I’ve been thinking about voice today, and, well, a lot of days.
I think voice is like taste, that when you read a story you can feel it on your lips and know how well you’re going to be able to wash it down, whether this will be a snack deal, a good meal, or is this going to be something that you will look back fondly on as being perfect; you’ll always go on trying new things in hopes something equates to that perfect morsel, or even hoping in the back of your head that it can surpass it (but you don’t really want that, do you? Not if you like something enough).
Some things are bland. I find certain stories that I read tasteless, how easy it is to finish and forget. That’s not good, but then again, there are plenty of manufacturers of the grey stuff that fills up rookie anthologies and rushed e-books and quarterly college publications ran by pretentious little butt plug sitting hipsters (I ain’t attacking anyone, well, maybe I am). I’m not saying I’m better than anyone (most people) but there is that lower level out there, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, it’s just there bro. Get off my back.
Here are some (personally attempted) examples of taste, uh, voice:
Stephen King - a very well cooked home meal that makes you feel warm and fuzzy and is just fun, probably you had a good conversation over it, maybe it was just leftovers but that’s ok, no one’s home and you have a hangover anyway. Sometimes, when you look at the ingredients and sometimes arty (sometimes not) way the thing is compiled, you feel a little silly spending time with it. But, it’s just fun, it isn’t work. But, for sure, if you spent all of your time just consuming King you would get fat and lazy.
Thomas Pynchon - like some whiskey, hard hard whiskey. You consume, it’s consumable for sure, but it’s only in sips or tentative swallows. You dive into it sometimes sure, but when you do your nostrils flair and you have to sit down afterwards. Some people, they can take it straight, all the time it seems, and go on like they breathe fire. But, those people aren’t always all together there, are they? There is something up with them, they’re interesting people sure, but they’re not the first people you call to go see a movie with.
Kurt Vonnegut - he’s spicy, not to spicy, but pleasantly so. He has a kick to him, you find yourself eating sometimes very quickly and sometimes very slowly, and sometimes you have to make yourself savor the bites and chew chew chew. Long, short swallows. And, you know, sometimes after it’s over it leaves you rumbling; you don’t get over that so quickly. And sometimes, especially, it gets you at the end (HA).
I am too exhausted to do more, but you get it. That’s what I see, well, when I compare voice to taste. I don’t often like describing (or attempting, you see attempts here) to describe voice because I am not the particular orator; I am an observer and a contemplator of such observations.
My thoughts haven’t been concentrating around the voices of the professionals I admire, however, and they are not the reason I am writing about them in this here blog (or journal, you’ve noticed it’s more a journal haven’t you?). Nay, not, I have been thinking instead about my own voice.
In conversation with my best writer friend recently, in regards to editing a piece I’ve been working on, he said my voice was coming out a bit more this time around the mountain (big fucking mountain) and I was like all “Yay” because that’s a nice thing to hear. Buuuuuuuut I didn’t see it, or notice it, coming out. I’m not saying that I listen to his every word and command like he is almighty and all-knowing hal lee luh yuh (but he is pretty holy). He just knows me and my shit, which he sifts and puts up with. Someday I’ll buy him a nice rug or something.
Anyway, can I describe, know, or attempt to taste my own voice? Is that like fucking yourself? I don’t know, it feels like I should be able to pull something out of my ass. Themes, that’s different, I know what I tend to concentrate on thematically. Settings, genre tendencies, and the kind of dialogue choices I make…yeah, I know those. But voice? How do I listen to myself?
Reading my own work, analyzing? (How come his blog is filled with so many questions [to be read in that quirky little old lady voice Jim Gaffigan does in his stand up]?)
Answer is, not an answer, but it’s I don’t know. I have ideas, the kinds of grammatical patterns I fall into, some of the flatness or apathy that comes off as cold (but isn’t that anti-voice?) but other than that, it’s a big mirror that goes one way. Not my way.
So, what can I do to find out what I sound like? I entered a bit of my current baby into this quirky little application on some website somewhere
that told me that I wrote like H.P. Lovecraft. While I don’t think this is true at all (I’m touching my throbbing erection while I say that), I can kind of see that in a silly way. It just frustrated me more.
You may be thinking, “Why did I just read all of this?” I’ll tell you why. You putting up with my angsty writerly ramblings now will pay off BIG TIME in the future. In fact, here is some advice, break off you monitor right now with this blog post frozen on it, put it in a little zip lock baggie, and hide it away in an attic or some top shelf of a closet. Wait bout twenty (god I hope not that long) years and come bring it to a book signing I’m conducting in some book store (or starbucks) and be like “Hey can you sign this blog post you wrote when you still looked good and had balls?” And I’ll be all like “Sure” and then you’ll be like, while I’m signing (it takes a little while because my body is all shaky from the years of substance abuse and I’m vibrating like a jack hammer) just trying to shoot the shit you’ll say “Hey, it’s kind of funny, how you are so like super successful now, and back then you were just a whiney little shit of a writer who didn’t even know what is own voice was like and all you did was try to get your shitty little short stories published in magazines, like paper ones, and you sucked” and I’ll look up and be all like “You know what I did this morning? I wiped my ass with Jesus’s old robe that he wore during the last supper that I bought at an auction with some money I found in my shoe and while I was doing that I did lines of coke mixed with the ashes of Kanye West and then I looked up and told my house AI that it should take a picture of me doing this and print it off just so I can hand it out to people who make fun of me at book signings and then it did and here is one, made the rest into a funny little picture which I sold at Wal-Mart that helped give me enough money to fund a small arms dealer in Eastern Europe who I’ve never even met but his name is Vlad and I sponsor him just because I felt like being a fuck”. Then you’ll just stand there and I’ll be done signing then and I’ll be like “Here, go sell this and by yourself a nice hovercraft”.