Not unlike my sense of style, my sense of voice has remained relatively stagnant since 10th grade. Unlike my taste in hand-me-down clothes from my older brother and father, this consistency hasn’t really posed any problem for me–at least academically. I was always “Abby the writer” or more accurately “Abby the reader who really likes to write a lot.” My voice became a combination of everything I was too shy to say, everything I was unaware I even wanted to say, and everything my parents wouldn’t want me to say. And with that, a distinctive–though I would argue relatively unoriginal–voice was born.
If you haven’t already noticed, I love to interject. Dashes, commas, and a good ole fashioned parenthetical pause are more prevalent in my writing than butter in Paula Deen’s recipes. I find it mimics more succinctly my internal monologue of my writing. The way I tend to chatter on incessantly to the closest people to me is best captured by these formal markers. There’s also a tendency toward simple language. I never want to write anything, even academically driven research papers, without being able to feel comfortable reading them aloud. Probably because up until about the age of 8, I only could read aloud. This accustomed me to a certain hurried, whispered rhythm that tends to clutter the my writings.
I would say that this meant-to-be read-aloud-by-the-light-of-my-computer-screen style is also a large indication into the personality of my writing. I like being sarcastic and cynical. I like that in my writing, I don’t have to worry about people telling me to lighten up. I like that I get to be a little bit darker. It’s kind of my schtick. Not saying I’m a Poe or anything–or even that I can’t do the lighter personality thing when I feel like it. But if writing is a thing that’s done under cover of darkness (and generally put off until the last possible second) then most of the time, I don’t mind if that’s the way it comes across. ‘Cuz at least then it’s real.
Similarly, I am drawn to what’s “real.” I like to write about myself. Telling stories is a major part of my family life. After the second time my boyfriend met my family, I asked him why he was always so quiet around us. His answer? “It’s kind of hard to interject when all you guys do is tell stories about things that I wasn’t at.”
And he’s right. I inherited my family’s self-centered desire to entertain lazily with stories of the past. But I also love to write about those stories (or personal narratives) in ways that allow me to revisit and reevaluate. Looking through a lens and asking myself questions about why I reacted that way–or didn’t react at all–is why I keep writing. And so that’s what I tend to center around. I know that it can’t all be about me, but if given the choice of getting all A’s for the rest of my college career in exchange for never being able to write a single word again about the time I broke a lamp because my brother said Anne Hathaway was a bad actress, I’d take the B+ grade point average that I rightly deserve.
In terms of formal markers of my voice, I guess it’s not difficult to see. Interjections are what I live for. Whether that be in writing or at the dinner table. I also tend to use fragmented sentences to reinforce ideas. Long sentences and exposition are where I make my bread and butter. But when I do try my hand at scenic writing, my imagery tends to be odd turns on cliches and stereotypes. All things I’m sure I could work on varying, but know I will always fall back on stylistically as I build my stories.
And where did it come from? This 10th grade voice that I still use as a 20 year old at one of the best universities in the world? My mom thinks from this weird advanced English class she forced me to take in 8th and 9th grade because I kept disrupting the classes at my middle school by reading things not on the curriculum. My dad thinks its from my “ladylike” sense of humor. My brother, I’m sure, thinks absolutely nothing about it at all. And me? Hell if I know. All I know is that no matter how hard I try and how much I’m sure it annoys those forced to read it (here’s looking at you Ray and classmates), I can’t seem to shake it.