Your Life As Story: Becoming a Visible Voice

December 23, 2008
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Lisa Dale Norton
Lisa Dale Norton

Your Life As Story: Becoming a Visible Voice

by Lisa Dale Norton

January 2009

"Voice is distinct to where you live in a way that is often invisible."
—NORTON

I write to you from the third floor of a nineteenth century house in Bavaria in Southern Germany where I have traveled for the holidays. Here I knew I would learn more about the writer's voice, and this is what I have to share with you.

Voice is distinct to where you live in a way that is often invisible. I am acutely aware of this in Germany where local dialects distinguish people from geographical areas that we in America might think of contiguous, and so, the same. We forget that the characteristic way our friends, family, and associates—the shopkeeper at the corner store, the worker at the next desk—speak is a shorthand endemic to our neighborhood or region.

Our job as writers is to make the invisible visible, so for the writer of Narrative Nonfiction that means illuminating the bone-deep phrases and short cuts of expression that distinguish personal voice.

". . . how do you bring forth these differences in voice on the written page?"
NORTON

Here in Southern Germany people say "Grüss Gott!" when they greet on the street. You will not hear this phrase in Berlin. What do they say in your neighborhood? Is it really as simple as "Hello!"?

And how do you bring forth these differences in voice on the written page? I know I keep talking about this—have talked about it for months—yet you may still feel you sound like a cardboard technical manual.

It's okay.

"For the new year a first step is to simply to allow yourself to write
like you talk."

NORTON

For the new year a first step is to simply to allow yourself to write like you talk. Try it. Inside that comfortable language waits your honest voice, and the world is waiting to hear from you. Just you.

About
Lisa Dale Norton
Lisa Dale Norton's new book about memoir, SHIMMERING IMAGES: A HANDY LITTLE
GUIDE TO WRITING MEMOIR (St. Martin's Press), is in bookstores now. Lisa is the author of the acclaimed memoir HAWK FLIES ABOVE: JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF THE SANDHILLS, a work combining memoir and nature writing. She teaches for the UCLA Writers' Extension Program and speaks nationally on the process of memoir. She lives in Santa Fe. www.lisadalenorton.com

 

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