Tag Archives: Voice

Inspiration Monday – True Myth

Another Thursday, another post for InMon. Of this week’s prompts, the phrase “true myth” jumped out at me. There are a lot of true myths around at this time of year – not least the idea that Christmas is the most important festival of the year (if you’re Christian, you know that’s Easter, and if you’re not, you are celebrating something that isn’t a holyday [sic] for you at all! And yet, it the Western world, the propagators of the myth have made it true.) Of course, a true myth could mean something that truly is a myth and as such would need to fit the dictionary definition. For example:

a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.

In that case, most of the things we associate with Christmas aren’t true myths at all. Except, of course, the Christmas Story itself.

But, all that postulating aside, my story in response to the prompt is far less highbrow, and is the opening to a Bridget Jones-esque romance novel I will probably never write. I’d love to hear what you think.

True Myth

It’s a myth universally acknowledged that a single woman of a certain age must be in want of a husband. Or a wife, I suppose. Unless she has a houseful of cats, in which case she is probably happy just the way she is. Do cats make one happy, I wonder, or does a girl only fill the house with cats when she has already ruled out the possibility of happiness?

It’s clearly a myth. I know at least one woman who has neither cats nor life partner, and appears not to be desirous of either. Amy doesn’t just claim to be content, the way we single women do when our married friends flaunt their gorgeous, rich husbands in our faces, and subject us to their two-point-four perfect children. I’ve got that act down to a fine art: I can coo over a baby without the slightest hint of envy audible in my voice, and I genuinely don’t feel jealous when those perfect children are screaming, vomiting or tearing down shelves full of expensive crockery in Debenhams. But Amy really genuinely doesn’t seem to want all that. She’s a wildly-successful career woman, she has a one-week stand occasionally with some cute guy she finds in a bar, and then she goes home to her expensive flat in the Docklands, and is happy.

Single girls can tell. Sure, our married friends probably think we are all Amys, but we know better. I know for a fact that Sarah would have married Peter Proctor if he’d only asked her, even if it meant living out in Oman and wearing the hijab for the rest of her life; and I know that Josie is still hoping to turn up Mr Right among the other hunt protesters, regardless of their dodgy facial hair and obsession with injuring horses in the name of animal rights.

And they know about me. Because, for all that it’s a myth, where I’m concerned, the problem is it’s true.

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A Writing Challenge – Tone of Voice

Who hasn’t either had or heard the argument: “It wasn’t what you said, it was your tone of voice”? Tone of voice is one of the most powerful communication tools we have in conversation. Words in themselves can mean a million things, but add tone of voice and there’s no mistaking the intention. That argument probably started because the other party said something apparently innocent but poisoned it with the barbs of emotion that tone of voice can add.

As I embark on the ship of parenthood, I’m struggling with tone of voice when I read aloud to Sebastian. I pick up a novel, and I start to read, but the stage directions always come after the lines. For example, here’s the latest passage in Rose Tremain’s “The Road Home”:

“Asylum-seeker, are you?”

He uttered these words as though they disgusted him, as though they made him want to bring up some of the food that had soured his breath.

Now, when I read the first line, I had no idea how to say it. The policeman character had only just stepped out onto the page, so I had no roadmap for whether he was a kindly chap or a cynical one; whether he was keen to help or ready to suspect. His only previous lines had been fairly chirpy: “Wake up, Sir. Police” and “Steady on! No tricks, thank you kindly. Up you get!” So it wasn’t until I had read this line that I discovered he was not a fan of asylum-seekers, not in the slightest bit inclined to help and probably a reader of the Daily Mail.

When we write, it is perfectly respectable to describe in this way. An ordinary adult reader (and let’s face it, Tremain probably doesn’t get read aloud to one-month-olds very often) can deal with the fact that they take in the words and then apply the tone after the fact.

But it’s worth thinking about. Writing has long been recognised for lacking the nuances of the spoken word – emails and letters can easily be misconstrued and writers have always looked for ways to indicate intent in a smooth and effortless manner which would be unnecessary if only there were some way to print tone of voice.

My own particular challenge is sarcasm. I use it a lot myself, and my characters use it too. And yet, I get readers who miss that, and who completely misread my stories because they think the sarcastic character is either stupid or weak.

I don’t have an answer. Tremain’s description of the policeman, for all that it fell too late to help Sebastian’s comprehension, is a pretty good example of how to show (not tell) the character’s emotions and tone of voice, but you don’t always want to break up dialogue with a lengthy description, especially if it’s quick-fire, as sarcastic repartee so often is. So, I’m still looking for a shorthand for certain tones – cynical, sardonic, frustrated, sympathetic … and, most of all, sarcastic.

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Voice Week – the aftermath

Last week, I participated in Voice Week – a week-long project instigated by BeKindRewrite to write the same scene, story or prompt using a variety of voices or points of view. In keeping with her other challenge – Inspiration Mondays – BeKindRewrite is non-restrictive in how you interpret the challenge, and one of the things I found best about reading the other responses was to see the various ways people went about the challenge.

Some writers took a single story and told it in 5 parts, each focussing on a different character, with a different way of speaking. Others did a similar thing, but changed point of view each time. BeKind herself simply described a scene, but using 5 very different writing styles – from Biblical through gothic literature and beyond. And then there were a few like me, who told a single story from five different points of view.

How did I do? Well, ultimately, that’s for you to decide. I feel the week was a success – lots of generous comments, a few new readers  and I learned a few things about my writing too. Did I explore voice? A little, but within quite narrow bounds; my first three entries had reasonably similar tones, so they were more about interpretation and POV. It was only really on Thursday and Friday that I moved away from a single first person narrator and branched out into different styles of writing.

Wednesday was probably the weakest day. The spider’s point of view needed more space really to do what I wanted it to – her angst got lost in the story. Apparently some readers felt that she was too knowledgable about the situation too, although I’m not sure I agree with that – why shouldn’t she see more than the average observer? My cats certainly do.

Thursday was my favourite – an official report on the sinister clearance of inhabitants – although writers always like to play God and Friday was a variation on that theme.

Did you partake – as a writer or a reader? I’d love to know how you enjoyed Voice Week (and if you didn’t there’s still time to go back and look at either my entries or others).  In addition, I enjoyed it so much, I’m looking for other short-term writing challenges I can join in online. Do you know any? If so, please share a link.

 

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Voice Week #5

In the final part of my Voice Week exercise, below is another possibility for the story which began as A Mother’s Legacy. You can see all the other versions of this story, and read about Voice Week as a project, on Monday-Thursday’s posts. Again, I’ve tried to break my own mold a bit with today’s version, going right outside they world I know.

If you’re looking for Friday Fiction, go to the next blogpost, Friday Fiction – The Rebellion. Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments about this piece, which started life from a Fictioneers’ prompt a few weeks ago.

Legacy

They came from us and so they must all eventually return. For we are All that is and ever shall be.

She walks bent; her human body no longer of value. She will shed it at the shore.

He still clings to his form and, in doing so, clings to hers. He senses, but does not understand. He knows that he must let her go, but wishes she could remain.

He leads her, tenderly, to the water’s edge.

She hesitates, clinging to the last tendrils of experience. For the All feels nothing, hears nothing, knows nothing. And yet, is everything.

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Voice Week #4

In part 4 of my Voice Week submissions, I’ve stepped right outside my comfort zone and tried to give you something different from my normal fiction style. I’m not sure I could sustain it for a longer story, but it was definitely interesting to try for 100 words. You can see the original story and an explanation of Voice Week on monday’s post, then a couple of more normal versions of the story on Tuesday and yesterday’s posts. Please note – the various versions are not all supposed to be simultaneously true; they are different possibilities stemming out of the first story.

Thursday’s Submissions suggestions / Inspiration Mondays posts will be resumed next week.

Legacy

Clearance of properties in the Region Of Redevelopment proceeds with substantial success. Most inhabitants have been dispatched according to classification.

Pockets of resistance remain. At Building 785 gunfire has been intermittent. At 20:00 hours, two individuals were seen escaping into the forest in the direction of the lake. One adult male is believed to have returned to Building 785.

A boat was observed at 21:00 hours carrying a lone elderly female away from shore. Regrettably our tracking beacons were unable to intercept the vessel, which is believed to have escaped into enemy territory.

Final clearance is anticipated within 24 hours.

 

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Voice Week #3

In the third part of my Voice Week submissions, here is another possible version of A Mother’s Legacy. Check out Monday’s post for Version 1 and an explanation of the project, then yesterday’s for Version 2. Today I’m stepping outside the main characters, and trying a different tone. As ever, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

 

A Mother’s Legacy [The Spider]

Humanity bustles through, oblivious. They only ever notice us if they smash through our homes, tearing each carefully woven strand from its anchor point. Then they notice, oh yes. But they notice only their fear.

He’s the same. But she is different. Like me, she has given her all for her children and when she sees my creation, we are one for a moment. Then he speaks: “Come on, Mum. Let’s get you to the shore now.”

And she is no longer the proud and strong spider, but the terrified fly, caught in his snare and unable to break free.

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Voice Week #2

In the second part of my Voice Week submissions, here is another possible version of A Mother’s Legacy. Check out yesterday’s post for version 1 and an explanation of the project. As ever, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

A Mother’s Legacy [The Mother]

I once told my son that if I became terminally ill, he should put me on a boat with a pistol and a prayer. But that was before he married the Black Widow, before it was all about her.

Apparently the doctor said I wouldn’t see out the winter, but I see it now – frost crisping onto the trees and crunching underfoot. And sprinkled on a spider’s web, her babies hanging restless in the centre. She’s given them everything, but it’s not enough.

His hand chills more than the cold. “Come on, Mum. Let’s get you to the shore now.”

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