Friday, March 9, 2012

Honing Your Voice - Spreading Your Message

J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis both understood that fantasy is an excellent way to communicate morality. After all, why else would myths exist across the world? Joseph Campbell would tell us stories are the traditional way ideas are communicated. Consider why Jesus' parables still reside in the front of society's mind? Why would Aesop's fables still be published after thousands of years?

I recently read a blog post about the five important rules every author should follow. One of them had to do with the reason for anyone writing in the first place.

I have always been told to find the one thing that I would do regardless of being paid. Working for love rather than money doesn't constitute work - rather it is a calling. This blog post I read suggests a calling is not enough to be a successful writer. This makes sense - after all, just writing because you love it doesn't mean you will get any readers. If you write for love, rather than some goal, there is no need to have readers. However, what is the point of writing if no one reads your work?

It's a bit like a tree falling in the middle of an isolated forest. If no one hears it, did it really happen? If no one reads it, was it ever written?

This got me thinking about my own goals in writing. Why do I write? What is the message I want to communicate through my writing? Obviously there are different messages for different books. Some of them are responses to the conversation of various genres, characters, and scenarios. Others have broader goals - discussing the issues of climate change, war, gender roles, and the obligations of those with power. These are the real reason why I write - the messages I want communicated.

The form these messages take is my voice. That said, my voice changes from one novel to the next. Let me explain. Many who know me will say my character Khloe has many similarities to myself. Well, if Luke is George, then yes, Khloe is me. Except of course, this isn't exactly the case. Each character is a composite of various people and experiences I've had over the course of my life. Their motivations and experiences are therefore different than mine, or any other person I've met or known. This composite, usually framed in the first person (my preferred point of view), is the voice that speaks the message. There is something personable and accessible when interacting with a character from their perspective. Yes, third omniscient certainly allows for greater maneuverability in writing, but first lets a reader get into the main character's head. It is more like a dream - the reader sees everything through this character's perspective. It also makes it easier to keep everything consistent when writing from a set perspective with set motivations.

Don't misunderstand - I wouldn't suggest everyone write in first person constantly. Only the perspective in which we write has goals, reasons, and motivation in itself. All writers have to ask themselves - why am I writing this way and not another? What is my purpose? What are my goals?

Then, once these questions are answered for one piece, we have to ask them again for the next, and the next. A writer's work is never done. There is always more to do, to perfect. There is always more to say. We are, in fact, a group of voices that never shut up.

Thank God for that.


  1. Hi, Alexis:

    That rocks that Rob got you thinking. I'm glad I could provide a forum for him to do that. Nice piece!