Monday, April 25, 2011

Finding Your Voice

By Shane Cashion

When I wrote my first book, I based it loosely on actual events and used the lawyers I work with and count as friends to serve as the inspiration for the dialogue. These are guys who, truth be told, would have been better off as cops, bookies, park rangers, or even drifters. The book is essentially a collection of our more entertaining stories, and because so much of it captures the lowbrow humor that drives our daily conversations, the writing came naturally.

Like my first book, my job has once again given me fodder to write. I've stumbled across a case that with a little tweaking and embellishment would make for an excellent thriller. Only this time, the words arent flowing for me. In fact, Im finding the writing to be more miserable than my actual job, which is saying something. The problem is that I can't find my voice, or any voice for that matter. In order for this book to work, it needs to be dark and edgy, like Cormac McCarthy and some of the gifted writers on this blog, and not Carl Hiaasen, whom I thoroughly enjoy, and for better or worse, probably worse, find myself unintentionally aping in my inconsistent drafts.

What I'm left wondering is whether I'm better off sticking with what feels comfortable (as I'm not without working ideas), or venturing off into unchartered territory? Is it possible that your voice is so uniquely you that it simply won't work for certain topics or in certain genres? Or instead is it just a matter of spending the time necessary to tailor your voice to the task at hand? Should we just stick with what we know, and work to be great at what we do, or is it okay to recreate the wheel and essentially start over in a foreign forum, remembering that we only have so much time on this Earth and some of us (namely me) aren't all that productive?

1 comment:

Bill Kirton said...

This isn't just one interesting question, Shane, it's several. I'll offer two personal responses.

First, I find it impossible to write about subjects or people from 'real' life. When I try, the actual people or events keep intruding and interfering with 'my' characters (and, consequently, with my voice).

Second, I sort of think that 'my' voice is a difficult thing to pin down because, when the juices (and words|) are flowing, it's as if I'm listening to someone else and just writing down what they say. I know, I know - the men in the white coats may soon be knocking at my door, but that's what it feels like.

And I share your enjoyment of Carl Hiaasen. When a recent reviewer compared my latest, The Sparrow Conundrum, with his type of humour, I wanted to send her several crates of champagne. (Needless to say, I didn't.)