"Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning."
As writers, we hear a lot about Voice. When I first heard this term, I admit I stumbled. What was voice? It seems to be a bit of an indefinable thing. I once heard an editor say that she didn't know how to describe it, but she knew it when she saw it. After some reading, some writing, and some experience, I thought I had it all figured out. Recently, I learned for myself just how distinct voice is.
We could talk about all kinds of voices--character voices, genre voices, etc--but I'm going to focus on "style" voice. (For examples of varying voice, check out this post by Carolyn V.) I read a book recently that emulated another author's work. It was very well done and I have no complaints. However, I often found myself noticing subtle differences. A character could speak or act exactly as they always spoke or acted and yet it was just slightly...off. This was a powerful epiphany for me.
No matter how well done--no one can say it like you can.
You can use the same character--the name, the mannerisms, the setting--but without your voice, it isn't the same at all. Some authors can get pretty darn close, but a reader who's invested in your story, in your character, will always be able to spot the differences.
I don't highlight this to insult or demean the efforts of any person or work--far from it. I chose to write about this because of how powerful the idea was behind it. So many writers (myself included) have a tendency to compare themselves to others. We see another person's ability to weave words, to create authentic characters, to entrench us in setting, and we believe ourselves lesser. We might even think that if we handed our manuscript over, they'd make it sparkle and shine when we couldn't manage to scrub off a layer of dust.
This just isn't true. There will always be those more or less talented than we are, those who are further along the path or those trying to catch up. Those "stops" on the road aren't indications of skill, they're markers of amassed knowledge. We all have to learn. For some of us, learning takes longer than others. (I feel like it will take forever!)
Let's just say that learning is like going to a hardware store. Some people have more tools in their baskets and some people (like me) linger in the aisles before they can get to the check-out. Voice is what you do with the tools once you've bought them. Someone might build their story with a regular hammer and nails. Other's might have a nifty nail-gun. And then you might end up like me and grope for the end of a heavy screwdriver to batter that puppy into place. :)
The point is, at the end of the day, all three methods get the job done. Someone else could write your story for you--but they won't use the tools you will. Only you will know if a particular character needs a the driving force of a power tool or the more gentle tap of a rubber mallet. Your story was born in your head, your heart, and you know it better than you think you do. Trust that. Be willing to believe in it.
Because no matter how well someone else could build your story, no one can say it like you can.
Until next time,