Friday, March 14, 2014

Be You, or Be Real?

They always say that writing comes from the heart, right? So whatever you put on the page should be you in your purest form. 

Funny, but that’s not usually what I find when I read people’s writing. All too often, what I find is that they’ve tried so hard to establish a persona for themselves that they’ve stopped being real. They’re speaking from the head, but not from the heart. They’re being who they think they are, or who they want to be, instead of they REALLY are.

You can't see me! That means I can be anyone
I want to be...right?

I’m all for people trying to become, but until you’re there, your writing needs to be you. It needs to be YOUR voice, not some random stand-in of you that happened to stop by and say, “Hey, I could write a best seller!”

 Pro Tip: That guy's a jerk.

“But it is my voice!” you say.

Is it?

Is it really?

This, my friends, is the hardest lesson you’re ever going to learn about writing, so listen up. 

If you wouldn’t say it when you’re talking to your friends at the dinner table, don’t say it in script.

I’m not talking about “That One Character” that sounds like he’s from a Bronte novel. Sometimes that’s just fun. But it’s not the kind of thing you can keep up. Even authors on the bestseller list will have characters whose speech slips out of their “character voice” and into their “real person” voice.

If James Patterson and Nora Roberts and Rick Riordan can’t keep a character’s speech in character for an entire book, how are you going to do it for every word you write?

You’re not. You can't, because the minute you get into a good groove your dialogue and narration are going to slip. Your readers will notice. Your editors will notice. The most tolerant will shake their head and move on. The not-so-tolerant will crucify you.

So here’s what I want you to do. The next time you’re getting ready to write something, stop. Think about the message you want to send. Then say it to yourself in the mirror. Look yourself right in the face and say it again. How does it sound? Does it trip off the tongue? Or does it kind of stick there, forcing you to twist your face into grotesque proportions to hack it out like your cat did that hairball last month? 

If it’s the latter, don’t write it down. Look at yourself and, instead of saying what you thought you were going to write, say what you would say if you were trying to say it to someone sitting next to you at the dinner table. THAT is your voice, and that’s what makes your writing real.  

Image courtesy of Photostock/ 

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