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Love Among the Tombstones: Finding Your Writer's Voice
Be forewarned: "Love Among The Tombstones" refers to my love of cemeteries as inspiration for finding one's voice as a writer, not steamy tales of ripped bodices, throbbing members and tangled knickers in moonlit graveyards.
I've tried to write steamy, ripped and throbbing - oh, how I've tried! - but the titillating title and opening sentence is pretty much the extent of my ability in that area.
Which is not to say I didn't find my physical voice on several moonlit nights many years ago in the Lover's Lane next to the cemetery near my hometown.
But "voice" back then had nothing to do with writing, and everything to do with some version of "I'll walk, thank you!" (which I did).
But I digress...
If you've read my cemetery hubs, you know I love cemeteries for the endless supply of chuckles...and serious tales like the love story of William Morris and his Emmie...to be found in them.
You also know I have a decidedly unconventional attitude about the Dearly Departed and their final resting places.
Cemeteries, to borrow a phrase from the movie Top Gun, are a "target rich environment". If one is willing to do a bit of research online (and sometimes, in local archives), there are more stories among those tombstones than one person can ever hope to write in an entire lifetime.
My writer's voice, then, is a mix of stories about those who can no longer speak for themselves and graveyard humor honed by decades of exposure to the unintentionally humorous side of the dysfunctional family I was born into. A family, I'm happy to add, my sanity somehow survived relatively intact.
But I knew none of this when I joined Hubpages. When I signed on here as "JamaGenee" I had no idea what my "writer's voice" was, or that finding it would not be as easy as it sounded, even by applying the standard of "write what you know".
From three decades as a family historian, I did know quite a lot about identifying and locating long-dead ancestors, so how-to hubs on that topic seemed like a no-brainer. It would take several dud hubs to figure out the world didn't need (or even want) another "Climbing Family Trees For Dummies" or "Genealogy 101".
It didn't help that Hubpages was a Writer's Community, which intimidated the heck out of me, or that most of the hubs I read as a newbie were rather scholarly, in the same vein as the research papers I'd done in college.
Serious. Totally devoid of humor.
So I put a lid on the warped, wry sense of humor I inherited from several branches of British ancestors (and from growing up among the aforementioned Dysfunctionals) and wrote "serious" hubs instead.
Those hubs would turn out to be real snoozers...
My break-out hub, oddly, was a knee-slappingly funny satire on McCain choosing Palin as a running mate. A one-off total fluke. Political satire is not (and never has been) my forte. Truly.
But what was my forte...my real writer's voice?
The success of the McCain-Plain hub was the first clue the sky wouldn't fall if I wrote humorous hubs.
The second clue was writing witty, breezy, sometimes hub-length comments on the hubs of others had never been a problem.
Why was that, I wondered?
The reason, it finally dawned, was that I was responding to the thoughts and ideas of another, not staring clueless at a blank text capsule of a new hub of my own. The same was true of my lengthy email replies to friends on various subjects.
Responding, not initiating.
I also recognized that to some degree the minimum-word requirement here at Hubpages was hampering my creativity. Back when I was a from-scratch web designer, I'd had no problem writing original copy in whatever vein a site required, using as few or as many words as was appropriate to the purpose of the site.
So I set up my own blog called - since I was born on a Saturday - "Saturday's Child" both as a way to be free of HP's word limit and to earn "street cred" as a writer worthy of membership in a "Writers' Community". (Yep, there were a couple of self-worth issues in play there.)
A blog being whatever one wants it to be, at Sat's Child the focus of Saturday posts became "flea markets" in which I spotlight and recommend interesting blogs I come across during the previous week. A format not allowed here at Hubpages because it involves (even relies on) "excessive links". Thursday is "Thursday Drive" day, about...you guessed it...travel and interesting destinations. I also participate in sponsored meme days like Tombstone Tuesday (for which I designed a TT badge adopted by GeneaBlogger) and Wordless Wednesday, which requires no text at all, only a photo of anything you want to post. At Sat's Child, I write a little bit of everything (except politics), posts which for the most part are too short to qualify as hubs.
On the subject of photos, at Sat's Child I can and do place photos wherever I want, just like I could in the days I built websites from scratch, but can't do here at Hubpages.
But back to finding your writer's voice...
If you're still struggling with this, do as I did:
- Re-read the comments you make on the hubs of others (under My Account | Activity | Comments You Made).
- Consider the "voice" you use in emails to close friends and family members.
- Is the voice you use in comments and emails different from the voice in your hubs? If so, that may be your true writer's voice.
- If Hubpages is your first experience writing online and your hubs are stiff and stodgy, start a blog.
And last, but by no means least, remember that words are only the Crayons and fingerpaint writers use to create mental pictures. Experiment! Play! Have fun!