Every writer knows what “voice” is. It’s what makes you as an author distinguishable from every other author. It’s your way of putting words together, how you describe things, your pacing and your POV. Voice identifies YOU.
On Black Friday, or the day after Thanksgiving for those of you not in the U.S., my family and I binge-watched the return of Gilmore Girls. For those of you not familiar with the show, it was on for seven seasons several years ago and is about the relationship between a single mother and her daughter (and lots of other peripheral characters) living in a small town named Stars Hollow.
The show was originally created by Amy Sherman-Palladino and it was known for it’s snappy, fast-paced dialogue, comedy and touching moments. Due to a contract dispute, she left after the sixth season. The rest of the producers tried to keep it going for one last year, but Ms. Sherman-Palladino was disappointed with the way they ended the show. When she was given the opportunity to bring it back for a limited run—a four-episode arc that spanned a year in the life—she took it. She wrote two episodes, her husband wrote the other two.
Watching the show, I could immediately tell the difference between those episodes she wrote and those her husband wrote. The dialogue, while still snappy, wasn’t quite as polished or clever. The pacing was slower in her husband’s episodes. The characters weren’t quite as “on.” Even if I hadn’t seen the writing credits, it was obvious.
In this case, what made the show so enjoyable was Ms. Sherman-Palladino’s voice. Honestly, I didn’t enjoy her husband’s episodes nearly as much as I did hers, although they were still good. They just didn’t sparkle.
Variety in voice is essential. We wouldn’t want all stories to sound the same. Nor would we want someone else trying to imitate a voice. I can’t do Ms. Sherman-Palladino’s voice, no matter how hard I try. And I shouldn’t. I have my own, just as you all have your own. So don’t just write what you know, write how you are best able to do so.
Be you. You’re the only one who can.