Writers Voice – Follow Up

So, what did we all learn from last week’s exercise? First of all, it’s hard as heck to match a piece of writing to its originator! If I’d been able to get Stephen King, Stephanie Meyer, Ted Dekker, Karen Marie Moning, or any six of your favorite authors, do you think you’d have fared any better? Probably not. Secondly, a writer’s fiction voice can be dramatically different than their blogging voice, which is a tribute to the writer. But hopefully you did notice the rather distinctive voices behind each piece. Not only were the "accents" unique, but I found the way each of the writers tackled the prompt in terms of characterization and plot also interesting. There were a few giveaways though. Karen couldn’t resist mentioning sea weed in her piece (her soon-to-be published book is about mermaids), and who would come up with an idea about the destroying of a beautiful car by a wild beast…other than a guy, Clarissa (who lives in Mexico) spelled neighbour a bit differently than those of us in the states do, Carol & Katie couldn’t keep the snark out of their tone if they tried, and Jen used just 215 words to efficiently convey a scene so realistic it made me wonder about our own small-town mayor. :)

Once again I want to thank my wonderful blogging buddies for contributing their time and talent to my experiment. I know it is no small thing. As a reminder, this was their writing prompt: Your character just moved to a new city/town and decides to throw a get-to-know-you party, but something goes terribly wrong. Describe what happened.

#1) How was I supposed to know the mayor was sleeping with someone other than his wife? This was not the impression I wanted to make. The feud that erupted in my background was not the let’s get to know each other vibe I’d planned. I scanned the room, hoping for the tiniest of smirks, showing me this disaster could be remedied. What I was left with was a glare from the mayor’s wife. I still wasn’t sure how this had become my fault. I wasn’t the one sleeping around! I’d invited his mistress because she was the event planner in the next town over. How could I know she wasn’t aware he was married! This god forsaken place shouldn’t have been so damn small. I wouldn’t have had to go to the next town to make sure this event went off without a hitch. Now I was stuck with a screwed up marriage, and every home owner in town looking at me as if I was the home wrecker. Could I get out of this? If I walked out now, could I call the realtor, put the house on the market and get the hell out? I needed to escape; no way would I be invited to the next barbeque. I’d made the hit list.

B - JenDaiker

#2) I ran up the pier towards the flashing red and blue lights. Our new neighbors were backing away or scurrying up the beach—fleeing from the drama.

“Why are you handcuffing my boyfriend?” I shouted.

The meathead officer ignored me as he finished reading Treygan his rights. Officer J.Lo wannabe held up a joint. “Possession.” She nodded at the unzipped band around Treygan’s arm which revealed half a dozen more joints. “And distribution.”

“Uncuff him right now!” I demanded. “You can’t arrest him for smoking Cweed! There is nothing illegal about that.”

“Seaweed?” The lady cop sniffed the joint in her hand then held it under Officer Meathead’s nose who smelled it and shrugged. “Why in the world would you smoke seaweed?”

“Why in the worlds wouldn’t you?” Treygan quipped. He winked at her then held up his handcuffs to be unlocked. “Don’t worry. I won’t press charges.”

After all the questions and formalities were finished Treygan wrapped his arm around me. “Nice meeting you officers, but we need to get back to our guests.”

Kicking up sand, we headed toward the house. Treygan placed a fresh joint between his lips while I flipped open my lighter.

From behind us Officer J.Lo said, “We’ll be keeping an eye on you two.”

Treygan blew a ring of silver smoke above our heads and smiled as he glanced over his shoulder. “I don’t blame you. We are extraordinary.”

D - Karen Amanda Hooper

#3) “Bear!”

The joyful atmosphere dissolved into panic. Guests stumbled over one another in an attempt to reach the safety of the house. Cups flew and lawn chairs tumbled out of the way.

Dan held the door for stragglers. The last guest bolted inside, still clutching his beer, and Dan slammed the door. His hands shook as he secured the lock. The cries of his neighbors, loud in the empty kitchen, beat on his eardrums.

“Where is it?” someone shrieked.

Pressing his forehead against the glass, Dan scanned the backyard. No one mentioned bears, he thought, his breath fogging the pane. I didn’t leave my high-rise apartment to be chased by bears!

“He’s out front!”

Dan spun away from the window. He shoved past the others, taking advantage of lack of obstacles. Of course, had his belongings arrived on time, the party would’ve been indoors, thus eliminating the bear threat.

“What’s he doing?” a woman demanded.

A car alarm sounded as Dan reached the picture window. Several cars resided in the driveway, but his attention shifted to the red convertible closest to the house. The red paint glistened in the moonlight and the chrome wheels reflected the porch lights. Its pristine condition and sleek body had turned many heads since its arrival.

Apparently, the leather seats and comfortable interior were too inviting. The bear had crawled inside, wedged himself behind the wheel, and was now happily chewing on the headrest. Dan heard a gasp in his ear.

“Dude, that’s your car…”

A - Alex Cavanaugh

#4) Patricia at the office had warned me it was a bad idea but wouldn’t say why.

Sure, my new colleagues look normal from outside but I’ll bet if Patricia and I had had more time to talk over lunch break she would've totally told me about Sally McGreggor’s need to bring her two long-haired Chihuahuas everywhere she goes. Then I wouldn’t have been so surprised to see them eating from my fine china at the dinner table last night.

And I’m sure if good ole’ Patty could have caught me at the copier, she’d have warned me that Carl prefers to be called ‘Carlita’ during off hours. And would appear at my doorstep in high heels and a bustier with a muscled date named ‘Ruby’ who likes to be dragged around by a spiked dog collar and a leash.

Yes. If Patty had just had more time, she could have let me know that Britney, the young receptionist, isn’t just newly engaged, but also likes to pop ecstasy before her evenings out and will therefore spend an hour and a half going to second base with her boyfriend on my newly-refurnished couch.

Or that sweet old Mrs. Jenkins is a closet klepto who took off with three sets of silver knives.

As it turns out, I’m working with a bunch of freaking psychopaths.

I smile Patty’s way and hand her the coffee I’ve just mixed full of laxatives.

They have no idea who they’re dealing with.

F - Katie Mills

#5) Two weeks after moving to the small town, her husband got the idea—a dinner for their neighbours. Jayne grew up in a city, where people didn’t know who lived beside them unless they were child molesters, but she went along. What a mistake that was. Jayne had invited four people and somehow eight were already in her living room.

‘Jayne, you look so young,’ Francis Morton, her neighbour across the street said. ‘Almost like a little girl. I sell Avon, you know, and have some products that will fit your skin tone nicely. You don’t use a lot of make-up, do you?’

‘No. I don’t like—‘

‘Well, we can change that,’ she replied and grabbed Jayne’s hand. ‘Look at your skin, it’s so dry. I have some moisturizer in my bag, Edgar fetch me my bag, we’ll have this problem cleared up immediately. Sit!’

Francis pushed Jayne down on sofa.

‘I’m fine, thank you.’

‘Ridiculous.’ Francis grabbed a bottle from husband’s hand. ‘I'll just get a large glob out. There we go. Can’t get too much moisture, can one? I bet you can feel the moisture rising up your veins as we speak.’

‘I feel something rising.’

‘See…oops, got some in your hair there. Edgar! Edgar! Get me a towel! Hurry man! Men, they never understand these things, do they? My dear, the colour of your face is all wrong—it’s red. Do you know what you need? A makeover!’

‘No, but thank you. I should see to—’

‘Ridiculous.’

C - Clarissa Draper

#6) I’m not sure if it’s a mole or a giant never-go-away zit. But it’s ugly and a little furry. And when Cindy and her mole-zit are safely tucked into the bathroom stall, it monopolizes everyone’s attention, okay mostly Marjorie’s. Marjorie says the thing is gigantic and generates its own gravitational pull. Of course I don’t laugh—since mama’s dead, I’m hostess by virtue of being the oldest and responsible for the outcome of the party. But I don’t not laugh. That is to say, Would you like more punch? accompanied by the sweetest of lip biting grins and maybe a wink goes a long way towards maintaining the peace at these things. And, really, isn’t that the most important thing? It’s not as if Marjorie means any real harm anyway. She’s stupid, you know. Probably been dying to say that line since she heard it on Mean Girls.* It is rather priceless, if not original.

Mama never liked my friend Marjorie much, but then, she didn’t have a clue when it came to her own friends either. She always preferred the homely ones with mini vans and Keds, as if God had let us win the lottery so we could keep living like indigenous people. Or indigents. Indigest? Whatever. Mama had no taste. Poor Cindy is so much like our Mama, too, all make-up-less and fanny pack obsessed. She really doesn’t stand a chance. At least Mama was already married and could be a loser. But what’s Cindy got? She’s tucked away in the bathroom stall at her own Mama’s funeral, hiding a big mole-zit on her face. Sad, really.

E -Carolina Valdez Miller

21 comments

  1. I think I missed my guesses. Clarissa said mine was easy because it was the only male point of view. (Damn!)
    And to the person who said my 'voice' sounded midwest - I'm a military brat. Lived all across the USA and in several foreign countries. Live on the east coast now. I probably sound like I am from everywhere.
    Thanks DL - this was fun!

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  2. Awesome.

    Alex, I did find yours easy but the others were super hard. I thought people would pick up on the 'neighbour' thing right away... Oh well. I think they chose the piece with the Chihuahua as mine because they know I live in Mexico.

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  3. At least I got the one I guessed correct, but I had read his book. If you would have put something like Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and William Faulkner then it probably would have been a lot easier. A group of writers from the same era and background are going to tend to sound more alike.

    Interesting experiment though.


    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  4. Wow! I'm glad I didn't guess the other day. I think I had Jen and Katie correct, though. lol

    Great job everyone, and fantastic post Don!

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  5. I wish I hadn't missed out on guessing . . . this is awesome! I hope you do an exercise like this again - maybe because I just like reading the varied stories.

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  6. Well, I got one right. This was a fun post and great way to showcase voice.

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  7. This just means I have more blogs to visit regularly so I can learn some of these interesting voices.

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  8. Not sure I knew any of them either.

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  9. Yeah, DL, you're right it was hard to sort them out. But I totally agree that the variety was really interesting, and each author made choices completely different than the next.

    Great experiment, my friend! Keep 'em coming! :D

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  10. Well, I didn't do all that well! :) You're right - it was tough! Being Canadian, I didn't even notice the neighbour spelling :)

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  11. I totally screwed them all up. Thank goodness you posted the answers.

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  12. aww i totally missed this game! Vacation interuptus i guess

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  13. Great fun, DL! I think it might have been easier to guess if I were familiar with the work of all the writers, but otherwise it's tough. I know the voice on my blog isn't all that similar to the voice in my work. I tend to write in present tense, which also makes a difference. But it was a fun exercise and cool to read all the pieces.

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  14. LOL! This was so much fun, and I don't think I got a single one right! Good stuff, DL~ :o)

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  15. I love seeing how the same prompt brings up so many different responses. The ideas, the voice, the characters...it's great to see all the different ways people can be creative with the same idea!

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  16. This was a great game, though I failed. I enjoyed all the pieces.

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  17. They all did an excellent job. What a fun experiment!

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  18. I m issed a couple as well. Again, well written and fun to read!

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  19. Firstly, WELCOME BACK! Can't believe I missed your return! Good to have you back, DL!

    Next, this is such an interesting experiment! Writing voices can be so distinctive. :)

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  20. I should have known Karen would be writing about seaweed. This was such a fun idea!

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  21. LOL- and I here I slipped a 'totally' in mine in hopes regular followers would notice. (I never just 'do' anything. I always 'totally' do it. LOL)

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