By Jamie L. Cruise
In my writing adventures, learning and demonstrating new knowledge in practice, I have been educated in several important elements and have become aware of their universal applications, the key two being ‘voice’ and ‘style’. By the latter, I mean how a tool or mechanism in writing fiction or poetry can be used in the same ways in non-fiction writing, whether essays or otherwise. Some of these are more subtle than others, going largely unnoticed but still appreciated by the reader (and sometimes, perhaps, the writer), whereas others are obvious and aid us to appreciate a passage of text as fluid, coherent and embodying a core purpose.
Being naive and often flippant in my own writing across most mediums, I had not considered how the former, a writer’s ‘voice’, is present in their writing and across their works. I had gathered that a distinct ‘style’ of writing can be detected, regardless of whether the text is fiction or non-fiction, but had not considered that part of that style is the voice in which the reader hears when reading a body of work. Given that recently the majority of texts I have read have been of an analytic nature, I have learned that in many cases an author’s voice can be construed, in non-fiction just as well as fiction, regardless of the purpose of the text.
In my study of language, RL Trask (Language: The Basics) and Noam Chomsky (voicing opinion and theory in a range of linguistic and philosophical fields) have proven to be amusing – certainly not in the subject matter, but in the way they inform and elaborate on their subjects: their voice. Through their use of humour, relatable examples and rhetoric, information is absorbed by the reader that might otherwise be lost
Now, at what point does this get interesting to you – my reader? Well, the names I’ve dropped are of little significance here and are purely anecdotal. The point I’m seeking to make is that I have become aware of the presence of my own voice as a writer (title pending). Perhaps ‘existence’ is more appropriate than ‘presence’, as I am starting to wonder how much of a voice, and subsequently style, my existing publications (blog posts) emanate. In truth, I am confident it is present and growing in form (which is encouraging). However, in much the same way a writer is their own worst critic, I find myself comparing my own style to other authors who have already established themselves and I see striking difference in their delivery. While being different is far from a bad thing, one must consider how that voice will be heard and the style received.
For a practical example, let’s look at this blog entry. Sure, if my reader is an English or Creative Writing student, or perhaps someone with an interest in language study or a novice writer, then perhaps I have already captured their attention with some content – but what about those who do not fall into those categories (hereby referred to as the royal ‘They’)? Have I bored Them already? *close tab, continue scrolling social media*
If I haven’t (thank you for sticking with me!), then why are They still reading? Assuming that it isn’t through a prior established relation to me, or an inability to leave without completing what They have started, one would assume that the style in which I have composed the post in, and the voice I am conveying through particular lexical arrangements on the page or screen have been entertaining enough to warrant reading on. This, obviously, is a vital concept to consider when trying to make a career in writing, be it in journalism, fiction, non-fiction, historical reports, sales pitches, etc.
Taking a step back to look at my style and voice in a more general light, it’s hard for me to immediately ascertain what makes them what they are. I am not shy in admitting that I write reasonably freely, without much hesitation or editing beyond an occasional grammatical correction, and often inebriated to some degree (fun fact: not tonight). I feel, and have been told as much, that this gives a very personal touch to my work.
I imagine for those reading this who know me personally may hear my own voice when reading my words because of this (and if you weren’t, perhaps you will now). My concern is that perhaps it is too personal to be interpreted as favourably by someone alien to me. Perhaps it goes so far as to be offensive or irritating to others. It makes little difference to me if it does, as I quite like the idea that I have a voice that can get under the skin of some and into the hearts of others. However, understanding one’s resources proves vital in using them most effectively.
Jamie L. Cruise is a first year English and Creative and Professional Writing student