Lisa Dale Norton
Lisa Dale Norton

Your Life As Story:  Writing Narrative Nonfiction

The Protagonist, Part II: It's All About Voice

by Lisa Dale Norton
March 2008

Lisa Dale Norton will be providing a one-hour interactive teleconference in the Authorlink Virtual Classroom March 26, 2008. Find details here.

"Do I sound like me, or some piece of gray cardboard?"

Yappity, yap, yap, it's all about voice.

Do I sound like me, or some piece of gray cardboard?

Do you slip into PR speak, that language of vague words and pumped up smiley-face phrasings?

Do I let myself write clichés and allow them to stand for my authentic view of the world, or do I take on the work of rewriting them and finding images and connections that only I could pen?

Do you remember the colloquial sayings of the town where you grew up?

Did you long ago eradicate them from your language because some English teacher told you they didn¹t sound professional? "Those aren't appropriate for a research paper." (I can just see the wizened creature glaring, glasses sliding down the nose, jealous in his/her heart-of-hearts because you, the young audacious thing before him had talent.) Yikes!

"What is voice? It's all about you. Listen to yourself."

What is voice? It's all about you. Listen to yourself. Who are you? What do you really sound like? Have fun with this. Figure out how to throw off the journalistic, technical writing ghosts of your past. Kill off the lessons of high school English, the dreaded five paragraph essay and personality-leached language of the research paper!

"You ARE the voice of this writing."

This is literature, folks, and you get to be center stage. You ARE the voice of this writing. Narrative Nonfiction‹writing about your life‹ is all about you, and for sure the one thing that rivets readers is voice, voice, voice. If readers falls in love with the way you speak, the characteristic sound of your yammering soliloquy, they will read anything you write. My god! They¹ll study your grocery list!

Lisa Dale Norton
Lisa Dale Norton's new book about memoir, SHIMMERING IMAGES: A HANDY LITTLE GUIDE TO WRITING MEMOIR, will be released by St. Martin 's Press in Spring '08. She is the author of Hawk Flies Above: Journey to the Heart of the Sandhills (Picador USA/St. Martin 's Press), a work combining memoir and nature writing. Lisa teaches for the UCLA Writers' Extension Program and speaks nationally on the power of story and the process of writing your own. She lives in Santa Fe.