I had a very interesting conversation with a friend today, regarding something they brought up, that had appeared on their Facebook feed.
Stephen King has offered a lot of advice over the years on writing, and story crafting. One of the things he has written about is “Don’t try to steal someone else’s voice.”
As a general rule, I can see this as being good advice. After all, you don’t want to seem like you’re copying another author as you work to craft your story. To avoid immitation, and any potential issues of alegal kind. So in that sense, yes, I can agree with the sentiment.
When an author is stilllearning (okay, we never truely stop learniing, but you know what I mean) it can sometimes be hard to know exactly what your personal style and voice should be. How does one know what will work for them, and what won’t? There is a lot of variation in the world, and it can be hard to just land on something you enjoy.
Yet, most people who end up becoming writers (I am tempted to say all, but don’t want to make an assumption) will often start out reading books theylove. Reading author’s they enjoy. Reading styles and voices that speak to them (ahem, no pun intended…)
So writers just starting on their journey do have something they can work from. A base-line that they can use to develop their own style and voice.
The easiest way to do that? To find out what makes the author’s they love work. Why that voice, or style speaks to them. The only way to do that is to try to emulate. Most people do have mre than one author they enjoy, so I find it is through a melding of these voices, a process of trial and error – seeing what makes those authors stand out, what makes those stylistic choices so cvompelling – that new authors can learn their own way.
We don’t need to all forge our own way through the wilderness, because there are many paths that have already been set out. All we should do is make sure we don’t tread in the exact footsteps of another. To make our own way, but using the foundations of those who have come before to inspire, and help guide us.
I’m not saying one should just go out, find three or four authors, throw them in a blender and see what comes out. Writing is a creative art form, and so it should speak to the creator as much as the target audience. But I don’t think that means we should be sent into the jungle of creativity with nothing but a hatchet and a backpack either.
What do you think? Is the Master of Fear right, and we should avoid using another’s voice at all costs? Or is there perhaps some room for politely ignoring that little bit of advice, and doing what you think i best?