Voice Week: why it totally rocked

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?

About Stephanie Orges

Stephanie is an award-winning copywriter, aspiring novelist, and barely passable ukulele player. Here, she offers writing prompts, tips, and moderate-to-deep philosophical discussions. You can also find her on and Pinterest.

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25 Comments

  1. It was great to read the works of others and see how they interpreted the challenge. A brilliant week for both reading and writing.

    And a HECK YES to doing it again next year. 😀

    (Also, congrats to R.L.W at Snippets&Scraps!)

  2. The best part of voice week was the collective community it created for the week. We got to know a little more about other writers that we may never have stumbled upon otherwise. The compliments and constructive criticisms made by fellow writers let us know what worked and what did not work in our own pieces, but also let us see how others work too.

    I certainly think it should happen again next year and would love to experience it again.

    Thanks for organising it Stephanie. Congratulations to R.L.W!

  3. Thank you and congratulations, Stephanie! I just finished my entries, sadly…so I didn’t really succeed at completing all five voices by the end of the week 🙁 For all it’s worth, here’s a link to my last post:
    http://thewriteproject.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/voice-week-days-4-and-5-the-big-move/

    This was a really great learning experience for me. Looking forward to next year!

  4. You summed it up for me in the last section – that the internet opens up a wealth of social contact an learning opportunity never before afforded to writers holed up at home. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know new writers last week, as well as being entertained. And, of course, receiving incredibly valuable feedback to my work almost in realtime. I can honestly say that I feel my writing ability and confidence shot up exponentially as a result. Thanks to everyone who participated, for Stephanie for making it possible, and congrats to R.L.W!

    • It’s amazing, isn’t it? I’m frequently blown away by the power of technology. Sometimes I wish we lived in “kinder” times, but then I remember all that we do have. It’s pretty freakin’ awesome to be alive right now.

  5. Voice week was amazing. For all the reasons already said, and for the challenge to imagine/create a story from five different views/voices. I felt my brain stretching out and expanding.

    Definitely in for next year, or sooner.

    Thanks.

  6. I can but echo the comments above. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and can’t wait for the next challenge you might have waiting up your sleeve.
    Many thanks Stephanie for all your hard work in making Voice Week the success it was.
    Congratulations to R.L.W.

  7. Voice Week has had a bigger impact on me than you might realize, Stephanie. It’s fanned a flame in my ever-lovin-writers-heart that has been nothing more than a smouldering ember for months and months. I feel energized and motivated in my own work, and thoroughly inspired by those that I have had the pleasure of connecting with this last week! I would love to participate in this again – and anything else that you come up with in the meantime! LOL

    Congrats to RLW!! Let us know what you receive – and maybe a couple of book reviews might be in the works??? 😉

  8. P.S. I’m having a drawing soon to celebrate 100,000 visits to my blog. I posted about it today if anyone is interesting in throwing their name in the hat. The gift are some beautiful handcrafted note cards, and a little secret sumpin’ sumpin’ from me! 🙂

  9. Yes voice week was great! I loved reading other pieces and guessing the narrator’s voice or perspectives! 🙂 Thanks for organising this!
    And thanks to everyone who participated and gave me something to look forward to reading every day!

  10. My favorite part of voice week was the community of writers coming together. After that, it was the brilliant writing, creativity, and broadening my own experience as a reader. There were pieces so wildly imaginative I never would have read them anywhere else. Hell yes let’s do it again next year!

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