Voice


Twenty or so years ago, voice was the "right of passage" into a successful writing career. Young writers were told that they should write until they developed their voice. The way to do this was to simply write (and read) as much as possible, having others read your work and comment on it, until your voice became distinct from others. The evidence to support this theory was generally drawn from the body of work of successful writers. Everyone agreed that you could read a Hemingway story, for instance, without factual evidence that the story was written by Hemingway, and recognize it as his work because of his distinctive voice. Faulkner provided an even clearer example of this philosophy. In more recent years, the notion that one must discover a unique voice has become a secondary issue as any number of successful writers have demonstrated that they can write in more than one narrative voice.

Nevertheless, a narrative voice that sounds like it could be anyone's voice or is bland and boring, or riddled with pointless clichés will fail to capture and hold the reader's attention. And a voice that is inconsistent will tend to confuse the reader about the narrator's attitude toward his/her characters and the story that is being told.

NOTE: It is quite common for writers in the early stages of their careers to imitate the writers they are reading or admire most. Often we are not even aware that we are doing this when we write.

For today's exercise, you're to locate a relatively long descriptive passage in a short story or novel that you enjoy, and write a blatant imitation. Follow the sentence structure and syntax word for word. Do this exercise for as many different writers as you can. You should write at least 250 words each time you do this exercise.



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