Earlier this week, I read out a new story, which is still at the stage of the first draft. When I was finished, I was told, “That wasn’t in your usual voice.” I was so pleased, I nearly shouted, “Yesss,” while pulling down an imaginary chain with one hand.
In my short writing career, I’ve developed the view that nobody necessarily has to find their own voice. To some people, it is important to write in a particular fashion, but I contest that everyone is capable of having more than one voice if they want to. I reckon you can pen ten stories in ten unique voices.
I’ve previously talked about how crime writer P D James wrote the science fiction novel Children of Men at the age of 70. Allow me to offer another example, this time from Hollywood, that illustrates my point. You could never mistake the musical Hairspray for black comedy Serial Mom, yet John Waters was behind both of them.
Changing your voice can be as simple as altering the words or the punctuation. For example, two of my own hallmarks are that I rarely go to town on description, and never use brackets. I could alter that by describing something in vivid detail, (adding extra information in parentheses). Done often enough, it would sound like somebody else.
So why not find out if you can write like someone else, but say your own thing? If you’re stuck, here’s a prompt I’ve had in my head over the last week:
Two friends are in a café or a pub. One of them leaves for a lengthy pre-arranged appointment, but returns a short while later. What has happened?