Voice is labelled by Wikipedia a “combination of a writer’s use of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc.” However, the voice of a writer goes far deeper than just this literal meaning. It is their very essence, which is contained in their writing even when they try to adopt a persona very different from their real souls. “Voice is not style. It’s not technique. It’s not a decision to write in first or third person, it is the expression of YOU on the page.” The irony is that voice cannot betray the writer no matter what garb it is hidden in. Thus, although the technical aspects of the story might not lack anywhere, the voice of an ethnic writer will come across as wanting genuineness in the story about the rich White Londoner, laying bare the inaccuracy of the entire experience. The writer may even succeed in portraying the lifestyle and the personality of the rich Londoner to an effective degree. However, if the very same writer then pens down a story from an ethnic point of view, that story would undoubtedly surpass the previous one, due to its unfailing truthfulness, that can touch a reader’s heart. The craft could well be there in both the stories, but the heart will be there in just the second.
I might come across as cynical to those ethnic writers who wish to disagree. However, my own cynicism was what led me to question this authenticity issue in the first place. When I joined the creative writing course, my first attempts were at stories that centred around characters who had absolutely nothing do with the way I have lived my life; rich New Yorkers with a jet set lifestyle, aristocratic British living in resplendent mansions, etc. In retrospect, they appear to be somewhat clichéd, and the characters appear to be caricatures, too stereotypical to be genuine. As my stories were commented upon by my peers, there was almost always the issue of authenticity, or lack of it, that was pointed out by my classmates. My tutor encouraged me to look closer to ‘home ground’ for my stories. I took the advice, and was glad to have done so, for the piece that followed, an ethnic story of a woman’s vengeance, was received with such applause that I was left in no doubt about the fact that authenticity was indeed something that could not be achieved merely via a good plot or sound technique; rather, it was something that was in-built in a writer’s voice, and would come out when the writer was true to their experiences. By that I do not imply just the immediately undergone events in a writer’s life. The woman in my story was not me, so I did not, in essence, live her story first-hand. Read the rest of this entry
As a creative writing student, I struggled to find my ‘voice’. I looked everywhere, from the majestic hilltops of the Alps to the high-rises of Manhattan; from the resplendent mansions of aristocratic lords, to the yachting lifestyles of rich New Yorkers. In the end, I found it in a tiny village in the suburbs of my own existence.
It was right there, waiting for me all along, while I traipsed all over the globe, searching in all the wrong places. Finally, exasperated, I acted on the best advice I have ever received about writing: look closer to home ground for your stories. I did just that, and haven’t looked back since.
Voice, to me, is nothing if not my soul. We each have a story to tell, a story that no one but ourselves is best qualified to tell; it is in just such a story that lingers our voice.