Changing My Voice

If you’re like me and have been writing for a long time, chances are you think you have a pretty good handle on how to write. Your writing has fallen into a predictable pattern, something we tend to call a writer’s “voice.” But I believe that someone who is serious about writing will never stop being a student, and that you need to shake yourself out of your comfort zone once in a while.

It might be the characters you portray. It might be a new genre you decide to explore. It might be the books you read in preparation for your own writing. Or in my case, it could be an attempt to change your voice.

I follow the typical approach of writing my stories past tense, first or third person, with a smattering of internal dialogue and exposition when I feel it’s necessary. But I have been thinking for quite a while what it would be like to emulate one of my favorite authors.

If you’ve read any of Cormac McCarthy’s books, you will know that his writing style can be a challenge for any reader. His stories are bleak, realistic, and almost always end with a major character, usually the hero or someone close to him, getting killed. What can I say: it’s an acquired taste. He writes in third person with no exposition, no internal dialogue and almost no punctuation–including quotation marks. Like I said, it takes some getting used to. But his stories smack as ultra-realism, and you feel like you are standing next to whoever the story is talking about.

Right now, I am starting a new novel, but I am bogged down in the first chapter. I am seriously considering trying to emulate McCarthy’s style and see if I can do it. It’s easier to change your voice when you are new to it, but I have developed my own voice over the past 40 years. So this is a big step for me, one that might work or that I might regret. I am a little nervous about it, but not so nervous that I will back out.

In any case, it’s worth a try. I will keep you posted.