Voice, Style and Grammar

I’m tired and busy, so here’s a neat writing link:

Kristine Kathryn Rusch on voice and why it is important for writers and storytellers. The first half of the post is about the Borders bankruptcy, you have to scroll down (or read the Borders stuff, since it is interesting, even if you’re not in the US) to get to the voice bit.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Business Rusch series is excellent in general and required reading for anyone interested in the publishing industry.

However, the voice post resonated with me in particular, because it lays down the difference between grammatically correct writing and what is assumed to be “good style” (and what is considered good or bad writing varies according to culture and fashion anyway) and voice.

This doesn’t mean that – as some commenters seem to believe – that knowing the rules of grammar, punctuation, POV, effective writing, etc… is unimportant, because it is not. But you should have – and if you’ve ever been one of my students, you would have – learned the basics of that in highschool.

Voice is different, because it’s a person’s very unique way of expressing him- or herself. And it’s not necessarily linked to technical proficiency. I’ve had several students who had grammar and spelling issues, sometimes quite severe, but who still displayed a unique and notable voice in creative writing assignments. In fact, the two students that had the strongest writing voices both had language, spelling and grammar issues. Both also happened to be dyslexic. In one case, the student’s spoken vocabulary far exceeded her written vocabulary, so she kept spelling unfamiliar words phonetically. If you came across a strangely spelled word in her work, you had to read it out loud to know what she meant. Yet she obviously had a lot of writing talent for a 13-year-old.

Another thing about voice is that it’s almost impossible to change. You can deliberately alter your style, but you cannot change your voice, at least not for long.

Some time ago, I found myself frustrated by rejections and decided to try writing a bit of short fiction in the pseudo-lyrical/poetic style that I saw in many SFF short fiction markets. So I started writing. Within a couple of paragraphs, the voice started to sound like my own again, rather than the writers I was imitating, and the story turned into a parody of a certain kind of SFF story. As a result, I know have a text that’s very funny – at least to me – but not marketable at all.

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2 Responses to Voice, Style and Grammar

  1. Pingback: Nihilism and Plagiarism Redux – and a little bit on Style | Cora Buhlert

  2. Babette says:

    Nice blog post, I am viewing back on a regular basis to search for posts.

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