I tried something new recently. It was risky – well, not really risky, let’s say daring – I applied my fiction voice to my nonfiction work.
Over the years, as I have developed my business writing prowess, I always felt there were certain molds I needed to fit in to and expectations to meet. Often times I found myself writing in a stilted, unnatural voice, like I was listening to myself on the other side of a two-story brick and mortar wall. It never sat right with me. It felt like a chore. I would spend countless collective hours revising and refining, restructuring and reworking – as I am sure any writer has had the good fortune of dealing with – to sound reasonably good. And the good was good, sometimes a little better than good, sometimes it was dry, business-like, professional, regimented, bland and craving a makeover of charisma and soul. Sometimes I hated the venomous amorphous beast that slowly gnawed at my psyche little bits at a time. It made me crazy; my mental wellness was not quite at stake, but crazy nonetheless. But I did what needed to be done, I stuck to my due diligence.
Now don’t get me wrong, I wrote well, when I was into it. And if not well, well enough for the sake of well enough. I wrote news articles and business information for the corporate intranet, website content, ad copy, various employee communications, a few press releases, a speech or two … whatever a Corporate Communicator would write on a regular basis. It did the job, it communicated clearly and efficiently, and I fulfilled my obligation. Nevertheless, it felt distant to me – like another shallow faceless automaton wrote it. I was starved to fight my way out of this monotony.
Since last August, I have been writing a short fiction piece for my MFA writing workshop course. You could say it is a psychological thriller among other things. During the process, I found myself seeing the story and interpreting it into the written language in a novel way. My writing voice, to my surprise, had evolved to a new level. Though it is hard to pinpoint the catalyst, I fell in love with the writing process all over again (I had to throw in one more cliché, really).
Then it hit me in a subconscious sense – because I did not actually speak or think these words – why not use this evolving fiction style, this new voice, in my nonfiction? I tried it out on a few small pieces. I found myself perceiving what I was writing in a new light with a different thought process. I introduced elements of this evolving voice to a recent book review … and it blew my mind. Reading the work back to myself aloud, I could not believe the barrier I had leapt over. The style was so fluid, so easy to follow, so full of humanity and personality. It was, and still is, an incredible feeling. My true nonfiction voice has emerged from the dark depths of white offices with beige carpets!
4 thoughts on “A Writer’s Exploration: Finding My Nonfiction Voice”
What a giant step away from corporate speak to real communication. Congratulations on the discovery.
Thanks Laura. This was a nice surprise.
Nice piece, David — I'm curious as to what specific stylistic elements you wound up employing. Was it purely a matter of exercising a different voice, or a deliberate strategy of particular techniques?
Thanks Dick. Good question. At first I was thinking that exercising a different voice was the biggest part of it, as in letting my personality show through and taking a more creative approach to the subject. However, I did employ some changes in technique, such as variances in sentence structure that I would normally reserve for fiction and other casual material. Other mechanics include taking liberties with figurative language when appropriate and completely killing off passive language and jargon unless there was no way around it. It just felt right. So far, the response has been positive.