FWG VOICE AND INTENSITY EXERCISE
AND B) Use verbs that help intensify your writing, describe the action, and convey the energy of the scene. A good way to do this is to make verbs from nouns, thus giving the reader unexpected imaginative pleasure. For example: She brained him with the iron skillet, or He scissored a cigarette between his fingers, or They wheelbarrowed the beer bottles to the cooler.
The Poetry Resource Page, September 23, 2009. http://www.poetryresourcepage.com/teach/fex.html
WHAT IS VOICE?
· word choice
· syntax - patterns of formation of phrases and sentences
· imagery and figures of speech
YOUR OWN VOICE AND BORROWED VOICES - notes from Grenville, Kate, 'The Writing Book', Sydney, 1990
1. The natural voice of the writer has inbuilt strengths - it flows easily, it's consistent, it has the energy of real life, it sounds convincing.
2. Sometimes we borrow a voice that we feel is more acceptable. It is automatic and hard to hear the natural voice beneath.
3. A writer's first task is to encourage that natural, unique, voice.
4. Listen for your own voice and let it be heard.
5. Then you can contrive and control a voice you are borrowing for a character without letting it dominate.
6. The more voices you have access to, the greater your range as a writer.
It'd be a roasting hot summer's arvo and dad'd suddenly knock off hosing down the fence, his eyes'd light up like a railway station cordial machine and he'd utter those words of joy to the family...'To the beach then, eh?'
We'd grab our grandmothers and togs and be at the front gate , all sporting Coles' sunglasses and beachball puncture kits, corktipped badminton bats, fruitcake tins and nose-lotion. Not having a car, we'd fry on the Reservoir station, our teeth totally into choc Wedges, waiting for that heavenly VicRail chariot, whose driver was always Paul Robeson, to sail us away to such Troppo-madness ports of call as Aspendale, St Kilda and Chelsea.
I'll never forget waiting for the beach train. Through the heatshimmer of skinheads, bodgies, spat-out Kool Mint and KitKat, the tracks baked along with the signals and maggies croaking as one.
Dad cursed the cars rattling down High Street with their roofracks brimming with Super-Pal Kickboards. 'I oughta get a bloody licence, love,' he'd say, but mum'd hold his hand and unpeel a Mintie for him knowingly. We were happy in those days. Mum always knew best.
Dis Train Am Bound For Glory Dis Train would finally snore into the station and we'd hop on. Louts would entertain the sweltering passengers. It ws an eternity, but somehow we always got there, and then da'd have to buy more tickets at Flinders Street station to go on to the beach.
Huge mobs of Orange-Fanta ockers queuing up for beach tickets, some families a wonderful primrose, others the same pink as spout primer, others scarlet vermillion, picked out in pumpkin-yellow towel and chocolate thong.
The conversation'd go a bit like this. Two and six halves to Bonbeach and a pensioner. Here, there's a quid there. What? Of course she's old! Of course she's a pesioner! Go on mum, tell 'em how old you are! Look she's got a card, isn't that enough for you.' Then mum'd say, 'Grab the change, love, nothing ya can do about it. Come on let's get away for that nice swim, eh? Here Darl, have another Mintie and cheer up a bit.'
That cool effervescent hit of sea salt air wafting up our swollen sinuses, working its way through our Capstan-coated lungs. We'd stroll around the neighbouring shops in a dream, mum looking at bras and dad looking at guns.
From 'To the Beach Then, eh?', Barry Dickins, from The Gift of the Gab, pp27-29 in Kate Grenville 'The Writing Book', Allen & Unwin, NSW, 1990
This piece of writing sounds like a speaking voice. That's not to say it just came out like that first time - it might have taken weeks to achieve this tone of artless informality. But the result is a voice that you can hear very clearly, that sounds very 'real': the writer is borrowing the energy of real speech.
What makes this voice sound the way it does?
Look at the word-choice - 'arvo' instead of afternoon', but also 'utter' rather than 'say'. What do those lists of brand names and place names do? Look at the verbs and imagine the piece with less dynamic ones.
Look at the syntax: the length and complexity of the sentences in the first four paragraphs, and then the two very short, simple ones at the end of that paragraph, for example. Look at the way things are put together unexpectedly - 'we'd grab our grandmothers and togs'.
Look at the figures of speech: a simile like 'his eyes'd light up like a railway station cordial machine' tells us as much about the narrator as it does about Dad's eyes, and so does the imagery about the colours further on. The other kind of imagery is the opposite; not everyday but grandiose - 'that heavenly VicRail chariot...' What does that do?
Look at the punctuation: Dickins has only use commas and full stops, and many contractions, some of them not ones you normally see written down.
Look at the dialogue: does it sound real to you? Why?
Voice alone can tell us a lot about the narrator. In this example, we could be fairly confident that the narrator isn't the headmaster of Geelong Grammar or a bishop. How do we know? We've got some ideas about what this narrator isn't, so can we draw a portrait of what he or she is, just from the way the words are put together here?
Grenville, Kate, 'The Writing Book', Sydney, 1990