FINDING YOUR OWN QUIRKY AND UNIQUE VOICE
Linda Oatman High
Author/Journalist/Playwright Linda Oatman High has published more than 30 books for children and teens. Her newest book is the middle-grade novel One Amazing Elephant, for which she was awarded the Phyllis Reynolds Naylor work-in-progress grant. Linda holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College, and she teaches both nationally and internationally.
Your writing voice should be an extension of you and your life: a colorful blast of confetti and surprises in your stories.
As an illustration of how the same story may be told by two completely different voices, I have students listen to two versions of The Star-Spangled Banner: one performed by The Boston Pops and the other by Jimi Hendrix.
In order to develop your unique writing voice, you must examine your life under a microscope.
Writing Exercise # 1: Jot down three words that describe yourself as a child (the age of a character about whom you are writing or want to write). Write for 10 minutes in the first-person voice of that child. Then jot down three words that describe yourself as you as an adult, as you are now. Write for 10 minutes about that adult interacting with that child about whom you just wrote.
Writing Exercise # 2. Read the first page of the novel “Gradle Bird” by JC Sassen. Think about a road or highway that was near your childhood home. Write a scene set there.
Writing Exercise # 3. Read from my book “One Amazing Elephant,” a middle-grade novel about a grieving elephant. Write in the first person voice of an animal that is grieving.
In conclusion: Finding your writing voice is a combination of mining your memories, examining your current life under a microscope, listening to yourself and others while in conversation, and studying mentor texts as examples of unique voices in stories.
Recommended authors with quirky and unusual voices include Jory John for picture books, Kate DiCamillo for middle-grade novels, and AS King for young adult novels. Read aloud from the books of these authors, taking note of the manner in which they create their characters’ voices as well as their own authorial voices.