Finding Your Voice

Posted by on August 1, 2013 in About Writing | 4 comments


by Christina Carson

I don’t know why I remember that particular afternoon, but when I read the writing exercise about developing voice that asked me to scan back over my life and think of things that have stuck in my mind for no obvious reason, not the monumental things, just small ones, there it was.

It always comes to me as a picture. It was fall. The barley was that rich golden color ripe barley gets when it’s ready for harvest. It was tall that year. We’d had enough rain and as yet no frost for September. Pitted against that glow of gold was the angriest looking sky I’d seen for a while. Grey clouds swirled about like a kid’s finger painting, stacking up higher and higher, their energy filling me with a sense of urgency. A storm was coming in hard and fast. It was getting darker by the minute, but a strange silvery light bathed the scene and made her white coat the color of steel as she streaked past me, into the crop, racing the storm to get to the sheep before the predator did. This giant Komondor had caught the sense of something encroaching on our flock, ewes momentarily distracted by the wind and rain beginning to pelt. I couldn’t see it or sense it, but she could, and she flashed by me, slicing through the barley like a bullet, her instinct matching the wildness of the storm and the battle for life that never let up in the wilderness of northern Alberta. Everything about that moment captured my sense of that dog—primal, powerful and fearless. She lived only a year past that scene. Perhaps that’s why it’s always there in the back of my mind even thirty years later. She was a wonder, and that day the universe took her picture for me that I Dali by Barn-croppedmight never forget.

Alice LaPlante, a teacher of creative writing at Stanford, suggests:

One of the things that can be the hardest for beginning fiction writers to grasp is that they must develop a voice that is unique, and natural to them….The goal is to find “your” voice, the voice that isn’t like everyone else’s. And this is a very difficult thing to do, for the plain reason that we have mostly spent our lives trying to fit in. We want to make sure that we dress appropriately, speak appropriately, act appropriately. Well, creative writing is one area where you don’t want to be “appropriate.” Appropriate is for dinner parties.

    Try this simple exercise and see how it informs you about your voice. Don’t explain or analyze. Just start with the phrase, “I don’t know why I remember,” and put your reader there. Then share some feedback with us on your experience with it and what you discovered about your voice.


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  1. I love your writing voice Christina – it is full of wisdom and love for all things. These stories are some of my favorite – I find myself completely drawn into the scene and wish I could have been there, and yet because of how well you describe it, it feels as if I was!

    • Christina Carson

      Always appreciate feedback from another fine writer. And love to share this precious moment with you. Thanks for stopping by, dear friend.

  2. We remember moments when we are totally present. If we aren’t totally present, we don’t remember. So the lesson seems to be, look at what you remember and ask, why was I totally in that particular moment? For example. Over twenty years ago, after a long day of traveling, followed by co-facilitating a four hour workshop, a woman I had just met, who knew that I was a Vietnam vet, said to me, “I was a war protester.”

    I remember the look that appeared on her face when I said, “You were right, you know.”

    Yep, I remember that look.

    • Christina Carson

      And I remember that moment. Yes I was present then, most present.

Thoughtful comments are always welcome!


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