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B&N Week 188: How Clear Is Your Voice?

| July 29, 2014

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It’s another Tuesday! Guess that means it’s time for more Bolts & Nuts!

This week’s question: how clear is your voice?

Developing your voice comes in two basic stages: having something to say, and the way you say it. Very often, though, when we’re first starting, we’re the equivalent of being on stage doing impressions. (Impressions?) Impressions. By impressions, I mean you see a story that you enjoy, and then you try to imitate what the writer has done. That’s doing an impression. And most of the time, you’re doing a terrible job of it.

Having something to say can take a while to discover. Sure, you like comics, and sure, you like vampires, and of course, there are vampire comics out there… But for the most part, those vampire comics are following the same formula. [Vampires allergic to garlic and avoids crosses and sunlight is lethal.] Can you do something different or special with vampires? (Make them sparkly!) Original, yes, and makes sense in the confines of the story…but really stupid to everyone else. But yes, that’s what I’m talking about. Stephenie Meyer found her voice and told a story that only she could tell.

When I was working for GEICO, one of the supervisors was writing a book. She said that she found that she had a lot to say, and this was the best way for her to say it. She was in her late 30’s, and she had gone through some things in her life, and wanted to not just relay what she went through, but what she learned through the experience.

A lot of writers are telling stories that aren’t saying anything. Their stories are forgettable, because they’re just telling a story because they wanted to tell a “cool” story about zombies, instead of saying something else that was more memorable.

Want to know why Alan Moore is hailed as the writer’s writer? Not just because of the level of detail in his scripts, but because his stories generally mean more than what you read on the surface. He has a lot to say, and he says it through the characters of his stories. He doesn’t preach, but he lets the underlying theme of his story come through.

Having something to say is important. If you don’t have anything to say beyond “this is cool,” then you might want to rethink why you want to tell the story. There are a lot of “wouldn’t it be cool if” types of stories going around. Most of them are forgettable, because the cool factor isn’t something that lasts.

How you say something is just as important as having something to say. Pick up a Stephen King book, and within a few pages, you’ll know that you’re reading King. It’s because of the way he says what he says. Phraseology, word choice, amount of detail…Stephen King is easy to spot if you have the barest inkling of what to look for. It’s a signature that is uniquely his. There are many imitators, but he isn’t the King fer nuthin’…

And that’s what I’m talking about when I talk about the way you say something. Finding a way to say something that only you can say. Telling a story that only you can tell. Honestly, it’s a lot harder than it looks. Because you really want to imitate.

And imitation is fine at first. Just as long as you understand that you can’t imitate forever. Eventually, you’re going to have to find your own voice. Your own way to tell the stories you want to tell.

How clear is your voice? When you’re first starting out, you’ll sound like the creators who influenced you. Your voice isn’t clear at all. Quite often, you’re little more than a parrot. But as you continue to create and grow in your abilities, you’ll find your way, and your voice will become clearer.

Have you told the stories that only you can tell? More than likely not. Sure, there are some unique concepts that have been thought of, but they rarely get beyond the “wouldn’t it be cool if” stage.

If you want to gauge how clear your voice is, just see who your influences are, and then see if you’re imitating them. The more you aren’t, while still telling your own story, the clearer your voice should be.

And that’s all I have for this week. See you in seven.

Click here to discuss in the ComixTribe forum at Digital Webbing!

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Category: Bolts & Nuts, Columns

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

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