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!


elizabethreinhardt said...

Excellent points! And the last one is always easy to follow...no matter if you're paying attention to writing style and form, it's always a good thing to churn out a few words and read a ton!

Kelley said...

Wow, thank you! Very well written.

Abby Fowers said...

Now I no longer have to wonder if you schedule these posts so early cause I know you are UP! I am still in awe over it.
This was a great class. I learned so much!

Krista said...

Great tips. Thanks for sharing.

J. A. Bennett said...

@elizabethreinhardt True that!

@Kelley You're welcome :)

@Abby I actually do schedule my post, I write them all on saturday :) 4:30 isn't so bad when you're used to it!

@Krista Thanks! excited for our meeting tonight :)

cherie said...

Excellent post! Wow, you learned a ton during the conference, didn't you? Thanks for sharing this with us.

My "voice" is a culmination of my personal worldview and my life experiences. I know that the way I see things is different from others; and vice versa. The trick is knowing your voice and utilizing it in your writing.

One time, one of my stories was put up anonymously for a contest, along with 3 other stories from different authors. My sister was able to pick up which one was mine without any hints or promptings from me. She knew my writing style and my voice so she was able to recognize it when she saw it. Pretty cool, and it made me very happy. ;)

Emily R. King said...

I need to work on many aspects of voice and style. It seems as though when I get one down, I have another to work on. Thanks!

JRuud said...

Love these tips! Thanks for sharing. Need to get my voice!

WilyBCool said...

Awesome! Keep it up!

Joanne said...

Great advice. I particularly like the suggestion to vary sentence structure in a paragraph. I'll do that when I write, sometimes including a run-on sentence, intentionally, for effect. It's fun to see where those words can lead.

marvin saidi said...

loved every word in ths post and bdw great blog..+follown
Anyhu Come check out my blog and lets follow each other like twitter


Sarah McCabe said...

Great tips. I particularly like the ones under "voice".

Peggy Eddleman said...

That's fabulous information! Clint is awesome. I sent him my first 15 pages for a critique four months ago, and he was amazing.

Lynn(e) Schmidt said...

This was a long post, it took me two times to read it :) (I have a bit of A.D.D. don't judge). Either way, I just wanted to say that I really liked this part:

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

Jenny S. Morris said...

Wow, this is so awesome. A mini-class. Thanks for all the great info!