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Uniqueness of the Writer's Voice

I recently did a series of posts comparing our writing to birds. (Click here to read.) If you haven't figured out yet, I'm a big bird watcher. I have six bird feeders outside my kitchen window, along with a heated-bird bath and secluded bird house that was home to two families of sparrows this spring.

Because I love birds, I've learned quite a bit about them. I'm particularly fascinated with bird songs and calls. Each species has its own specific songs and calls. Cardinals make a different sound than chickadees and if we pay attention we can often learn to recognize birds just by their calls.

Interestingly, even birds within the same species have their own songs. I can't tell the difference between one cardinal's call versus another. They sound alike to me. But birds have excellent hearing and have the ability to distinguish even the slightest differences. A parent can find its chick in a crowd by its call alone, though to us, it would sound the same as every other baby bird.

If God created every bird with a unique song, then I'm positive he's given each writer a unique voice too. We often hear about writer's voice. But it's one of those terms that makes us shiver with dread. We wonder, what is voice and how do we find it?

James Scott Bell, in his book Plot & Structure, takes some of the nebulous fear out of the concept of a writer's voice. He develops what he coins "Bell's Pyramid." The foundation of the pyramid is passion. He says: Passion is the most important for your writer's soul. . .we writers must nourish and nurture our individuality. Only then do we rise above the commonplace."

Bell says that the reason so many novels are rejected is because they're "cookie cutter." Writers follow the crowd, thinking that if they imitate something successful, then they'll get published. Bell says this is a mistake. We shouldn't strive to sound like the crowd. Instead we should have a passionate commitment to the story we're burning to tell. Only then will we unleash our own original and compelling voice.

So, how can writers be like the birds and sing their own unique songs? How do we give expression our God-given voices?

Passion. We have to be deeply passionate about our stories. They have to burn within us until they ache for expression. The words have to stir us first before they can move others. They have to well up so forcefully that we're helpless to do anything but write them down.

Passion. That's how we writers find our voices.

How passionate are you about your stories? Have you unleashed your writer's voice yet? Or are you struggling to squeak out the words that are unique to you?

P.S. Thanks to everyone who read my interview yesterday! If you haven't read it yet, you can see it here.


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