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Monday, August 22, 2011

Is Anybody Out There?


            Is Anybody Out There?

            Writing is a lonely business. You may be surrounded by kids, pets, your significant other or God knows what else, but when you’re writing, you’re alone. It’s just you, your computer (Or typewriter) and your imagination. Perhaps like me, you keep a Random House College Thesaurus handy but no matter how long you stare at it, it won’t talk to you. This can be very intimidating, especially to a novice writer. Most people immerse themselves in the stimuli of life – conversations, music, Play Station, television. Letting it all go and sitting quietly, allowing your mind to wander the Fields of Elysium can unearth hidden demons or rough diamonds needing only a little polishing to shine.
            At conventions, most writers I meet seem the gregarious type, a few too gregarious perhaps, but eager to talk. Alone, the words have to speak for you. Your characters become extensions of your id, your ego. What they say and how they say it reveals as much about the writer as the character. It’s called Voice and we all have it even if it seems all too quiet much of the time. Good Voice grabs the reader’s attention and holds it throughout the story, much like a good oral storyteller, a traveling bard.

            Words are the building blocks of writing, sentence structure and syntax the mortar, but Voice is the architect, the designer deciding what the building looks like. There have been many great classic Architects – Sturgeon, King, Silverberg, and some new ones – Maberry, Lansdale, and Boston. Each has mastered Voice, using it as a surgeon might wield a scalpel, deftly slicing through layers of fantasy, allowing the reader’s mind to explore depths otherwise impossible to experience.
            I grew up in the Deep South – Mississippi and spent 20-plus years in Atlanta. In spite of years in Chicago and Pennsylvania, I speak with a drawl and sometimes catch myself writing with one. Sometimes it’s colorful but often a hindrance, but I have to use it. It’s who I am. So is my history. Where you grew up, what you do for a living (I assume you don’t make a living as a writer), what your life experiences have been all create your Voice. It is the best tool a writer has to put a piece of themselves onto paper.

            I began by talking about loneliness and it is a lonely business. Some writers work in a vacuum, never going to conventions, never attending signings. I can’t. I crave people, not crowds, people. They are the stuff of my stories. Their speech, their mannerisms, their follies, their triumph all become paint for my canvas. Later, alone at my desk, they fill the lonely wanderings of my imagination as I carefully strip them of what they were and create a new being from their rough clay, a character for my story.
            Like the lonely Maytag repairman, writing is a lonely craft. A writer’s ultimate goal is to get one of his/her creations into the public’s hands, to see his/her imagination’s fruit enjoyed by others. Then, it’s back to their lonely world. If, like me, you’re a hermit at heart, it’s not so bad. Keep on writing. Discover your Voice. Use it wisely. Use it together for all mankind.