The Monday Morning Memo: Choosing a Voice for Your Pen - Style Guides and Audio Signatures: Part Three

Monday-Morning-Memo-Logo1By Roy H. Williams

Words shine like a movie projector on the screen of imagination, creating lifelike images in the mind.

Memo-101011 Choosing-a-Voice-Pt-31: Which actors will you place on the screen?

Will your voice be first person “I,” second person “you,” or third person “they?”

2. What will be your time perspective?

Will your verbs be past tense “was,” present tense “am,” or future tense “will be?”

These two, simple choices yield nine different voices:

“I was…”

I was walking down 5th street, my dog with me, when...

“I am…”

I am walking down 5th street, my dog with me, when...

“I will be…”

I will be walking down 5th street, my dog with me, when...

“You were…”

You were walking down 5th street, your dog with you, when...

“You are…” 

You are walking down 5th street, your dog with you, when...

“You will be…” 

You will be walking down 5th street, your dog with you, when...

“They were…”

Sally was walking down 5th street, her dog with her, when...

“They are…”

Sally is walking down 5th street, her dog with her, when...

“They will be…”

Sally will be walking down 5th street, her dog with her, when...

3. How will you structure your sentences?

At one end of the spectrum are long, rambling sentences that bridge from one thought to another in a conversational stream-of-consciousness reminiscent of how William Faulkner and Jack Kerouac would fill page after page with colorful images without ever feeling the need to take a breath or insert a period that might allow the listener to think a thought or see an image other than the ones they so carefully projected onto the screen of imagination.

At the other end: Hemingway. Declarative. Short and tight. Calling upon the imagination to supply what the writer leaves out. Action happening between the lines. “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Faulkner and Hemingway wrote in opposite styles but each of them won the Nobel Prize in Literature. (Faulkner in ‘49, Hemingway in ‘54.) Faulkner said of Hemingway, “He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” To which Hemingway replied, “Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”

Somewhere between loquacious Faulkner and Spartan Hemingway is the meter, the cadence, the rhythm of syllables that will become a distinctive identifier of your brand, an important part of your audio signature.

We’re very anxious to hear it.

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