Voice

13 Sep

Had my writing class today. The class is a 2 1/2 hour free-writing session designed to unblock your writing, to have fun, explore. It rarely ever works for me. More often than not, I can’t even string two words together in that class. I think it’s because we’re supposed to “share” our writing afterwards. Nothing blocks my muse more than the knowledge that I’ll have to read it aloud immediately after writing it.

And then when they do go around the room, I am amazed at everyone else’s ability to write rich images and fluid words off the top of their heads. It’s all vivid description and instant similes and metaphors popping off the page:

“The smell of the tarmac glistened in her throat.”
“She thinks about how many bodies have sweated and salted these sheets.”
“The tree was angular and gnarled like the bones of the woman leaning against it.”

And I just think, “Why can’t I write like that, even when I don’t have to read it aloud?”

So I go to that class to socialize with other writers, not to write. And to hope that some of their descriptive power rubs off on me.

Not that my writing’s so bad. I spent a couple of hours yesterday when I was supposed to be writing database programs writing a short scene that captured the experience of the split seconds of a near car accident.

She set her hand on the steering wheel and flipped her eyes back on traffic. Red break lights loomed ahead, coming up fast.

She stood on the brake. Her cigarette flew out of her mouth. Her tires squealed. The car swerved. Her hands wrestled with the jittery steering wheel. A green mini-van filled with kids and camping gear was dead ahead of her on the road. There was no shoulder to the left, just the another lane, filled with creeping cars. On the right, the same thing. And to the right of that, a ravine.

She couldn’t go around the cars. She couldn’t slip between them.

And she wasn’t going to stop in time, she knew that.

Shit, shit shit.

Her car skidded forward.

Her foot crushed the brake pedal to the floor.

It was all over in a second. The car jolted to a halt right behind the van. She jerked forward. The seat belt snapped her back. Her foot trembled, paralyzed on the brake. A couple of the kids in the van stared down at her. She gaped at them in a fog, her heart racing.

So my writing style is less flowery, less fluid, more gritty and mundane and literalistic. It’s writing at the pace of the novelist, designed to be accessible to the reader, not to wear them out after one paragraph. It’s fiction writing tempered by philosophy essays and journaling.

And it’s writing in the voice of my characters, all my inner selves. It’s a writing style I’ve developed over many, many years. It’s not really an imitation of anybody, it’s just me, writing.

“You have to play a long time to play like yourself.” –Miles Davis

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