Finding Your Voice
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 might 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.