Continuing with our online critique group’s Voice Workshop. Our workshop teacher, Rose Green, had us do some voice recognition and experimenting exercises.
Exercise #1, part a: Find a passage in a published book with a good example of voice.
I was terrified of this exercise. Even after reading the assigned articles, what did I know of voice? It’s the very reason I so needed this workshop. I simply couldn’t wrap my brain around what voice was. When I was a kid, if I didn’t know how to spell a word, teachers told me to look it up in the dictionary. I don’t care how big the dictionary, I could never find the word psychology in the “S” section. Finding voice was the same. And then – kapowie – it stuck me. The published author who came to mind has a voice which is the voiciest voice I know: Barbara Parks in her Junie B. Jones series. The passage I chose was from Junie B. Jones is (Almost) a Flower Girl, p. 19.
The next day at recess, I sang the pretty bride song.
I sang it to my bestest friends named Lucille and that Grace.
“HERE COMES THE BRIDE… ALL DRESSED AND WIDE… HER NAME IS CLYDE, AND SHE READS TV GUIDE.”
That Grace looked admiring at me.
“Wow. I never even knew that song had words,” she said.
Exercise #1, part b: Embland the passage.
What a cool-cool word. I like to roll it around in my mouth. Embland. Embland. What it means is to take out the voice, to make it bland. So here was my attempt:
The next day at recess, I sang the bride song to my friends, Lucille and Grace.
“Here comes the bride. All dressed in white. Her name is Clyde and she reads TV guide.”
Grace smiled and said, “Nice.”
What I learned from doing this exercise: 1) I CAN recognize voice; 2) I don’t follow directions very well – I added my own voice with the last word of the emblanding exercise; 3) taking voice out of the passage certainly made the words sound dull; and 4) Dag-nab-it! Why did the emblanded passage have to sound an awfully lot like I write.
Exercise #2 Pick a passage from your own writing and instead of emblanding it, give it more voice.
For everyone in our group, this was much more difficult than doing it with someone else’s writing. To me, it ended up being more noticing when I told and didn’t show and putting things into my main character’s mind. I found with mine and with some of the others, that it is easiest to do this voice when using dialoge. But friend Jaclyn shot that down with what she did with her own passage. Jaclyn’s changed passage was still in narration, however, in her voicier passage I felt that it read like first person v.s. third.
From Jaclyn’s writing:
Mr. Gormelly, Shasta’s homeroom teacher, was talking to a boy that Shasta did
not know when she entered and made her way to her usual seat. He gestured toward a
desk at the back of the second row and the boy nodded. As the students filed into
homeroom, Mr. Gormelly made the announcement.
“Class, settle down and take your seats, please. We have a new student with us
and I’d like to introduce him before first period begins.”
As Shasta slid in behind her desk, she tried to size up the new boy. He wasn’t
completely hot but he wasn’t bad, either. There was something uneasy about him,
though. Shasta thought it could be the dark look in his eyes; almost like that of a
criminal. She had to smirk at her own imagination sometimes.
Shasta frowned as she made her way to her usual seat. Who was that boy talking
to Mr. Gormelly? She watched the boy glance toward the second row and nod.
Still fixated on the new boy, Shasta could briefly hear Mr. Gormelly’s voice in the
background, but only caught the words “new student”.
Her curiousity still not satisfied, Shasta popped open the flap of her white backpack style
purse and pretended to check out her bangs. She waited for the boy to sit, so she could get
a better look at his face. Something about his dark brooding eyes made her think
of the book they’d been reading in English, The Outsiders, and she wondered if
he’d been in a gang in his old school. Closing the flap on her bag, she tried to settle into
the routine of another boring class, but her imagination continued to remain fixated on
the new kid.