Guest Blogger Adair Lara writes:
Voice in writing is my new obsession. I’ve been talking nonstop to my memoir students about it until they all look at me cross-eyed. “You must think of your experiences as material! And of yourself as a character!” Many of them have been taking the workshop with me for years, climbing the three flights of steps every Saturday to the redwood attic of the Victorian house I live in.
I was all about identifying the emotional beats of the arc when some of them started. They must have been sick of hearing me say, “What’s the beat?” (The wine Lee Anna brings helps). And they must have been surprised –why had I not mentioned this new approach before, if it was so important?
Well, I didn’t because even though voice is the most obvious thing in the world, we don’t see it.
It’s also all agents and editors care about in the memoirs they are sent these days. They’re looking for a vivid, quirky narrator with an engaging voice. The subject? Comes in second. You think you’re the only one who fell out of a prop plane in the Andes and captured by a lost tribe, and go online and find it happened to six other people, all of whom have written memoirs and already have agents. With a great voice, though, you can write about that or any other damned thing you please and get into print. For example, the agent who received a manuscript of a memoir called Candy Girl by a former stripper-for-a-year named Diablo Cody said:
“I wasn’t interested based on the subject matter alone. Stripping had been covered before (no pun intended), and I didn’t think the author was likely to add much to an already crowded market. But then there was the voice. After just one paragraph, I was a) completely convinced that stripping was the solution to all of her problems, b) laughing uncontrollably, and c) definitely interested in being along for the entire ride, or at least 250-plus pages.”
“Personality” is another word for voice, really. If you don’t like a person’s personality, you don’t want to hang out with them. If you don’t like a book’s personality, you don’t want to hang out with it, either. I know that the number one reason I pick up a book or put one down is because I like the voice or I can’t stand the voice. There doesn’t seem to be much in between for me. The subject is not a factor. I can happily read Anne Lamott talking about Jesus—not an interest I share –because she is so funny and smart and self-deprecating.
Note from Marlene: Adair Lara is also smart and funny . . . take a class with her to learn more about “voice in writing.” This post is an excerpt from Adair’s book in process. I’ll post a book review as soon as the book is published and I have read it. If you would like to be a Guest Book Reviewer for The Write Spot Blog . . . Let’s talk! Send me an email. email@example.com
Adair and Bill on San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz in the background.