Voices

Monday, June 8th, 2009

The Image, a story I wrote a few days ago for the 100 Days Project, is a breakthrough story.  It’s hard to express why.  After I finished the story, it became somewhat of a struggle to generate ideas for the following days as Part two and The Wisdomgivers have somewhat weak concepts, and weak concepts are hard to write through.  You’d think that after a breakthrough, things would fly, but that hasn’t been the case, as after The Image I suddenly became too serious, thinking, “Hey, The Image is a breakthrough.  This must mean something profound.”  Not necessarily.

It’s difficult to express why The Image got me excited.  The explanation probably won’t make a lot of sense.  But it has to do with voice.  Voice in writing is one of those sloppy ideas, too ofen promoted.  It can point to any number of meanings: the distinct tone of a piece of writing; a sense of authorial style which distinguishes one author from another; the presence of a speaker in a reader’s head; semantic or dictive uniqueness.  I mean it in another sense, that is, the voice the author hears as her or she lays material out on paper.  In The Image I heard a voice I’d never heard expressed in my own process.

In my ear, the voice appears somewhere here (just one example):

But it also promotes a likelihood of futures. Because the image may want the viewer to consider what the woman will do as a response to “I eat raw animal intestine” or “I never want to see you again” or “I just don’t like cats and never will” or “I hate Italian food” or “I have an untreatable disease.”

It begins with “But it also promotes” and ends with “disease,” and draws from the paragraph prior as lead in. The voice has a certain beat or cadence and served to listen for required edits. In going back, I could listen for the beat and remove phrasings that either didn’t matter or supplied useless information.

However, the voice didn’t serve me in The Robbers, which was an experiment in developing two references from The Image.

So, here are a series of questions: does every successful story develop its own sense of voice sensed by the author? How much does authorial voice influence character growth/nurture? Is voice too heavy of a concept to bother with much? Can a particular story voice or character flavor influence other unrelated stories? If voice is tied to one particular work, is it unnecessary thereafter for others, or simply untappable? Does this make short short stories or flash fictions less durable as a form than the longer, more sustained sounds in longer narrative works? Does this notion of voice disrupt lexia development in hypertext, heighten the importance of rhythmic and sound qualities in hypertext, or assist in developing narrative from links and link or semantic relationships?


One response to “Voices”

  1. Mary Ellen says:

    I did notice, especially in the paragraph you highlighted, a serenity to your words. To use a lame boating analogy, it was like you had broken through the chop to the center of the stream where the clean water is. It still “sounds” like you, as in author’s voice, but there is also a singing behind it all of clear thoughts and focused aim. I absolutely think voice from one story can influence another either way. I try to recapture certain feelings from writing a passage to help my flow. Sometimes it is a useful tool. Sometimes it turns the current thing into crap. And I would say if an author hits a particularly vibrant tone for one story, it is rather off limits for future works unless one wants to mimic the same tension and flow. It may be too “sounds like” for the second piece to stand alone. (Leaving your hypertext musings for S.)

    And please tell your Susan that I’m enjoying her photos immensely–she is dead on every single day.