Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Good Advice on Writing: Originality

The Writer's Voice: His Most Precious Gift

The most original thing a writer can do is write like himself. It is also his most difficult task.
-Robertson Davies

It is better to fail at originality, than to succeed in imitation.
-Herman Melville

In the pursuit of good storytelling, an author's best weapon is his/her voice. In just the way that each person has unique handwriting, each author has a unique ability to tell a story in a completely different way than it's ever been told by any other author. This is a topic that's near and dear to my heart, because I love to explore all the fun and interesting ways that I can tell my own stories. I strive to make sure that my voice is distinct and (hopefully) memorable. 

We've all heard the old adage "it's all been done before" and, in general, that's probably true. Most tropes are rehashed thousands of times a day, and because characters and worlds are based on what we know-- they're never very far from exactly that---what we know. HOWEVER!! It doesn't matter if the plot is the same as the next four books on the shelf. It doesn't matter if an author wants to retell a popular fairytale. Why? Because none of the stories will ever be exactly the same! That's one of the best things about reading. Books and stories may be similar, but no two are ever the same.

When learning the craft of writing, (and it's a job that's never really done!) authors have a responsibility to maintain their original voice. Voice is an amalgam of style, syntax, story structure, sentence structure, and even comma use. Our voice comes from our background, our experiences and our hopes and dreams. The best and brightest authors today have found their voice, and they know exactly how to use it to entertain their audience. 

Herman Melville was right. Imitating another author's voice will never really seem true to the reader. Likewise, trying to write to a current trend or fad in some way, when it's not an author's natural style, can make the story seem forced and stilted. 

I think both Herman Melville and Robertson Davies gave amazing advice on the topic of originality. Though the plot or the trope may have been done a million times, it hasn't been done by YOU.

Thanks for joining me for Good Advice on Writing! I hope that the advice from popular authors helps you find your voice!
                  -AR DeClerck

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