Thursday, 5 May 2016

Find Your Prose and Be Heard


Funny how one word can be the ultimate definition of a writer. It's what really makes each writer different from each other, right? It describes how one writer can use words to create a completely different world of thought, than one of their peers – even if they write on the exact same topic.

But where does it come from, and how do we find it?

I'm not aware of any writer that longs to be menial, or easily forgotten in the sea of works published since Guttenburg. However, the number of well remembered authors is quite few in the scheme of things. So, what is it about these authors that speaks to us, that chides us to remember them and won't keep quiet? Why is it that their works continue to resound through the ages, moving us, and shaking us to our core?

I reiterate: prose.

To put it simply, it is the voice of the author. To be specific and limiting, it is the exact language used by the author to tell a story unique to their talents. The latter sounds fancy, but like I said, it is severely limiting. The former offers much more magic.

The voice of the author.

This is key, and not in the way that one would typically think. I've heard bounties of advice on how a writer goes about finding their voice. King suggests reading and writing a lot. Rowling has said that imitating another author's writing is a way of maturing one's own voice. And still others have said to listen to the way you think and write the words that way; they may not be pretty, but they're yours.
All of this is good advice, and I think it should be (and probably is) combined in one form or another.
The only thing missing is the kicker, and honestly that's what every aspiring author wants, yes? That magic pill that makes writing a breeze and will ensure a place amongst the gods of literature.
While I can say that this information has the potential of transforming a writer, it is no less grueling than swallowing a pill of poison.

So if you're ready... Down the hatch!

Finding a voice – a prose – begins and ends with yourself. Writing is one of the more unique aspirations on the planet. Writers sit down and write out imaginary things, send them off into the world, and (hopefully) attract a loyal following that will support them. Many, many authors do this, and it is amazing to see the rock star status that authors now receive (while still breathing) in this new age of literary appreciation.
But the truly successful ones, the ones that are achieving the pinnacle of honor in the literary community of being esteemed; they are doing something more. These authors have adopted the hardest part of developing a pure voice, all their own:
Typical selfishness is a very unappealing trait that we seek to stamp out in our children. We look down on the selfish. It just isn't a sexy thing.
But when it comes to writing, there is a certain type of selfishness that, ironically, serves to make the process of reading a finished work all the more enjoyable for everyone else in the world. Harnessing the correct type of selfishness will add a magic, purity, and raw appeal that will go a long way towards creating a very unique prose that is 100% true to you.
This selfishness is a very fragile flower; like the snowdrops of a fading winter. Force the process too much and the selfishness hardens into arrogance and depression. Ignore it, though, and it will collapse in on itself.
Enough with the obscure, though. The type of selfishness I'm referring to is a humble selfishness, where you as the writer conduct your work for an audience of one.
You write only for yourself.
This sounds easy, but nothing could be harder. In an age of perpetual claims to fame, it is almost impossible to separate the desire to be rich and famous from the simple passion of writing a story. Luckily, writing makes the impossible possible. It's tricky, but these are a few of the tricks I've adopted to help solidify my “voice”.

  1. You MUST abandon all thought of recognition, positive critique, or money while writing. Even if you are writing an article that will undoubtedly yield one of these things, you need to abandon the thought of these waiting at the end of your story. Keeping these goals in mind will alter the way you write, because you will instinctively change the way you phrase something to appease the future audience. You will do this to try and force the end result of acclaim to happen, and this can become like tetanus to your prose. Do away with these aspirations, while you are writing. You can pick them back up when you are finished with the work, but until then, don't let goals and a future audience dictate the way you write. In fact...
  2. Write with the mindset that no one in the whole of history or future events will actually read your story. This is one trick I use (sometimes with depressing success) to keep my work as honest and humble as possible. If I think that I'm the only one that will ever read this story, then I'm much more likely to take chances with my vocabulary, formatting, and semantics. Sometimes the story sucks because of this literary tinkering, but through doing it you will always progress towards finding your unique prose. It may be a step forward or maybe it is a universal leap forward; either way, you will learn what works for you and what doesn't.
  3. Stop trying to write like other people. We all do it when we are starting this most arduous of careers, but this station in our craft should be short. Let it happen when you first start, but cut it out of your routine shortly after. Continuing to imitate someone else's voice will only deafen your figurative ears to what your literary voice truly sounds like. It can be fun to try and write like Lovecraft, Shelley, and Danielewski on occasion, but the word occasion is key. Have fun and maybe learn a thing or two about word structure, but don't obsess. You're in this to let the world hear your voice. It's already heard Poe's voice, and it doesn't need to hear it again. It needs to hears yours!
  4. I already alluded to this before, but it bears repeating. Take chances in your writing. Do something that doesn't feel natural to you. Mess around with formatting to help augment the story or poem you are writing. Use words that are new to you, or use old words in new ways that challenge traditional definitions. Be daring! You're a writer; an artist whose pallet is the lexicon of the written word! Be poetic, or brash, or snarky, or something new all together. Just take a chance. Risk failing, and when it happens, acknowledge it. Failing only shows you what doesn't work for you. It can't stop you unless you let it.

And the best bit of advice is just to keep writing! In an ocean of literary voices, find a way to make yours heard. Firstly, by learning what it sounds like. And secondly, by shouting at the top of your lungs until the world pays attention. Make sure you go down in history as one of the greats!

Guest article written by Benjamin Michael Greene

Author of The (In)accurate Assessments of Sage Rathbun


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you very much! It was tons of fun to be able to write this. Cheers!

    2. Thank you very much! It was tons of fun to be able to write this. Cheers!