The Voice Must Flow!
The power to be in many places at once. Perfect memory. The ability to see the future. None of these count for anything without the power to inspire action with just a few phrases, delivered with perfect pitch, modulation, frequency and poignancy.
Anyone who knows anything about science fiction will know about Dune. In Dune, Paul Atreides – the heir to a ducal title – is cast out of his place by the betrayal of a lesser Baron (the piggish Harkonen) and goes on a journey of self-discovery, eventually learning that he is the Ultimate Power Embodied – the Kwisatz Haderach!
Voice isn’t only about displaying personality, it’s about directive communication.
Bloggers talk about creating a voice all the time, and in many cases, we’re referring to the same things;
- Humour, or lack thereof
- Opinions, or sets of beliefs
- Passion, or clarity of desire
- Engagement, or how easy it is to turn a statement into a conversation.
HOPE hard enough and you’ll get a certain kind of success – but to be a real master, you need more than hope.
All of these things matter, but they’re not the core of The Voice.
In Dune, the Voice is an arcana very few are trained in – and the fact that Paul Atreides is trained in even its rudiments is almost heretical. Masters of the Voice have the skills to control anyone they have face-to-face contact with, after just a few minutes of exposure. They must gain this power over each individual person they wish to control, and do so by keen observation of body language, cataloging of reactions to some initial prods, and above all else, listening to the words their subjects use.
By this process of pre-communicative observation, practitioners of the Voice can easily understand the motivations, weaknesses – and potential of a subject. So, when she finally does speak, she can use the entirety of subtle inflection, posture, micro-expression, tone, pitch, metre… Every verbal and non-verbal tool physically possible to such a high effectiveness, that the subject is helpless to argue or disobey.
As a blogger, you have more tools at your disposal than text formatting, multi-media, your usual level of eloquence, or your standard subject matter.
You’ve got more than just your words. You have the spaces between then-the long dashes creating suspense, the ellipsis… Hanging out and doing it’s thing. You’ve got direct address writing (which most of this post is written in), choice of gendered or genderless pronouns… All of these things, once you know how to go beyond vocabulary and work pacing, verbal innuendo, and inflection by way of grammar into your writing… There’s power, just waiting there.
Consider the following passage about a remote bystander observing the initial attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001:
When James burst into the room, yelling this and that about being under attack, I didn’t even know what to think. Who was attacking who? Had he been playing paintball again? I mean, seriously. It wasn’t even seven in the morning. I got a real shock when I followed him to the living room. He wasn’t kidding – one of the towers was falling on picture-in-picture, and not ten seconds after my eyes hit the screen, the second plane hit the other tower.
What sense do you get from the above paragraph? There’s information there. There’s a hook (the attack) there’s characterization (the remark about paintball), there’s narative (first-person). It’s concise, informative, and to the point.
How about this?
“Guys! We’re under attack!”
The door shook – great. James’d put a crack into it with the heel of his boot. A muddy crack. Double great.
“Seriously, guys, get up! One tower’s just come down, and they keep saying there are more planes! More damned planes!”
What was he on about, anyway? I levered myself up and threw on a shirt. If he’d found some new video game to spend his rent money on…
No such luck. One look at the TV left my mouth gaping. Under attack indeed. I forgot about the muddy boot crack in my door.
What’s different? The details are identical in form to the first paragraph – the attack, the two towers… You know exactly what both are getting at. But the two passages may as well have been written about different people. There’s the focus on dialog, the broken-up structure of the second passage, completely different use of timing…
And we’re just comparing two very short pieces, essentially stating the same facts; the narrator’s roommate bursts into his room, waking him/her with what seems like nonsense – but is very quickly proven to be terrifying truth.
While the examples I’ve used are semi-fictional, the same thing applies to blogging, or writing of any kind where format restrictions are loose. Journalists with word count limits need to be ultra-direct. Bloggers, authors and other writers benefit from other tools, like using the tonal changes that pacing and directive writing can create.
It’s up to you, young pup!
Using the power of Voice in writing is more than just what you choose to write about, and the words and phrases you use to express your opinion. Leaving it at phraseology and opinion may be enough for some – but if you really want to master your power of Voice, going beyond and asserting control over your very tone and inflection in writing is the next step along the Golden Path.
Being serious about the development and use of your Power of Voice is a good idea. Knowing how to produce tone, inflection… Even a little – necessary hesitation just with words and grammar can make your writing stand out as much more human.
Still. It never helps to lose the humour all together. Am I Right, Dunecats?
Top image: Modified screenshot from Sci-Fi Channel’s “Frank Herbet’s Dune” (well worth watching)
Bottom image: Dunecat. Source; the interwebs.