Picture yourself in a strange coffee haven, sans plasticine porters with looking glass ties. It’s San Diego in the mid-1990’s and, although smoking indoors has been banned for a little over a year, the lingering haze of ten thousand clove cigarettes gives everything the feel of a White Diamonds commercial. I’m at the counter ordering a round for my buddies when our high-maintenance friend arrives, out of breath and late, again.
“What do you want?” I mouth the words across the room so as not to disturb a reading of The Vagina Monologues.
“A caramel macchiato, 2% organic, extra-shot, extra-hot, extra-whip, with three Splendas and a dusting of dark chocolate,” he mouths back.
I shoot him an “okay” sign with my finger and thumb, turn to the Liz Taylor impersonator and say, “Make that five regular coffees.”
We’re there for our weekly game of Balderdash, a competition of intellect, creativity, and bullshittery –- the perfect distraction for the writerly sect. If you’ve never heard of it, in a nutshell, players pick a word, write their “definitions,” read them along with the correct answer, then vote on which is real. Points are awarded to those who choose the correct definition and to those whose definitions are chosen.
I open with this vignette because among that group was my best friend, Jeff, whom I could never fool. While the others fell prey to my pseudo-Websterisms time and again, every attempt at tricking him was not only dashed, it was balderdashed.
“How do you always know?” I asked one night after a particularly grueling tournament ended with the announcement they had run out of everything but decaf.
“Yours sound like you.”
“Huh? Whaddya mean they sound like me?” I mean, seriously. Pick a word –- any word -– balderdash, for example. Does this not sound like it was ripped straight from the pages of the OED?
Balderdash: (n) the dash with less hair than the other dash.
I rest my case.
Then again, maybe I rest Jeff’s case. “It’s the way you put things,” he continued, “the phrasing, the word choices, the style –- the everything. Sure, they may sound like dictionary entries, but dictionary entries you wrote — even when they’re the correct definitions — if that makes any sense.”
Personally, I think it’s because I typed them.
And that, my friends, was the day I discovered my words had a voice behind them, and that voice was distinguishably mine.
The Authorial Voice
We’ve been celebrating diversity on the pages of Writer Unboxed, and there’s nothing more unique to a writer than their authorial voice. But what is it, exactly, and how can you find yours? Is it the narrative voice? A character voice? The voices in my head? Yes, and no…and yes. [Read more…]