Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Voice Lessons

Today's prompt on the BlogHer NaBloPoMo site is: "Do you feel you have found your voice on your blog? What techniques have you tried to develop your voice in your writing? What are some characteristics of your personality in your writing?"

"Voice shape" by Jacob Whittaker

Answer to first question: Hell yes. I've said it over and over again. When I tried to write short stories, I couldn't develop a credible character. I started writing a cheesy mystery romance novel once. My husband read the first few chapters and said: "She's you." I said "She is not!" He said "she's in graduate school for comparative literature and she's of Polish descent." I said "shut up, she has different coloured hair and she's plucky and confident." He said "isn't this other character just your Irony Professor?" I said "I hate you." 

I wrote two short stories in six years that I thought were not terrible. I sent one to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I got a very nice rejection letter from the editor that said the prose style was interesting but he just couldn't get into the subject matter, which should have been encouraging, but I was stuck for more subject matter. I didn't know WHAT I wanted to write about. Also, the story made everybody who read it, including my husband, think that I didn't want children, which was a bit of a concern for him since we were trying to get pregnant at the time. I said "fuck OFF, not every character is me!" I proceeded to have a kid or two and not endeavour to get them kidnapped or killed, so I think by now he's probably convinced.

I kept trying to write short stories, but it didn't work. I couldn't work up a character, and if I did I couldn't get them from the kitchen to the laundry room without everything being painfully awkward - it was like my writing took them all out at the knees - "I want to be a good protagonist but these tortured similes won't let me move forward!"

I became aware of blogging at some point, and I thought it was ridiculous. Who would be colossally arrogant enough to put their diary on the internet, and if they did, who would possibly care to read it? I believe I said the words "I will never have a blog" on more than one occasion. On the other hand, I was more and more aware that all my friends would say they loved getting emails from me because they were so smart and funny and entertaining, and when I asked them to read my short stories they would read them and say "hey, your last email was so smart and funny and entertaining, and here, I made you some cookies."

So then I thought, hmm, if I started a blog, it would kind of be like writing emails to the world. And since I couldn't possibly be any less successful as a writer than I already was, I gleefully tossed my principles to the wind and googled "how to start a blog". Whenever I read my short stories over, I'm in an agony of cringing mortification. When I reread my blog posts, I'm generally thinking "goddamn, I really am quite amusing." I haven't written the Great Canadian Anything. My readership is small (but kickass). Sometimes I've done nothing but given myself and one other person a quick laugh for the day. It feels like a kind of success.

Answer to the second question: Uh, none really. I signed up for daily writing prompts from Sarah Selecky. They come to my inbox every day and I dutifully open them up and look at them and stick them in a folder. I think of NaBloPoMo as kind of a good technique to encourage my voice, in the same way that drinking half a bottle of vodka is a good technique to encourage my head into the toilet; sometimes you just have to force yourself to do it.

Answer to the third question: Overuse of dashes, undue reliance on the word 'totally' and a lot of swearing - I like to throw in a little unanticipated repetition, e.g. 'jesus jesus fuck' or "son of a bitching bitching bitch", or maybe mix it up a little with an unusual combination like 'rabbit-humping whore-douche' or 'jack-bitching anus-hat'. 

Sorry. I felt like things were getting a little earnest there. 


Hannah said...

"Jack-bitching anus-hat" made me laugh and laugh and laugh.

I love this. I'm impressed that you took a BlogHer writing prompt and turned it into a great post that taught me a lot about you AND made me smile. Usually I find their writing prompts so painfully earnest that I can't be bothered.

Nicole said...

If you hadn't started a blog, we would have never met! That would have been terrible. I bookmarked several of your posts and I read them when I'm feeling blue. They always make me happy.

Steph Lovelady said...

I don't know if this falls under the category of voice, but I think it does. One thing I like about your blog is how honest it is. There's so much I leave out of mine, though I guess there's probably stuff you leave out of yours, too. How would I know? But specifically, it seems brave to me how you post about depression.

Lynn said...

With Hannah - I laughed and laughed. Best blog post ending EVAH.

So very happy you started a blog. It's a highlight of my life!

Collette Harris said...

Lol, from the title I thought this was going to be about Eve's singing lessons. Btw, I love your blog. It has made me chuckle, smile, guffaw, and occasionally cry. Don't tell anyone about that last one. I'm going for a tough bitch image.

Julie L said...

goddam, you really are quite amusing.

Sarah said...

Ooh, I loved reading this!

Mary Lynn said...

Hahaha...I love this post. I do horribly at writing fiction, too. I can't get inside of anyone else's head. But blogging's perfect because it only ever has to be from the point of view of my own silly little head. I can do that!

slow panic said...

Giving someone a laugh during the day -- especially yourself -- is a huge accomplishment. So glad you are blogging.