The Acting Side of Writing
There has been much said at one time or another about a writer’s “voice.” You know, the way that a writer “speaks” on paper, finding their own way to express themselves, show their colors and come across in their unique way to their audience. We all need that special voice to make us stand out from the crowd.
As with any experienced writer, I too have developed my own voice. When I am writing my own material on my nickel, they need to and can sound like me. On the other hand, when I’m working as a freelance writer, I need to write quality content to meet my customer’s needs. Otherwise, their needs become suborned to an attempt to satisfy my own craving for recognition.
If I have a customer whose needs don’t match my voice, I’m either going to have a lot of frustration with rewrites or I’m going to lose the customer. Most of the time, that customer isn’t paying me to be me, they’re paying me to disappear into the woodwork and make it sound like they are a wonderful writer.
To best satisfy my various customer’s needs, I find it useful to have a number of different voices I can select from; allowing me to write as they need me to. In other words, I have an authoritative, educated voice for writing white papers and informational articles. Then, for other things, I change hats and put on my “friendly neighbor” voice and come across as a person or friend helping out with a problem. Another quick hat change and I’ve got a young voice for writing blog posts for teens and young adults (even though I’m 52 years old). Still another hat allows me to put on a humorous voice when appropriate.
While I’m using the metaphor of changing hats to describe what I’m talking about, I really don’t have a hat collection in my office (although that’s not a bad idea). What I do is stop for a moment to mentally “put on” that character when I need to write in that voice, much the same way as an actor puts on a character. If I need to write as a country bumpkin, I put on the character of a country bumpkin, so’s ah can wrat lak that. If’n ah don’ act like am from da country, ah won’ sound lak ah’m from da contry, sumpin’ll come out wrong.
I find it much easier to correctly “speak write” in that character’s voice when I’m pretending I am that character; otherwise, it comes across stilted and artificial; anything but quality content. Just trying to superimpose the voice I need on my own voice doesn’t work as well. I might get it perfect in one phrase, and totally blow it in the next. Overall, putting on that character gives me much more authenticity in my expression than I would have if I just stayed as me, trying to write in that voice.
Maybe you’ve never seen yourself as an actor, but all of us have one hidden deep within. For many, it only comes out at a party, when they’ve had a few drinks to loosen them up. Who needs the drinks? I don’t need to be drunk to have fun, nor do I need to be drunk to pretend I’m something that I’m not. You can too; it’s in there, just let it come out. Let yourself go and put on another character; experiment with its voice; who knows, you may find a whole new world of writing opportunities opening up for you.