This blog is a continuation of the last two blogs so if you haven't read/watched Finding Your Voice Part 1 & 2, scroll down and check them out!
Because voice is the most important part of a memoir, I felt it was important to dedicate three separate blogs to it. In this blog, I am sharing memoir writing techniques specifically relating to voice from a memoir writing teacher: Wendy Dale.
“Wendy Dale is the author of Avoiding Prison and Other Noble Vacation Goals (Crown). She taught memoir writing for Media Bistro for five years. She is also the co-writer of the Emmy-nominated TV special, "The New Adventures of Mother Goose." Her essays and articles have appeared in Utne Reader, Mental Floss, Public Radio International, and the Writer's Digest website.” - GeniusMemoirWriting.com
Wendy shared some great advice with me regarding voice which can also be found on her website: http://www.geniusmemoirwriting.com/
Some of her advice that resonated with me the most was:
“1. Put us inside your head. There are many different styles of narrative voices but what makes your prose work is when it’s characterized by narrative honesty. Great prose gives us the sensation that we’re reading an author’s internal monologue, that voice inside our heads that narrates our lives and speaks to us constantly. If you’re having trouble with your prose, start really paying attention to your internal monologue. Is the voice inside your head funny, sarcastic, dark, brooding, superficial?”
I personally hadn't thought of putting the reader inside my head while writing. I have tried writing using different perspectives such as 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person but always viewed my writing from a writer’s perspective. I think putting the reader inside your head makes you think more about how you want to sound to others and makes you pay more attention to your voice.
“3. Surprise us. When you truly put us inside your head, the thoughts you come up with are often surprising. While sitting in a hospital lobby waiting to see whether a loved one will live or die, we don’t always think about death or how much the person means to us. Sometimes we worry about where we placed our dry cleaning ticket. Be really honest in your prose and it will always be interesting – even if you’re writing about dry cleaning tickets.”
I think surprising the reader is a great technique to keep in mind because by not trying to suppress or leave out some weird or quirky thoughts that make your writing unique, you create a more authentic voice. You can’t surprise the reader if your voice is too generic or if the way you tell your story is too generic. It gives your voice more personality.
“5. Avoid self-pity. When your situation is dramatic, it is completely unnecessary for your narrator to highlight the drama. In fact, try and find the commonplace in a terrible situation. In short, don’t tell us how awful an awful situation is. Instead, try and channel your narrative monologue and put us inside your head.”
I think this is great advice. You don't want your voice to make you sound pitiful. You don’t want to over dramatize your story no matter how serious it is. This is also one of the reasons I include humor in my memoir. The last thing I want to do is to make people feel bad for me when reading my memoir. I want them to see the pain I’ve been through but to also be able to laugh with me when life is funny. I think this is one way that writing a memoir can also help you heal because in order to write a good memoir, you have to be able to step outside yourself (and your self-pity) and be able to see things from a distance.
My next blog will be about my struggle with staying accountable to myself and how I make myself write every single day.
Thank you all for taking the time to read/watch my blogs. I truly appreciate all of you who have been interacting with me on here, on the Facebook groups, on Twitter, and on Instagram with your stories, advice, and encouragement. Thank you for sharing with me and contributing to our writing community. 🙏🏾
If you found this blog post useful in any way, please comment below or share with other writers you know that might need it.
Happy Writing! :)
Find me on social media. Links at the bottom of the page 👇🏽