Finding a Strong Authentic Voice
Have you noticed how a strong voice, with a sense of a real person talking, resonates with you as a reader? Do you and your characters have unique, authentic voices?
Do you write with your authentic voice? Or is it constrained? Suppressed? Buried?
Does your writing sound like you? Does it convey sensory information and emotion without the support of body language and vocal variation?
I was brought up hearing the proverb, ‘Little girls should be seen and not heard.’ I lost my authentic voice, spoke quietly and kept my opinions to myself. I kept my emotions hidden, even from myself. Safety lay in clinging to facts. My life revolved around searching for facts, collecting facts and writing about facts.
Finding My Voice Through Expressive Journaling
As a scientist, my professional writing needed to be factual and in third-person, in past tense. No emotion. No sensual descriptions. Because my only truth was the facts, I was uncomfortable with tweaking facts or enhancing the emotional impact to make an autobiographically based story more compelling. My first creative writing tutor summed it up with the phrase, ‘Well, M’Lud, the vehicle was proceeding in a northerly direction’. Laughter bubbled up as I recognised the truth behind those words. I needed to find my authentic voice. But how?
Expressive journaling—which is free-writing to prompts—was the answer. The freedom of letting words flow without any concern for correct spelling, grammar or punctuation was liberating.
Reviewing my journals, I discovered ideas, insights and instructions. At first, the instructions were in the authoritative voice of my inner critic, that echoed the voices of my childhood: ‘It’s about time you stopped prevaricating and got on with writing your guide to journaling.’ Over time, those voices were replaced by an encouraging, confident voice: ‘On Monday, I will start spending two hours a day writing.’ When I reread those words in my journal, daily writing had already become a habit.
Journaling in first-person present enabled me to slough off my third-person habit. Some prompts catapulted me into childhood memories, bringing back long forgotten sensual details. They are captured in my journal in a few evocative sentences, in a strong voice. Precious memories are now bigger, brighter and more vibrant. We all have memories we prefer not to revisit.
My early expressive journaling was restricted to a spiral notebook with tear-out pages. Pages which could be ripped out and shredded. I was relieved to be told that we wouldn’t be reading our words aloud.
I was writing for myself and gradually allowed the fear of what anybody else might think to slip away. Now, I write in hard-backed notebooks with no worries about anyone reading them. They will read my authentic views and feelings, my unedited thoughts. Complete with ambiguities, confusion, layered and conflicted feelings. Any readers will step into my world.
I have the confidence to tell a more complex truth of facts and feelings. A little tweaking of facts in order to write vibrant autobiographically based fiction is no longer a moral issue. My imagination is free to construct fantasy short stories.
Allowing all words to flow has revealed hidden aspects of my character. Writing them down is an act of acceptance, reading them a revelation. My once rambling stream-of-consciousness now flows to the rhythm of my speech. That’s without any punctuation or correct grammar. The stream is channelled into clear, coherent sentences tumbling towards conclusions or opening out into an ocean of questions.
Journaling has given me a voice and the confidence to speak out. I am now as comfortable writing fiction as I was writing non-fiction.
Finding Your Own Voice Through Expressive Journaling
A prompt is simply a trigger to start writing. Random prompts offer a sense of adventure. When selecting prompts, try experimenting with a prompt which repels you in addition to those that have an initial appeal. If a prompt takes you somewhere before you feel ready, simply stop writing.
Have you considered joining a group like Julie’s Journaling, where you are given a variety of prompts and where there is no expectation to read from your journal? I also offer daily prompts through my website.
Expressive journaling will tune you into potential prompts—they are ubiquitous.
Finding a Character’s Voice Through Expressive Journaling
Try using random and targeted prompts to discover how your character responds to words, phrases and questions. Experiment with writing a question prompt with your dominant hand and then responding as your character, while writing with your non-dominant hand. Yes, your wrist may ache, but it’s worth it. Try it for yourself.
Finding your authentic voice is the first step. What if you lack the courage to share it? Keep journaling and try writing from the prompt: Why am I reluctant to share my authentic voice?
What difference does it make if you respond with your non-dominant hand?
Writing workshops provide opportunities to write and share your authentic voice. Like me, you may find yourself spontaneously sharing before you realise that you are ready to do so.
A strong, authentic voice will resonate with your readers. Start discovering your strong, authentic voice today using free-expressive journaling.
© 2019 Julie E Pratt
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Navigating a river of travelogues, whirlpools of free-writing journaling, and plunging into the ocean of fantasy short stories.