Voice, Point of View and Workshopping

March 12, 2010 in On Writing, Study by pacejmiller

What the heck is “voice” in writing?

That’s what we’ve been discussing in my narrative class, even though we did traverse the subject in screenwriting and theory as well.  And after hours of discussion and studying texts, I don’t think the answer is any clearer.  Is it point of view?  Style?  Tone?  Simply the way a story is told?  All of the above?

The main reason the discussions went nowhere is because there was this old dude in class that would not shut up with the comments.  It was a night class, so it should have been past his bed time, but this guy just went on and on.  He just had to make a comment about everything.  Talking over the tutor, interrupting others in the class.  I wouldn’t have minded so much had these been constructive comments.  But no, it was just stupid, random, pointless stuff.  He told at least three ‘stories’ from over 20 years ago that had no connection to whatever we were doing.  It was a 70-year-old (okay, he was probably only 60), unstoppable force of nature.

That said, there was a bit of fun.  We discussed the readings for the week, including The Resurrectionist by James Bradley (an Australian novel about the apprentice of an anatomist in the 1800s), Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney, and The Turning (a collection of interlinked short stories) by Tim Winton.

Bright Lights, Big City was interesting because it was told from a rare second person perspective.  Some people in the class loved it (especially the old dude), but others found it a little tedious reading “you you you” all the time.

Oh, and we also had to read out our shit in class and give constructive feedback.  They call it “workshopping”.  It was terrifying, even though only “positive” comments were allowed (with a bit of room for “development” suggestions).  I suppose it’s necessary and useful to get used to people reading your stuff and commenting on it if you ever want to get published.  Still, being left alone is what I prefer.

Anyway, back to voice.  The true definition is actually very simple.  According to John Farnham, the voice is YOU.  You just have to try and understand it.

You’re the voice, try and understand it
Make a noise and make it clear
(Oh Oh Oh Ohooooh)
(Oh Oh Oh Oh Ohooooh)