Creative Series 1: Finding the Right Voice
When we write, as in a play, we may use many voices.
Many of us do not realize when we are using a specific voice. I refer of course, to the person who is impersonating a journalist in their prose. Examples of this voice are present every day. There are appropriate times to use a voice that uses common language, many times however, we don’t pay attention to the methodology we use when we write, one issue is that of repetition.
Journalism is an art form that must be appraised, just as one would judge a work of art.
Here is a sample paragraph as it stands: ” This girl’s 16th birthday gift from her grandpa will melt your heart. For the very luckiest teenagers, the milestone 16th birthday brings with it the ultimate gift: a car. As cool as it to have four wheels to call your very own, that present has just been downgraded thanks to one very special grandfather in Texas and his exemplary gift-giving skills.”
The paragraph possibly written by a journalist: ” For the luckiest teenagers, the milestone 16th birthday brings with it the ultimate gift: a car. Many 16 year-olds may feel it is “cool” to have a car to call their very own. A Texas girl’s 16th birthday has become memorable, thanks to one very special grandfather in Texas and his exemplary gift-giving skills.”
Look very carefully at the use of language between the two examples.
The article is supposed to be uplifting. It needs to be written in such a way that when one reads it, a tear comes to an eye. I’m unsure of your response, but I do not feel as though my heartstrings are being pulled. Instead, I feeling a twisting knot in my stomach as I continue to follow the prose. By the time I finish the article, I don’t know what to think. I feel that the voice of the teenager was much more alive than the voice of the person who wrote the article. “It wasn’t me being famous, it was about my grandpa’s love for me becoming famous,” she says. “It’s touching so many people’s hearts. When they look at my tweet, they think, I need to spend more time with my grandparents.” (That is a voice!)
I am referring to the Pulitzer. The prestigious award sought after by so many journalists today. Countless writers aspire to become inducted into that hall of fame, but often fall short of the standards for the award. What countless writers of the past learned to work with instead, was perseverance and hard work. Learning to perfect the art of writing really is very hard work.
As a published short story writer, I learned to survive on rejection.
At one point of my naval career, I had managed to finagle a temporary position with a long-running newspaper as a junior copy editor by using my connections in the service. I was only supposed to be at the newspaper for 3 weeks, I was there for 8 weeks. During my very short tenure as a reporter and journalist for “The Hoist“; a once continuous weekly newspaper for the U.S. Navy, I found an editor who was kind, supportive and left me hungry to learn more about what it meant to be a journalist. I started as a fish-out-of-water (my chosen field of work in the Navy had been that of an operations expert).
At first, I was not needed. What I lacked in education and preparation, I made up for with raw determination. I arrived at the office, 6 a.m. sharp and did not leave for home until 8 p.m. 90 percent of my time was spent editing what I had written, ensuring that my copy was perfect for the next issue. By the end of my stay, my editor continually reminded me that I had “missed my calling”. He told me that as a writer, I had more raw talent than many navy journalists he had met who graduated from the Defense Information School. When I entered the service, I was young, desperate and unwilling to wait to attend the school.
I learned to become a journalist the traditional way. As an apprentice writer, I worked in the company of more seasoned journalists and reporters who were employed with The Hoist. Due to their influence, I was rewarded with my byline on the front page for almost eight weeks. The time that I spent with that family of professionals reshaped my life as a writer. For journalists who possess a talent for writing today, a career as a newspaper journalist poses a struggle to remain employed.
Many journalists today not only struggle, but often feel powerless in their job.
The job is and has been often laced with its own brand of politics. Many journalists learn early in their careers that they must have skin of steel. Adaptability is the key to success. Those journalists who are unable to adapt, who desperately wane in the face of change, keeping their typewriters in opposition to our new technological way of life. Those journalists who insist on the written word, rather than accompanying video are often “left in the dust” of the past. The age of modern journalism comprises an industry. This industry however, often seems to be one that is perceived to be precariously suspended on a silken strand, its lofty towers crumbled with age, in danger of catching the first strong wind to send it crashing to its doom.
Perhaps the art (journalism) is gone, taken over by slick corporations, muddled by the World Wide Web and the ever-present need for sensationalism. There are many pundits who argue that the worse something is, the better for the journalist, in our competitive world. Perhaps the industry needs journalists to pay more attention to how they write any published article, whether it is digital or in print. There are some who even feel that we have become a more careless and thoughtless society, due to our spread of technology.
Imagine what the web be like if every person publishing to the web suddenly found their voice.
I personally believe that you would find a web filled with written work of the highest quality. The web would possess a close focus on professionalism with a hint of caution. Sales of books and magazines would probably increase as professionally trained writers returned to replace what many have termed as the “obsolescence of grammar“. Many older readers have stated in the past that complacency that has taken root in our present day culture. For any writer, finding the correct voice to use to match their particular style of writing should come first.
Next, we will talk about the second important lesson for any writer: style.