Struggling with Voice

As I get older and make a more concerted effort to write professionally, I do not write with the abandon that I did when I was young. A younger me wrote phonetically and with dialects whenever I wanted to express an accent. An older me mentions the accent, but only touches a few key words phonetically. It came from a discussion whether such abstract spellings were the best way to communicate the differences in language. Given that so many of my old stories were the quality of an inexperienced writer, I chose to go the opposite direction.

That's not the only reason. I like to include minorities. I lived in St. Louis city (demographically 66% black) and hung out in areas where I could absorb that kind of culture. Not wholly, of course, but enough I felt comfortable replicating it in words. People seem less willing to accept that, and the further I am away from living in St. Louis, trading it for the predominantly white northeast, I begin to question my own recollection of what was St. Louis living and what was from "The Wire." So, if I avoid using phonetic spelling or dialect, I avoid being called a racist or being laughed at (while they think I'm being racist but don't say it--I hate that one too).

I recently added THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN to my nook. Mark Twain is one of my literary heroes and reading the novel reminded me how much I've given up by not writing my characters speech the way they speak. I've become too scared of criticism, justified it by saying I don't want to support wrong thinking with my writing or that a person just revises the text to what they understand anyway so I'm just adding a step. But when I read the way Huck and Jim speak, I get more than the words. I get the person. I get how they think. What matters. How they process things.

THE TRIAD SOCIETY has a variety of accents, none of which I properly explore. I relegate it to urban being "it is" and rural being "tis," what I feel now is a ridiculous copout.

There is a lot of talk about the author's voice on blogs. Characters and characterization are part of that voice, but not the entirety. What I've found is that why I can maintain the novel's voice during description, I lock up when I express character voice. This needs drastic and immediate attention. Time to write with a little more abandon.

(And call me racist all you want. Go to St. Louis Ave. and Grand on May 1 [the May Day Celebration] and you'll think you've walked into a video. I shit you not.)

(If you're interested in a great people watching place for St. Louis culture, try Captain D's on Kingshighway. It's amazing how much happens at that place--or at least happened when I lived in St. Louis. If you want a darker side of the city that doesn't put you in direct gunfire, head down to the river and follow the tracks. There's some grim living down there.)