Wrestling With Voice

August was a very busy month for me. I started narrating. Then, I became a social media volunteer. Then, I landed a part in an alternate reality game.

My first narrating assignment didn’t expect much from me, which was nice. But my most recent one required me to assign a voice to the narrator. (Have I ever mentioned that acting and I never got along? It’s been an effort. But I enjoy narrating, so I muddle through. Maybe it’ll work out.)

As the social media voice for a website, I’ve had to learn to write in voices not my own. I’ve written for years, both as myself and under a nom de plume. But it was always writing for me, as me, even when the attached name was a pen name. Anyone who ran into my writings during that time would know in a glance that I had written both because my pen name didn’t have her own voice. I couldn’t even wrap my mind around trying to find her voice. Now, I’ve had to develop not one, but two voices, because one site requires more of a thought leadership tone and the other a more playful “spokesmonster” tone. I still don’t get it right some days, but I’m learning and I’m working on it. It’s a great exercise, really.

While I was only a voice actor in the alternate reality game, I did actually take the time to look at the game’s past. It’s often useful to know where something has come from, especially when it’s had a long, battered road. When the writer originally started building the story world, he forgot to make it clear that the voice speaking was a fictional character. It was a total accident, and when he realized what had happened he immediately clarified what was going on. But looking at other alternate reality games and marketing campaigns that have used realistic fictional characters, it’s clear that this isn’t a unique problem. It’s a credit to the writer, really, that they’ve breathed so much life into their character that it fools even the most skeptical reader/viewer, but it also leads to wondering how to make it clear that the character is in fact a character without breaking the story world.

What I’ve learned from all three experiences is that voice is a complicated thing. It lends authenticity to your work, and can break the suspension of disbelief necessary sometimes to carry the audience through if not done well. Like learning to write, learning to create a voice is a slow process that requires conscientious practice until it becomes second nature.

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