Tag Archives: writing

On Writing – Finding One’s Voice

When reading up on writing tips, I found a few articles on how to develop a good character voice. For me, that never felt like my main challenge. Acting classes were an integral part of my personal development (I started at 5 years old and had them for 10 years), so my way into a story is always through the uniqueness of its main character. They come to me with a voice, a persona and a purpose, and the challenge is to do them justice when I transition them from my head to paper. The few ideas that formed as a setting are waiting for their character to show up so I can write them.

I found fewer articles about developing a writer’s voice, which is what I perceive as my personal challenge for a long term career.

A writer’s voice is a writer’s unique style that is recognizable from one work to another. It’s something loyal readers can expect from every book. It shouldn’t overshadow the character’s voice, yet it should be there. For several writers, it’s heavily tied to the genre/family of genres they are known for, though it’s not the only defining element.

Huh…

Lucky those who know which genre they like and can develop an expertise in that. I can’t. My written projects include a bit of everything, so does my bookshelf and my notebook of future projects. Most of my stories contain bits of everything in and of themselves. I sometimes write the story first and figure out the closest genre after a couple of edits –sue me!

So what’s my writer’s voice, then?

I didn’t want to force it, but I wanted to know what it was because I’m a nerd when it comes to introspection and understanding how who I am is reflected in my art.

Also, that could come in handy to give reference points to agents when they ask my writing is similar to whose.

Here’s how I’ve uncovered my voice.

Write and Analyze

The first step is to generate a good amount of work to analyze. Novels, short stories, prompt-inspired or not; what matters is to write. Then, when I edited stories, I paid attention to trends, patterns and differentiating elements.

Drabble Day challenges were especially useful for this. The stories were short so it was easy to analyze them and spot patterns. Since other writers also participated, I could analyze how we had each tackled the theme. As I discerned elements of their voice, I also discerned some of mine.

List Common Grounds

As I analyzed, patterns emerged so I built up a list of them:

  • Character-driven
  • Elements of science-fiction and/or fantasy. I don’t go for a hundred percent realism, but I can come fairly close.
  • Strong female characters
  • I’m funnier than I thought.
  • Recurring themes: stories about different forms of supernatural foresight, characters uncomfortable in their own skin/with their own powers, feminism, identity crisis…

Of course, once I found this my brain came up with a few stories that didn’t touch these common grounds. *sigh* These were still good trends to investigate further.

Read and Analyze

The list helped me stir my reading beyond entertainment or research of the genres I write. I started researching the potential elements of my voice and picked up books that fit one of the elements, maybe two. Books that aren’t quite in my usual top choices, but are adjacent to what I like writing myself.

Whether I liked the book or not, I learned something about myself and which parts of me shine through my writing. It also helped me learn the weaknesses of the way I approach a story (like often forgetting setting descriptions) and find ways to tackle them that work with my voice (melding setting to actions).

Compile

As I read, I tweaked the list and precised it. Some aspects are things I aspire to do right because I found that they mattered to me, to the type of voice I want to have:

  • Wholesome World and Characters a la Kim Harrison: The Hollows series features a great cast of unique characters that each seem to have a life outside of Rachel’s (the MC). The world is well crafted down to key expressions that are unique to her setting. Some of it, like the killer tomato, is quirky and yet works in her serious setting.
  • Sassy quirky fun a la Janet Evanovich: The offbeat characters of the Stephanie Plum series resonate with me. Even in the direst circumstances, they’re hilarious. And the direst circumstances are a little crazy too.

And that’s as far as I got. *laughs* I wish I could tell you that I have all the aspects of my voice and all the pitfalls figured out, but it’ll take me a bit more time and research to get there (if I ever get there.) Also, my voice evolves as I go through the process and refines what really matters to me, and how I want readers to relate to me.

What about you? What elements are defining the way you write?

And if you’ve read some of my stuff, what has jumped out at you as things I should consider as my voice?

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Time Will Never Tell (acapella song)

 

I only vaguely remember what inspired this song.

Some TV show, that classic scene of a doctor telling the main character that “time will tell” if their loved one would make it. A thought burst in my mind: “What a filthy lie! Time doesn’t talk!” And then I had a voice in my head, getting angry at time.

Ten minutes later, I was singing a song, but it felt incomplete. I’ve been toying with it for three years, coming back to the verses cyclically. I wanted it to have a certain pattern, to tell a certain story with a certain level of details.

Lately, I’ve been listening to a bit more progressive music, and it hit me: I needed the pattern and details. I couldn’t put these last verses in because the song doesn’t want need them.

At least I don’t think it does, anymore. You be the judge!

As usual, this is recorded acapella on my phone, so don’t expect full orchestral, studio quality.

Hope you enjoy! Comments and critics always welcome!

Time Will Never Tell

Time will never tell
Where it went
When it covered its tracks with your smile.

No, it’ll never tell me.

Time will never tell
Where it flew
While we swapped stories about our scars.

No, it’ll never tell me.

So where does it get the right?
Why should I wait for it to tell me
If we can fix this?

And will it stand still at last?
Will it stay here for you because you need it
Just like I need you?

I’ll be here by your side
Getting you to your next breath
I promise I won’t cry much
I would mortgage my soul
To borrow hours for you to heal
And I’ll kill time before it runs out on us

So listen to me, Time
Listen to my plea
‘cause if you come for him
There’ll be nothing distracting me
From tracking you down
From haunting you ‘round the clock
From stalking all your seconds
All your tic and all your toc
So do us all a favor
And tell me he’ll be fine

I’ll be here by your side
Getting you to your next breath
I promise I won’t cry much
I would mortgage my soul
To borrow hours for you to heal
And I’ll kill time before it runs out on us


Butterfly (acapella song)

Several months ago, I was discussing lyrics with an industrial singer-musician who’s interested in having me write for her. Though it’s sometimes tricky to pinpoint where inspiration comes from, in this particular case, the creative leaps came from the following facts:

  • She mentioned wanting to explore symbolism and mysticism.
  • She’s German, and before I left for Hamburg last year, my Quebec NaNoWriMo group started calling me Schmetterling (Butterfly.)
  • Depending of the culture, a butterfly symbolizes positive metamorphosis, the cycle of reincarnation, and the soul.

I wrote the song in a few minutes, and realized that another element had joined the mix: with any transformation, there’s a sense of fragility, and the result is uncertain. Metamorphosis is a leap of faith.

The resulting song doesn’t quite fit the “industrial” aesthetics, but it was a good exercise to get ideas flowing. Like most lyrics I write outside of a specific music project, these came with a singing melody. You’ll find the acapella phone recording below, and the complete lyrics just under that.

Hope you enjoy! Comments and critics always welcome!

Butterfly

Butterfly
He called me
Butterfly
I thought he spoke of my elegance
As I soared on by

Butterfly
He called me
Butterfly
He thought of the sweet fragrance
Of a soul to suck dry

Butterfly
Am I a
Butterfly?
When a new flame beckons
Will I burn again?

Butterfly
You called me
Butterfly
I thought you saw the torn
Membrane of my wings

Butterfly
You called me
Butterfly
You thought of a beauty born
Of needles and pins

Butterfly
Am I a
Butterfly?
When a new flame beckons
Will I burn again?


Squandered Hopes (a Poem)

Yesterday, I mentioned that a potential music project is having a ripple effect on my writing. Today, I share how. 😉

One of my shiny new friends growls and screams in a death metal band. He heard some snippets of my singing (from opera to jazzy), and now we’re discussing a collaboration for a melodic/funeral/doom/death recording project. Will it amount to anything? *shrug* All I know is that there’s a guitarist somewhere composing a tune.

Since we may end up writing lyrics together, my friend and I have been sending each other writing samples, and I’ve been experimenting to find what my lyricist voice is (much like I’ve experimented with my writing voice before, which reminds me that I have the skeleton of a post on that somewhere…) Some of the lyrics he sent me last week struck a chord, so I sat down and wrote my take on the subject and themes.

What came out seems like a poem to me, more than lyrics. That’s okay. It’s an interesting mental exercise to compare his piece and mine, and will certainly help align our writing later.

In the meantime, I’ve made a quick recording of myself reciting the piece. I think it’s better enjoyed that way, but you’ll also find the complete text below the SoundCloud player. 😉

 

Squandered Hopes

A wind across the arid plains of a heart bared too soon
Dust stirring with memories of caresses yet to come
The fleeting suggestion of a kindred spirit’s tune
Shattered on the craters of promises undone

The words haunting my mind, wings of flightless birds
Delusions of actions you never meant to take
Deception wrapped in beauty, my disillusion girds;
My heart may be weak, but yours will never wake

I caught glimpses of depth in the pool of your eyes
You never stared long enough to see its reflection
Every time I reached out, you hastened your demise
The discontent you spill can’t drown my desolation

May the breeze that roused me carry you away
Out of sighs, out of binds, out where your blinds may break
I doubt you’ll ever see how you’ve led yourself astray
My heart may be bleak, but yours will never wake.

 

As usual, comments and constructive criticism are welcomed!


WeWriWa – Boys…

wewriwa_button

Hi everyone,

I’m participating in the Weekend Writing Warrior, a weekly blog event during which writers share 8 to 10 sentences of one of their projects. You should check out the others right here: http://www.wewriwa.com/. I share this post with the Snippet Sunday Facebook group, which you can find here.

We’re back with another excerpt from my steampunk novel, Oil and Boiling Water (previous excerpts are compiled here). We pick up right after last week’s snippet. Damian is replying to Éloi’s statement that he only meant to preserve Tatiana’s piece of mind.

“Of course,” Damian said to Éloi and extended a shilling. “Here. For your trouble.”
The shine of metal drew envious looks as Éloi pocketed the money, and I realised that my fear had been justified: we looked a little too proper for the establishment and some tenants had noticed.
“You may have made my fortune.” Éloi nodded to indicate the dice table. “Very generous! And she’s too charming to be any trouble.”
“Right…” Damian chuckled and sat.


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