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Writing: Voice

Like I Told You . . .

 

Today's Snack: Finding your "voice" in writing is finding the REAL you. To do that, you have to feel comfortable with writing. To feel comfortable, it should feel familiar, easy, understood. Now, writing can be like that to everybody, if you just practice it over and over. It's the same thing with food. Sometimes, unfamiliar food can be a little scary. To really enjoy a snack, you have to feel comfortable with its ingredients. So let's have the ultimate after-school snack - a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with a glass of milk!

 

--------------------

Supplies:

Recording device, such as a tape recorder,

computer application, cell phone or videocamera

Two pieces of lined paper and pencil

 

 

They always say that you should find your own "voice" for writing before you use any other "voice."

 

That means write with your own personality, before you try to invent another personality. But a lot of students don't know their own writing "voice" well enough to master it, and move on.

 

It's easy to write in your own voice, and feel as comfortable doing it as you do in your favorite pair of shoes, if you practice it. You'll quickly find your own "voice" if you give yourself permission to be yourself.

 

Ironically, the best way to find out what your writing personality is, is to hear yourself TELLING a story, not writing it. That unveils, or reveals, your speaking personality, which is probably a lot closer to your writing "voice" than anything else!

 

Now, they also say that you should write for an audience of one. When you write, it helps to think about one person - your best friend, your mother, a favorite teacher who thinks you're a good writer - and then you don't get nervous or too formal. Because of uncertainty with writing assignments, a lot of students tend to hide their real selves behind formal language.

 

But that conceals who you are, and distorts your message. People know it's fake! Who uses words like "therefore" and "nevertheless" in conversation? Then why would you use those in writing? That kind of unnatural language is what makes a lot of writing weird and boring to read.

 

But you can do a lot better than that. You can write as if you are sitting right next to that nice person, telling your story instead of writing it. Keep that up, and you'll use the right "voice" and make the right word choices to successfully get your points across and your story told.

 

So let's practice both skills - finding your own "voice" and then writing a story for an audience of one.

 

First, write a short paper about the most unusual thing that has happened to you in the last week.

 

Don't be thinking of anyone in particular as you write - write it for a large, anonymous audience.

 

You must have at least five paragraphs. Be sure to have a beginning, three paragraphs of development, and then a final, wrapup paragraph. Title this paper "Version 1 - The Unusual Thing."

 

OK? As soon as you have written it, then get some kind of a recording device, pair up with another student, or ask a family member or teacher, and, instead of WRITING that same story . . .

 

TELL them what happened . . . in your own words. Just tell the story with details and whatever you'd like, to tell it completely. BE SURE TO RECORD WHAT YOU SAY!

 

When you are finished, title another piece of paper "Version 2 - The Unusual Thing." Now listen over and over to your recording, transcribing your words exactly as you said them, in the order in which you said them, onto paper. Again, you should have five paragraphs - a beginning, an ending, and three paragraphs in between.

 

When you are finished, compare the two written versions. Be sure to share them with the person who listened to you.

 

Which is livelier, most interesting, more "you"? In the vast majority of cases, it will be the word-for-word transcription of how you told the story and recorded it.

 

Eureka! There's your "voice"!

 

Now your assignment is to live the rest of your life writing as if you are telling it, to someone you like.

 

And guess what? You will be a much better writer, with readers who love to read what you write, and they'll feel like they know you better . . . which, if you write like your real self, they will!

 

By Susan Darst Williams www.AfterSchoolTreats.com Writing 2010

 

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