Monday, September 08, 2008

The Unmistakable Sound of it All

Huh? What's she talking about today? Well, this week we're talking about Voice. Writers Voice to be exact. Now...a lot of writers will define it in terms of word choice or the way a writer puts her/his words together. Sometimes they'll throw in themes the writer prefers to talk about. I'll confess. Until recently, most of that made me scratch my head and go 'Yeah. Right. Okay.' Don't get me wrong. I can see the logic in their definitions. They make sense. But I couldn't reconcile them to my world.

That is until I happened to be listening to the radio one morning on my way to work. Now the past several months I've been heading to work at ungodly hours when most sensible people are still rolling over and catching a few winks before that dastardly alarm clock goes off. Normally, I listen to country but one morning my favorite dj was on vacation and I just wasn't that enamored with his fill-in so I started station hopping (thank god for the Seek button, huh?) when suddenly I heard one of my favorite pieces -- Eroica by Beethoven. Let me digress here a bit.

My musical tastes run the gamut from country to metal to classical to New Age to soft rock. And it's not so much the 'music' I like as it is the music of a particular artist/composer. In other words, it's the way a particular artist/composer puts that piece together, the sound of it, that speaks to me. And that got me to thinking.

So I started an experiment over the next few weeks. I listened to classical stations on my work laptop. I lucked out and found one that had no talking, just music, and even better, it showed the composer and the name of the piece on a scrolling banner). As I listened, I discovered that whenever a Beethoven piece was aired, I recognized it as one of his before I clicked over to confirm it. That made me think some more.

We all recognize a favorite singer's voice. That's easy. And we recognize the sounds of our children's laughter, that musical bubbling sound that brings joy to your heart. Or maybe our lover;s voice, smooth and seductive and compelling. We could pick those voices out in a crowd of similar voices.

When we read, we're not just seeing those words. We're hearing them. We're feeling the cadence of the words as they flow through our minds. We're absorbing all the emotional impact those words can bring to life. Word choice may play a part, there's no doubt of that, but it goes deeper. We may not be able to give a concrete definition, at least I can't, but we do recognize a favorite writer just as I recognized Beethoven on the radio before I knew it was his music I was hearing.

The next question is how do we make our voices memorable? How do we make them a Beethoven? Or, in writerly terms, a Kenyon or a Roberts or (fill in your favorite author here)? I don't think we can consciously do that. I believe, as writers, we have to be open and honest and that we have to bring everything we possess to the writers table. And when a reader connects with us, they'll recognize us.

It's that connection that creates that unmistakable sound or voice.

-- Lynda

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Savanna Kougar said...

Lynda, thanks for the insight. I'm that way about music also. And I like the way you explained 'voice'.

Lynda K. Scott said...

Hi Savanna,

Sorry to take so long to get back to you. My Net connection at home got a bit iffy until this morning.

It's amazing what you can get just by listening to music, isn't it? :D Thanks for stopping by!