Our Voice


"Lev Tolstoy in Yasnaya Polyana", 19...

“Lev Tolstoy in Yasnaya Polyana”, 1908, the first color photo portrait in Russia Français : « Léon Tolstoï à Iasnaïa Poliana », 1908, le premier portrait photographique en couleur en Russie. Suomi: “Leo Tolstoi Jasnaja Poljanassa”, 1908. Ensimmäinen Venäjällä otettu värimuotokuva. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been blessed in my life to have the opportunity to travel the world, and quite literally sail the seven seas. I seen so many interesting places, and met so many wonderful people. I have learned much in all my travels, and have cherished each experience, and each teacher. One of the things I have learned my travels; in the entire world, there is only one thing made by the hand of man that is truly infinite. My library. I purchased yet another new book this week.

I may have grown up poor in the Deep South, but I learned early on poverty would only hold me back if I allowed it too. As a small boy; I sailed on the whaler Pequod, raced dog sleds in Alaska, whitewashed a fence in Missouri, and captured Spanish treasures ships with Captain Edward Teach onboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge. Some of the places I read about as a boy, I visited as a man.

This week, while I should have been working on my article, I was enjoying the latest edition of my always-expanding library, Invented Voices by Donald Newlove. Invented Voices is a book of dialogue from some of the world’s greatest movies, plays, scripts, poems, and novels. While in my moment of solitude, I remembered what I liked about many of the scenes Mr. Newlove shared. It was the originality and honesty of those dialogues. Dialogues from artists, for these people are more than authors, of people like Ernest Hemingway, William Shakespeare, Herman Melville, Anne Tyler, Stephen Crane, Leo Tolstoy, and so many more. To be sure, the originality and honesty is that of the author’s. More important, the originality and honesty is that of the characters. In each of these works, we came to know people like Captain Ahab and Elizabeth Bennet, just as surely, as if we had been properly introduced to them.

I also remembered reading the intro to a book by an independent author, someone I had never heard of before. The first sentence stated that this book was written in the style of “Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, and James Patterson.” No, I did not download the book, even though it did have a catchy title. Although, I do have to admit, I almost downloaded the book just to see how you could combine these three styles.

In the classics (and soon to be classics), the character is as real, and as original as you or me. The author stepped back and allowed the character to speak their own words, in their own voice. If Hemingway had written in the style of Mark Twain the old man in The Old Man and the Sea, would have been contrived, forced, and false. The words and thoughts would not have been those of the old man, but of Ernest himself trying to be Mark Twain. The author is merely the soapbox the character stands upon to shout their words to the world. When I want to read Ernest Hemingway, I read Ernest Hemingway. When I want to read Stephen King, I read Stephen King. When I want to read Scott (http://wp.me/IYiO) or Sheri (http://wp.me/P2IjCG-2), I read Scott or Sheri.

Each person, throughout all time, has a voice that is unique and their own. It does not matter if that person is you, Tom Sawyer, or me. Each of us is at our best when we allow our true voice to come out. But, we cannot make others into our own image, they too have to speak out in their own voice. As authors, when we write “in the style of …,” we have reduced ourselves to a mere copy. We do the same when we act as we believe others would have us act; when we suppress our dreams, our desires, and our passions. We do the same to others when we try to influence them to “be what they should be.” Why would you read something written “in the style of Mark Twain” when you merely need to pick up Tom Sawyer? I won’t. The same is true of our lives, and the lives of others.

Succeed in life, be honest, be an original, be you!

Cover of "The Old Man and The Sea"

Cover of The Old Man and The Sea

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