Susan Orlean on conveying, rather than inventing, voice

7 Jan

Your identity and your self-understanding become subliminal parts of your writer’s voice — especially in long-form narrative writing. Imagine telling friends about a story that excited you. Your friends follow the story even though it’s not linear but circles back as you tell it. The way you tell a story over dinner is true to who you are, whether that is deeply analytical or extremely witty. At such moments you aren’t self-conscious, and you aren’t thinking about your editor.
You can’t invent a voice. And you can’t imitate someone else’s voice, though trying to can be a good exercise. It can lead you to begin to understand the mechanisms that convey the voice.

— SUSAN ORLEAN, from “On Voice,” in Telling True Stories

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