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Writing: Voice

It's In the Bag


Today's Snack: Have a bag of pretzels with a Capri Sun, which is a drink that comes in a sort of a bag.





All kinds of small toys and objects that are "characters"

Each one should be in a different paper sack

Writing notebook or paper and pencil



Your "voice," in writing, is your style and personality. Your "voice" is revealed by the words you choose, the way you put your sentences together, and the picture that you "paint" with your writing.


When people read what you write, they should feel as if you're standing right there, talking to them. Your "voice" should be the REAL you.


Since it's your voice, and nobody else's, your writing should "sound" like you.


It's like your fingerprint or the sound of your real voice.


When it comes to talking and singing, every single human being on Earth has a different, distinctive voice. You can tell all your friends apart by the sounds of their voices. Right?


A writer's style, or "voice," is as diverse as anything else. No two people paint pictures that are identical . . . no two basketball players dribble the ball in exactly the same style . . . no two people play the guitar the same way, to the same beat and with the same choice of chords.


That's what "voice" is in writing. Each of us is distinctively, deliciously different!


Why do so many kids still write in a flat, serious, boring style that sounds like an encyclopedia? Maybe they think that's what teachers want.


Wrong! Everybody wants your personality to shine through your writing. And you're not flat, serious and boring, are you? Of course not!


Be unique! Be yourself! Be willing to take a risk and expose yourself a little bit through bold and lively writing.


Be proud of yourself and how you write! If you feel good about your writing, your reader will feel good about it, too.


To write with personality, you have to know the answers to these three things:


1.      Who are you?


  • Your writing should "sound like you," and nobody else.


  • Your written words should match your spoken ones.


  • Be yourself! Don't try to impress anyone. Be natural. Be honest. Be interesting!


  • Express your real feelings.


  • Be clear.


  • Keep it simple, plain, orderly and sincere.


  • Make your writing come to life by pretending you are talking to a friend, and just happen to be writing it down.


  • Let your enthusiasm shine in your writing, and it'll be contagious.





2.      Who is your audience?


  • What kind of person is likely to read what you are writing? A writer has to know. It's the key to matching the way you write your message with the people you want to get the message.


  • Are your readers other kids? Then you'll probably use shorter sentences and more slang and easy-going, casual language or humor.


  • Is your only reader your teacher? Then you'll want to use a combination of simple and complex sentences.




3.      How does your writing sound when you read it aloud?


  • Your goal is to get your reader so "into" your writing that he or she wants to rush out and read what you wrote to the first person who walks by! So write as if you are going to be quoted.


  • Make the rhythm and sound of your words as pleasant and interesting as the rhythm and sound of your words when you are speaking.


  • Next time at lunch, sit still and listen to your friends' voices. Do they speak in boring monotones? No! They speak with lots of feeling and emotion . . . they express strong opinions and beliefs . . . they have fun or they kindly sympathize . . . but the ONE thing they DON'T do is be boring and blah!


Now let's practice!


If you're doing this Treat alone, find a stuffed animal, plastic figure, leftover fast-food giveaway toy, or other object around the house. Anything but a human figure will do. You know: a dinosaur, a superhero, a snowman, a toy horse, a finger puppet that looks like a one-eyed alien . . . something like that.


If you're doing this Treat in a group, the leader should put a lot of little characters like that into brown paper sacks in advance. Then have the students choose a sack and boom! They have to write that character's life story so far, using their own voice.


What kinds of things can you write that will show your "voice"?


         Name your character.


         Use words your character would use if he, she or it really were alive.


         Show strong feelings! Be funny, or dead serious.


         Invent some facts and personality traits about your character, and let your writing reflect them.


Remember to be "you," and remember that your audience is your friend.


Read it aloud to yourself, and rewrite parts that don't sound as much like "you" as you'd like. You can be the narrator, or it's OK to pretend that it is the character writing, in the first person.


Set a time limit, and every five minutes, make everybody bring their sacks back, and choose a new one to write about. See if you can write about three different characters and really expand your voice with each one.


Have fun . . . and the more you practice, the more you'll see that being able to write with a strong "voice" is . . . in the bag!


By Susan Darst Williams Writing 2010


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