your character and the voice that is you -- the one formed by who you are and how you perceive your world? Perhaps in this case, voice has more to do with style: how does our writing style contribute to our writer's voice?

If not, wouldn't our writing voice change as we create the villain or the hero as opposed to the child or the heroine?

It seems to me that your voice is more humorous than mine. More edgy. Is that merely from your characters or does it flow from your worldview, touched also by the place from which you write, which could include the where, but would, I think, also include something of how you perceive yourself, your attitude toward life, your place in the world.

Does that makes sense?