When I assign a writing task to my students, the two predominant questions that I receive are “What do I write?” and “How do I write it?” If you’re not familiar with the writing process, the task of writing in a journal or using a blog has probably provoked the same two questions for you; so today, we’re going to address those two questions and the umbrella that they come under - writer’s voice.
What is “The Writer’s Voice”?
The question is a surprisingly complex one. What elements make the voice? How do they do it? Who has a voice already? Who says who has a voice? The purpose of this article isn’t to hand you your own writer’s voice. It’s not even really going to give you the tools to find your voice. Why? Because if you’ve made it as far in the series as this article, you already have the tools that you need to do all of that yourself. The job of this article, instead, is going to be to show you how to recognize which tool is which, and how to use each tool in the long run. So what I want you to do now is grab a loose leaf sheet of paper and something to write with, or open a word document, and split your screen between this article and your word processor. Ready?
Here we go, then.
Activity 1: define your voice
You know you want to write.
That’s the good news. You know you’re ready to write about your journey as a submissive, about the challenges you face, the worries you have, the limits that you want to shift, the burgeoning relationship between you and your Dom. That’s half of the battle out of the way. So on the very top of the page, in your best handwriting or your favourite font, I want you to ask yourself why you’re writing. Just type/write the question at the top of the page.
At this point, I normally ask my kids to share. What did you write? More importantly, how did you write it? Did you say, “Why am I writing?” or “What the hell am I writing this for?” or “Why am I keeping a journal?” You may have had other variations, like “Why’m” instead of “Why am” or “i” instead of “I”.
This is called your diction, or your word choice. Its creation is as simple as comparing what you wrote for the question to something that someone else would have written.
What if you wrote the same thing as someone else? Well, that’s where your handwriting/font selection comes in. It doesn’t matter if you decide to keep a private journal, or a public blog, you can make your journaling experience your own by the way that you decorate or realize your ideas on a visual level. The colours that you choose for your blog, the background pictures, the doodles you draw in a journal, and the way you change your handwriting as you go, are all things that feed into the creation of your voice as a final product. These paratext elements plant as many defining ideas in your reader’s mind as your words do.
Let’s go back to the question
“Why am I writing?” What the hell am I doing staring at this blank page, fingers/pen at the ready? You should already have an idea of how you want to answer that because you’ve already decided that you want to write. Something inspired you, even if it was just liking the idea of having a journal. So go ahead, under the question that you wrote, take about 5 minutes to answer your question. Why are you writing?
Your answer doesn’t matter. It can be anything from “I like writing” to “My Dom told me I have to. The motivation for writing, in and of itself, is the important thing. You’re writing for a purpose. The Author’s Purpose, in fact! The author (that’s you), contributes to his or her voice by letting the purpose of their writing help them choose the words they want to use.
Are you keeping a brat’s journal? A tidy recollection of the day’s events and the tasks you’re expected to do each day? Are you reflecting on scenes as part of your after care? Let the reason you’re writing take on a power of its own. If you’re a Baby Girl, reflecting on how Daddy punished you for sneaking ice cream, let yourself be petulant, let yourself draw doodles in the margins or use emoticons, choose a font that suits a baby girl, in a colour that suits a baby girl, and roll with it.
Likewise, if you’re planning to keep a journal for scene reflections, and you want your experiences to sound as sensual on the page as they were when they were happening, you’re going to want to choose words that are linked to the senses, to describe sensation, to make the journal as external as it is internal, to act for your reader almost in the capacity as your Dom acted for you, bringing the reader all the way to the brink, and then letting them go.
The last thing that you need to keep in mind as you determine how you’re going to write in your journal is who you are writing for. Is your journal a private, safe place for you to express yourself? Is it on a public forum that you are using to help people learn about kink? Is it for your Dom’s eyes only? Or specifically for already kinky practitioners? These things are important. Like your purpose, your audience should help you choose the words that you’re going to use, and the topics that you’re going to address. If you’re writing for people who you expect to be new to kink, you’ll want to keep that in mind and try to clarify any vernacular (e.g. clarifying SSC to be Safe-Sane-Consensual rather than just saying SSC). If you’re writing just for your Dom, you can use inside jokes , be less formal, or even extra formal.
Keeping in mind why you’re writing, what you’re writing, and for whom you’re writing it is a good way to define the raw aspects of your voice. It gets you on the page, takes away the pressure of where to begin. You’ve already begun, after all, on the page in front of you.
If you’re still feeling stuck, mechanical, or like you’re not really accessing the “true you” in your writing, that’s okay—especially if you have no experience with writing non-fiction pieces. These things come in time, and with practice. Here are some additional elements that you can keep in mind as you write, which should help you refine your voice as you go:
1) Sentence length matters.
The longer, more languid, the sentence, the longer the journey your reader embarks upon, and the slower they’ll read the sentence. Short sentences create urgency. They’re quick bites of information. They keep the reader’s attention. Snap them back into the moment. Use a variety of sentence lengths to create urgency, convey stress, to push the reader to his limit and then let him tumble over the edge with you: to unwind, free fall, create a point of impact, and then…breathe.
2) Punctuation also matters.
Exclamation points create a sense of juvenile excitement. Full stops (periods) are more refined but less expressive. Commas, colons, semicolons, parenthesis, hyphens all perform roughly the same function, but they look different on the page and feel different for the reader. Look them up, determine how best to use them for what you’re writing, and make each symbol your own.
3) Synonyms are your friend.
If you’re having trouble finding the words to express yourself, grab a thesaurus (or go to Thesaurus.com) and look up words that mean the same thing. You can use a collection of different words to say the same thing, and to create a different sense of meaning. Did your Dom push or press you against the wall? Spank, strike, or smack you? Bind you or tie you? Various words have different shades of meaning, and those shades help you create your diction (which, as you know, is a key part of your voice!). If you still need help finding your voice, you can check out some of the resources below.