Let’s create a writing voice

First, we describe the personality we want, and then we select the devices to convey that persona. Here’s the personality we’re after: a breezy travel-magazine writer who’s clear, conversational but a little formal, witty and irreverent, speaking to readers as an equal.

The devices would include clear, simple sentences of varied length; light explanation and clear references; slightly loose grammar with medium-level diction, slang, and contractions; occasional second-person address; a sprinkle of wry phrasing; and lots of punctuation. Here’s the first try:

The University of Virginia is modifying a national treasure, the Lawn, a World Heritage site, the Rotunda and ten faculty mansions, called “Pavilions.” Any American child would recognize Jefferson’s signature style: always red brick with white columns and trim. But recent archaeological research suggests that the columns of Pavilion X should be left tan, the natural color of their stucco, and the woodwork repainted taupe. I’d sooner colorize the Parthenon.

Not bad, but the diction and reference have to come down a little. The sentences sound like writing, not conversation. Let’s try again:

The University of Virginia in Charlottesville might mess up a national treasure, “The Lawn.” It’s a World Heritage site, the famous Rotunda and ten “pavilions,” or houses where professors live. You’d recognize Jefferson’s style: white columns and trim, and red brick. But researchers studying Pavilion Ten’s colors say the columns were originally tan, and the trim was painted taupe. Who could envision that?

Close, but stiff. Let’s lighten up the sentences a little more:

The University of Virginia’s messing with a national treasure, “The Lawn.” As a school kid, you probably visited the famous Rotunda with its ten “pavilions,” or professors’ houses. Everybody knows Thomas Jefferson’s look: red brick walls with white columns and trim. But now, it turns out that one of the pavilions had tan columns, and the wood was painted taupe. Taupe? Can you imagine taupe?

And there’s your breezy but clear travel writer voice. We could play with it some more, record it and listen to the results, and keep experimenting.

[Do you think this voice sounds the way I describe it?]

Published in: on December 9, 2009 at 1:56 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] Let's create a writing voice « Writing Your Way […]

  2. Sorry, Sacred Clone, I don’t understand your comment. Please try again. Thanks, Don

  3. Constructivists tend to adopt a narrow definition that voice is what makes one’s writing unique and personal; the intangibles that demonstrate an honest commitment to its writing. Constructivists would argue that the only clues provided to developing writers should be widespread reading and unencumbered writing practice. After a journey of self-discovery, the squishy concept of voice may emerge some day for some writers.

    I take a different view. I define voice a bit more globally, encompassing what old-time Strunkers called style, as well as point of view, tone, and diction (word choice). I think that discovering voice should be the result of a guided journey.

  4. […] Let’s create a writing voice « Writing Your Way […]

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