More than anything else that a writer does, their Voice tells the reader who they are. Why do readers care as long as its a good story? Good question. Readers want to know that the author knows what he or she is talking about. They not only want a good story, but an authentic one. They want an author who speaks in a language that they both understand and feel comfortable with. So how does one achieve this?
In a word? Experience. We all have different life experiences which give us that unique perspective on our subjects. We all see life through our own lenses. We all speak our own language with all of its nuances, accents and inflections. These are what give a writer his voice.
In my own work, most of the time my main character will speak as I speak, will see the world pretty much as I see it, or sometimes as I want to see it. He will speak from a poor or middle class background because that is my background. He will often have some military experience because I gave ten years of my life to Uncle Sam and that is one of the filters that I view the world through. He will likely be a westerner either born or transplanted because I grew up in the west and have an understanding of it.
The topics and themes that a writer chooses will also contribute to his or her voice. Again, I draw heavily on my own experience. I grew up listening to my grandfather's tales of horses and cattle, of blizzards and sandstorms, snow capped peaks and blistering deserts.
Later, I spent two years in Yuma, and a summer south of Tucson. I've hiked the forests around Flagstaff and peered into the depths of the Grand Canyon. I've been to Yellowstone, Jackson Hole and Cody. I've crossed the Tetons and explored the Sierras. I've hiked alone on foot through Apache Pass and into Fort Bowie in mid-July. I've walked the streets of Tombstone and sipped a beer in the Crystal Palace. I've been to Cochise's Stronghold, high in the heavily forested Chiricahua Mountains, and to Geronimo's in the beautifully stark and boulder-strewn Dragoons. I love the land in all these locations and often incorporate it into my stories. You'll find many a western setting, or western people and their particular morals and mores. Its part of who I am and I let it flow freely in my writing.
I spent a couple of years riding the Southwest RCA rodeo circuit. I spent my free time hanging out with Stock Contractors, cowboys and buckle bunnies and enjoy writing about the characters and events I have seen. In my travels, I picked up a good deal of the language and that, too, comes through in my writing.
Finally, there is the meter and word choice in my scribblings which says as much about me as what I write. I'm not one for flowery phrases and occult meanings. Like the cowboys and construction workers I grew up around, I tend to be direct and simple. This too, is a part of my voice. I'm thankful that this is a choice that I make. I can and have sat shoulder to shoulder with millionaires, politicians, captains of industry, Hollywood glitterati and even a duchess. I can hold my own in that society, but I'm much more comfortable with my buddies behind the bucking chutes and so that is how I speak in daily life and it comes through in my writing.
I hope that someone reading this finds something useful and that all of you have enjoyed it. Until next week, then.