Tutor profile: Laura R.
What does it mean to write in my own voice?
Voice is simple. It's how you sound when you write. Some of the most famous writers have a very distinctive voice. You probably know your favorite author, and after enough journeys with them on the page, you come to recognize their voice, that is, the distinctive quality that makes their writing unique. This can encompass tone, word choice, phrasing, and even punctuation. A writer’s voice may be sarcastic, peaceful, or crass. It may be sprinkled with adjectives or expletives or long, flowery passages. Some writers just have unmistakable voices. Hunter S. Thompson, the father of gonzo journalism, plants himself firmly in the middle of his stories. Stephen King speaks plainly and descriptively at the same time. Edward Abbey writes like an old man standing in the desert shaking his fist at the tourists and shouting, “Get off my lawn!” Writers who do not remain true to their voice, who try to write as someone other than themselves, rarely find success. It’s tempting to try on another voice, like a friend’s coat. To see if it fits for an essay or two. But readers can sniff out a disingenuous writer a mile away. This is why it's so important to take the time to find your own writerly voice. A good way to do this is by practicing stream-of-consciousness writing. Let your hand and your mind go. Write without looking at the page or the computer screen. Just let words come out, and forbid yourself from hitting the backspace key or self-editing as you go. When you're done, take some time away from the page, and then return to it. Notice the tone you've used. The use of language, including profanity or description or humor. Look at the way you've told your story. Consider your comfort level--were you comfortable when you were doing the exercise or were you straining to emulate someone else's writing? With practice and regular writing, you'll start to hear your own writerly voice come out. Don't stray from it; be true to it. If you're humorous, be humorous. If you're lyrical, be lyrical. You cannot possibly find success with *what* you're writing if you're trying to control *how* you write it.
Subject: Study Skills
How can I study a book I'm reading for my English class?
When reading a book, you need to make it an interactive experience. That means you have a pen in your hand. You'll never be able to remember where in a text you found an interesting passage or salient paragraph. Keep the pen in hand. Underline passages that contain references to the book's theme. Underline sentences that give you insight into character. Underline anything that *feels* important. Then, make a quick note at the top of the page or along the margin so you can flip through the book and find that particular passage again. In addition, don't hesitate to write questions or thoughts in the margin or in the inside cover. You can come back to these as you go through the book and when you've finished and are writing about the book. Books are sacred, but they're meant to be a tool, not a piece for a museum.
How does creative nonfiction differ from traditional nonfiction?
If nonfiction is simply a true story, you can define creative nonfiction the same way the literary magazine "Creative Nonfiction" does: a true story, *well told.* Creative nonfiction takes a narrative--which must be true and factual--and adds the element of what writers call "craft." Craft is like an artist's palette. Instead of paint, we use a variety of techniques employed by all kinds of writers, including those who write fiction and poetry. We use craft to tell a nonfiction story as we might tell a fictional story: with vivid imagery, lyrical language, reflective passages, and dramatic elements. Creative nonfiction's goal is to suck a reader in, to make the story not only true but also compelling. Interesting. It's the kind of narrative that makes the reader cry, or laugh, or hold their breath as they would in a piece of fiction.
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