You guys are awesome.
I don’t think I’ve ever read such a wide variety of such high quality work that fascinated and thrilled me as much as the work the Voice Writers did last week. We heard the voices of animals, trees, supernatural beings, a park bench, and dozens of unique humans. We watched a bride prepare for her wedding, and a man on death row prepare for his execution. We questioned and pondered and loved and hated—and learned.
Here’s a few of the cool things that came out of it / that I learned:
Everyone interpreted the project a little differently. The variety of ways people’s pieces fit together made the project fascinating—some used different viewpoints to progressively tell more of the same story or more about the same character, some showed how different personalities would react to the same situation, some were linked only by prompt or by setting and showed the subtle contrasts between personalities. It made me glad I wasn’t too specific about what I thought I wanted for this project–it allowed the participants to be much more brilliant than narrower parameters would have allowed–creative minds need structure, yes, but they also need the freedom to be unique; that’s the same reason Inspiration Monday works as well as it does. (InMon is returning one week from today, by the way!)
He said, she said. Many pieces throughout the week had us guessing whether the narrator was male or female. We inferred gender by deciphering situation and analyzing word choice, and simply by how the character struck us. Sometimes we were right, sometimes wrong. A bit of a debate started over my first piece; in the comments, “female” currently leads the vote eight to three—and the majority is correct! With that in mind, here are some things to consider:
- Keeping the main character’s gender vague can be interesting, even profitable in a short story where gender doesn’t matter; readers of either gender can easily place themselves in the head of the narrator.
- Keeping the gender of a main character vague for too long, however—such as several paragraphs into a full-length novel—can also throw a reader off if they guessed wrong to begin with.
We can use bias to fight bias. I found myself relating to characters I normally wouldn’t like. I found myself disliking characters I’d normally relate to. I was irritated by the responsible bookstore manager, but I loved the nonchalant killer. I formed opinions, read others’ comments, read the rest of the week’s pieces—and second-guessed myself. I stopped to think about why I felt certain things toward certain characters—and whether that was justified by truth or clouded by bias. A well-crafted voice in a well-crafted story can show your reader the humanity in his enemy—the vulnerability and even the likability.
The mystery of the other side of the story. Possibly the most fun was the switching of views within the same story, a method several of the Voice Writers used to create suspense. In each character, we got a limited perspective—each one saw things the others didn’t; each one told us something new about the story. We got to piece together the clues to reveal a bigger truth than any one character could see.
Actions speak louder than words. One of the finer points of “Show Don’t Tell” hit home for me last week, too. When all was said and done, one of the most powerful illustrations of character was not the words they chose but the actions they used to respond to others. Giving a hot drink to a homeless man, or ignoring him. Locking a door and drowning out what’s on the other side, or taking a deep breath and opening it.
The Internet is the greatest invention since before sliced bread! Twenty years ago we couldn’t do this. Most of us, lacking the support of a writing community (not just here at BeKindRewrite, but all over the social media sphere) probably would’ve died out as writers by now. We would’ve given it up as a silly hobby nobody else cared about. And something precious and beautiful and potentially world-changing would have been thrown away. The Internet connects us across continents and oceans and helps us learn, inspire, and grow together.
So I want to thank each and every one of you for making this week so incredible. I may have gotten it started–but it was you guys who made it happen. Again and again I was blown away by your talent. I don’t think most of you realize just how talented you are. Every one of you contributed something unique and worthwhile. Every comment was encouraging, useful, insightful or all three.
I wish I could send you all books in the mail, but two’s the limit for now! The first random number is 12 – which is R.L.W. over at SnippetsAndScraps. I’ve sent you an email to get your mailing address and choice of prize!
What was your favorite part of Voice Week? Shall we do it again next year?