November 23rd, 2006


Discovering America -- the Continental Divide Poll

Poll #873984 Continetal Divide Survey

Per a conversation with rosefox this morning, where you stand with respect to the Continental Divide?

Firmly astraddle, one mighty-thighed leg in each watershed.
Couldn't they make the Atlantic Ocean just a bit wider?
It didn't stop the vikings from sailing to Byzantium, why should it stop me?
That's immoral, illegal and just plain wrong, I'm afraid.
East is east and west is west and never Mark Twain shall I meet.
What in blazes are you on about now? Go eat some freaking turkey and take a nap, dude.

Cheese blogging (almost) returns

Due to a minor snafu on my part (failing to take adequate notes at the cheese counter at Pasta Works), I am unable to keep my cheese blogging commitments tonight. I have the appropriate photographs and tasting notes, but I need to run down some origin info. In the mean time, feel free to amuse yourself with Collapse )

Dept of weird and funny things

Watching Waiting for Guffman, and there's Lockhart, Texas, standing in for Blaine, Missouri. Including the courthouse I recently visited and photographed, anent here and here.

the_child on the value of hugging: "You know why you can keep giving hugs and hugs? When you hug someone, you're getting hugged back. When you're born, you don't hug. People hold you. But when you get older, you can decide to hug. Or kill people, that's your choice too. To be good or bad. To hug or be rude."

Also, discussing Lord of the Rings (which she has not yet read nor seen) with me...
the_child: So did the Dark Lord search for the Ring himself? Or did he send his guards to do it?
jaylake: He sent his guards.
the_child: Why didn't the guards just take the Ring when they found it? Then they'd have the power.
jay_lake: It didn't really work that way.
the_child: But what if it did? If I was the hobbit I'd wait for them to fight, wait in a tree, then when the Ring popped out like it might, I'd grab it and ride away quickly.
jay_lake: Wow.
the_child: And I'll bet the hobbit wished he'd lived next to the volcano so he could leave his house and just walk a little ways to throw the Ring into the hot lava.

The care and feeding of voice in writers

I'm on about voice again. As with all my comments of this nature, they're just comments, not prescriptions. I'm not even sure everything in this post works for me, let alone whether it will work for you.

As I've said before, while most elements of craft can be taught or developed readily, I don't particularly think that voice works that way. Everything else either comes in the hand a writer is dealt, or arrives in the process of writing practice, critique, editorial feedback, education and so forth. But voice...that comes from within.

(Side note: voice and style are closely related, but separate. Style is the way the story is told, the subgenre and speech register and word choices. Two writers can use very similar styles and still have different voices.)

So how do you find your voice? What are the processes for the care and feeding of your voice?

The first and simplest answer is challenging to deliver as practical advice: write more. Voice arises from the authorial perspective and language tropes embedded in the text. It flows naturally, serving as your fingerprints on your work.

But what happens if your voice feels distant to you? What happens when you write toward it, and don't find it, or it doesn't find you?

I don't know any solid answers to that, but one suggestion is to look closely at authors who have strong voices. Read their work, think about what they're doing. For example, I find Jeffrey Ford to have a strong, clear voice, usually writing in a crisp style, without obscurantism, anachronism or excessive ornamentation. (All three of which can be said to characterize much of my writing.) One thing about Ford is that his novels and stories are often highly recognizable as coming from him. The same might be said of Roger Zelazny, for example. Andy Duncan fits this profile, as do many other writers. Seek them out, read some of their work, and try to map for yourself what's going on. Why does an Andy Duncan story sound like an Andy Duncan story.

If this doesn't make sense yet, let me draw an analogy from music. Compare Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits. In many respects the two are working in the same style -- singer-songwriter-poet, very embedded in a specific cultural matrix, sharing certain kinds of arrangements and presentations and themes. Yet anyone with even passing familiarity would never confuse recordings by the two. For singers, the concept of voice is quite literal, but draw that concept back to writing.

Another thing to consider is what is going into the mill as grist. If you read nothing but big book fantasy, that's going to influence your voice. If you want to write big book fantasy, this is probably not a problem, but if you want to write edgy big idea science fiction along the lines of Light, it might be a problem. Likewise your non-genre and non-fiction reading, as well as gaming, television and music choices. What goes in will come out. I'm not saying read like you want to write. I am saying read broadly, and choose the influences you want to have. Some randomness is excellent here, too -- book recommendations by friends and strangers, stuff off the sale table, that foreign movie you never cared about, a rap radio station every now and then instead of your usual Celtic rock fare.

Finally, I suggest talking about voice with your friends. Ask them about voice-y writers. Even non-writers who are dedicated readers shouldn't have much trouble with the concept, if they're not already familiar with it. Per the recent post about letters from characters, write letters or notes to yourself and others in voice. Play with it, take it out for a ride.

Then, when you're actually writing, forget all that crap I just mentioned. All you have to do is tell the story. Everything else is setting pins, no more. Don't think about voice while you're writing. Just write.

What's your take on voice? How do you draw it out?