Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Voice & Style

Today I'm being featured on Abby Fowers blog - Something to Write about. Go check it out!

Alright Folks, today is Part III of the four part series on the things I learned at The League of Utah Writers Conference.

This particular class was a two hour tribute to Voice and Style taught by Clint Johnson who has written several books and works as a writing adviser for a local college.

Before we can talk about voice and style we have to define what they are. Clint defined them this way -

Voice - The unique way an individual views the world - expressed.

Style: The mechanical expression of voice.

That's all fine and grand, but what does it really mean? Clint told us that it basically means it's you. It's who you are an how you express who you are.

Now I know what you're thinking - If that's the case, then why are we even talking about it?

Because voice and style can be refined to bring out the best you.

Because his presentation is too long for a blog post I'm just going to go over the exercises he gave us to refine our voice and style.


1. Learn- If you know enough about something you gain passion for it and, the more distinctive your voice will become.

2. Be Open to Experience - Go do something you’ve never done before, especially if it makes you feel an amount of uncertainly (whatever you think is the least appealing).

3. Reexamine beliefs - Try to view the world and imagine how it works. Make sense out of things you disagree with, try to see other people's points of view. Try to understand why someone would have different religious or political beliefs than you.

4. Surround yourself with people who are different - Go out and meet people (writing conference's are great for this.) Listen to people who are different than you and work with their logic.

5. Read Widely - read books you usually wouldn't touch. If you like fiction read non-fiction, etc.

6. Ask “why?” - Pick ten things that seem obvious and pick two reasons why they are as they are, that you’ve never considered before. Even if you don’t believe them, come up with reasons that may be plausible. Stretch! (i.e. why are most rooms square? Take it as deep as you can.)

7. Learn the power of inter-connectivity - Pick two items out of a box and write a connection between the two. The connection can be absolutely anything but try to make the reflection in reality. (Linguistic,via association, based on memory etc.)

8. WRITE!!

9. Shape your own Ethos - in other words become who you want to be.


1. Learn to Utilize point of view - Write a dogfight from the point of view of the aggressive dog.

2. Imitate Others - Find a passage from a writing that you love and try to recreate the style as best you can by writing a short story. (This will teach you how to form style, but don't plagiarize in your book.)

3. Experiment in your writing - Write one paragraph that works using only simple sentences. Then one that is five lines long and all one sentence. Then fragments with dialogue getting cut off, etc.

4. Learn the rules then break them for affect.

5. Read out loud and consider Phonetics. - Read a passage that you like from your own writing in a way that feels natural. Then read it faster, and then slower, and then as is comfortable again.

6. Intertextuality - Write a page that connects one religious text to one fairy tale to one current news story.

7. Metaphor - It’s the way we associate things.
I. A few major types –
a. Allegory – the good Samaritan
b. Conceit -- “Ozymandias” Percy Shelley
c. Metonymy – Cesar “lend me your ears”
d. Simile – weaker “He is strong as a bear”Stronger “He is a bear”
e. Synecdoche – “Not a hair on your head shall be harmed.”

8. Dialogue - Write a subject where one person is reluctant to reveal a story and the other is trying to tease it out. Let the reader know the thing the first person is saying without the second person finding it out.

9. Poetics
I. Manipulating sound
a. Alliteration “Back biting is better than being beaten.”
b. Assonance “That solitude which suits abstruse meaning."
c. Meter (Shakespeare, Iambic pentameter)
d. Onomatopoeia “thwack
e. Parallelism “I will go. No, I will go. No, none will go but I.”
10. Structure
I. The structure affects the meaning. (i.e. every chapter gets shorter)
II. Start long and go short or the other way around.(how does this change the feel?)

Most important - READ and WRITE

Sorry that was still long, but I hope you at least got some ideas of things you can do to improve!
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