Friday, February 11, 2011

Voice (Part 2): A Change in Tone

In Part 1 of this discussion, we talked about finding your 'voice' and how who we are in reality affects the way we write and the tone our stories take on. But what about when something happens in our lives?

It can be simple, like moving or switching jobs/careers to something huge like losing a loved one. We go through things that change us not only on the outside, but on the inside as well. It happens to all of us at one point or another...Such is life. We live, we breathe, and we grow up. Older. Wiser. (sometimes both)

These things change us. Nobody is the same now as when they were younger. If that was true, I'd be desperately in love with Johnathon Taylor Thomas and still believe the moon was made of cheese. The stuff I've gone through has turned me into who I am now and I know that will probably change ten, fifteen years from now. I'll still be me--nobody really changes so drastically that there is no trace of who they started off as--but new experiences will take its toll on your personality.

For example: I used to believe in love at first sight. Oh yes, that Your-Eyes-Meet-Across-A-Crowded-Room-And-You-Know-He/She-Is-The-One type love. Every time one of my girlfriends gushed over how her latest guy was 'the one' I would gush right along with her. And I gushed sincerely. As I grew older, things happened, and I came to realize (ok I was jaded) that isn't always that great. Sometimes it sucks. If you were to read the things I wrote throughout my teen years compared to now, you would definitely notice a difference, and it's because of what I went through. Not only did my mindset change, but so did I.

I could list dozens of situations like this that could affect your writing voice.

Loss can play an important role in your life. You lose a loved one, lose your home, lose in love. Those things can change a person. What if you lived a sheltered life? And suddenly you're living on your own with no help from anyone.

Maybe when you first started writing you swore you'd stick with it no matter what--even if you were broke and living off fifty cent boxes of mac and cheese--you were a writer and by God you were going to be published! Then you fell in love and suddenly it's not just you who's eating those cheap dinners or struggling to keep the heat on in that little apartment of yours. So you put your writing on hold to get a 'real' job. Years may pass by before you put pen to paper again and by that time you're ten years older with a small passel of munchkins that look like you. Suddenly, you no longer feel like writing those gory tales you used, or those slightly naughty stories ;) but instead something those little ones can enjoy. (When they learn to read.)

Now, there is also genre jumping. (not sure if it's a coined term but I like it) like the example above. You start writing one genre and then switch to another--that's something a little different. A genre is something you enjoy writing--you're good at it and you want to keep doing it. Your voice is the way you write it. Your voice is the one thing that stays pretty much the same no matter what genre you choose to write. Changes to the tone of your voice is what happens when changes in your life occur.

Let's stray from writing a bit and take music artists. Singers in particular. Let's use....Barry White.

If you haven't heard anything from him--omg!--I suggest YouTube.

Barry White has a very distinct voice. It's not hard to pick his voice out amongst the clutter of music blasting from our stereos because he is known to have that smooth, devilishly deep baritone that melts women's bones. But what if Barry decided to take on the rap culture and bust a few rhymes here and there? Would we still know it was him?

The answer: YES. His voice is distinct, it's known, and it will still be recognizable even if he decided to rap like Mr. 50 cent.

Much like your voice is (should be) recognized no matter what storyline or characters you write. It is not YOU but more like bits and pieces of you that makes the words fall on the page a certain way. An essence of who you are. Think of your voice like a fingerprint--readers should be able to identify you by it.

Now let's take Hinder. While this singer has a voice that is pretty recognizable, I'm not going to talk about whether or not you'd be able to pick him out at a country concert. Instead, take two of this artist's songs: "Lips of an Angel" and "Get Stoned." Yes, yes, his voice is there, but look past that for a moment to the words of the songs and the way he uses his voice in both. Does he scream in "Lips of an Angel"? No. His voice sounds pained, there is longing in it. In "Get Stoned," the artist sounds a little more edgy, louder, even angry. He doesn't change his music genre to folk or polka--he changes the tone of his voice because the story behind the song changes.

Sometimes the tone of your writing voice changes because the story behind it (i.e., your life) changes.

What about you? Has your tone changed at all since you first picked up the pen x-amount of years ago? How has it changed? Or--has both your genre and voice changed? Why?

Untill next time :)

Happy Writing!


  1. Interesting and very true points. :)

    My author voice tone has definitely changed over the years. Gotten darker, grittier...Granted I started writing when I was 12.

    As for a genre change, I wrote a story in high fantasy, then switched to romance--urban paranormal, then back to fantasy (this time with a romantic angle)

    Great post! Can't wait for part 3!

  2. Age has a lot to do with change in your author's voice but that's a great way to describe your voice. Gritty, dark--with a suprising tenderness. I love it!
    I'm glad the points I listed made sense...I was worried it would come across the wrong way.

  3. Great post as usual :) I loved the comparsion between writing and music because it was easy to understand and very true. I can tell a new Dr. Dre beat within the first few car rattling notes or a Slash guitar riff. I think I mentioned how my voice and genres changed on the last one. But it certainly still carries a bit of me in the words. Thanks for this.

  4. Your welcome, Matt. I've always found music to go right alongside writing in a way--I'm always listening to it when writing. Thank you for reading :)

  5. This was wonderful and well thought out. I liked the comparison between music and I have to agree with you--it goes well with writing. I have several playlists, depending on the mood of the piece I'm working on. Great points here--how changes in life alters your voice but it's still you. Kudos.

  6. Glad you liked it Cherri. I always love hearing feedback (good or bad) and yes...playlists rule :)

  7. Awesome post! Not wanting to repeat what everyone else said I'll just say: Ditto :)

  8. I realy enjoy your blog posts cuz they are so in your face honest and not 'look at me i'm so smart' ha ha. Thanks for this!

  9. Great as usual and informative without being stuffy. I hate reading blogs that read like a textbook. No life. Ugh.

  10. It's been said I have a very distinct voice. Serious, formal, older tone, even somber. So much so that when I used humor, it sounded strange. For the longest time, I didn't use contractions. I still forget to sometimes. Over the past year, as I've leaned more about writing, I've become a lot less wordy, used humor more, and started to use contractions, being less formal. It's the changes in marketing and what readers look for that altered my voice, probably because mine used to be uncommonly Tolkien-ish.

    I loved parts one and two of this. You've done a wonderful job of explaining it all, and I'm off to read part 3 now.

    Trying to imagine Barry White rapping. ROTFL! Somehow it just doesn't work. lol!




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