Posted On November 27, 2013 by Print This Post

The Mouth on this One: Finding Your Voice with Mark Henry

Aaahh . . . the elusive search for your voice as a an author. How do you find it? Can you create it? Can someone else tell you what it is? Mark Henry is here to give his irreverent spin to the whole discussion.

The Mouth on this One: On Finding Voice

Each time my mother reads one of my books, I hear a variation on this phrase, “Why can’t you write something nice…a sweet romance?”DSC_0613 That’s a good question and if I could stop rolling my eyes at her over my coffee cup, I could answer…also there’s pouting—the less you know about that the better. The answer is obviously that I can produce a romance. In fact, I have, my romantic comedy with demonic transplant organs and amateur surgery PARTS & WRECK is available this week. My issue is around the word “sweet.” My personality has a tendency to negate the sweetness and light, like some kind of goth sponge sucking it out of the air until everything is greasy and smeared with kohl…like those girls on America’s Next Top Model.

That last sentence speaks volumes about my authorial voice. It’s at once honest—possibly overly so—visual and tempered with a snarky humor. Let’s break that down further so you get an idea of where that stuff comes from, because it’s my assertion that a writer’s “voice” (those unique nuances that flavor the structure of our stories, the way we construct sentences and our overall tone) is learned through experience. The nuts and bolts, the grammar, the spelling and such, can be taught but voice has to be lived.

As a psychotherapist and crisis counselor for many years, I witnessed all kinds of horrors on an hourly basis. Most of my peers dropped out of the field quickly, throwing away expensive graduate degrees just to get out of the chaos of the work. I stuck around for twelve years. To do that took developing a thick skin and a dark—pitch black—sense of humor. That stuff. That gunky residue in my head flavors my voice.

I’m an only child, in the quintessential sense. Parentified, precocious, too smart of a mouth too soon. I do a lot of thinking, assessing people to figure out how to fit in. I think of this as my chameleon self. All these things make it into my books, into the narrative. Even if it lies under the surface of a scene. It’s there.

The trick is being aware of it.

Parts&Wreck.HenryMy brain does things that yours doesn’t and vice versa. I’m highly flighty in my thoughts, one thing reminding me of another then another until it’s all a big jumble (I incorporate that through mid-sentence asides). A novice writer’s initial instinct is to tamp this kind of stuff down—give it a real grind under the boot heel (←like this one)—because the last thing you want to do is confuse your reader…also you shouldn’t touch them inappropriately at public readings, but you should know that rule without me saying so.

I say use it. Those weird traits that make us unique individuals are the building blocks of our voice. Add in our experiences? That’s where good writing happens. When you hear the standard advice “write what you know”. It doesn’t mean write about being a fireman or a housewife or an accountant. You could, but you better have something in your voice that makes it interesting. What you know is yourself, your unique brain chemistry, the way you see the world. Whether it’s through dark and sarcastic lenses, like mine, or pink and wonderful.

That’s your voice. And you find it through personal assessment and insight.

***

Do you know your voice? When did you find it?

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

***

Bio:

Mark Henry traded a career as a counselor to scar minds with his fiction. In stories clogged with sentient zombies, impotent sex demons, transsexual werewolves and ghostly goth girls, he irreverently processes traumatic issues brought on by premature exposure to horror movies, an unwholesome fetish for polyester and/or witnessing adult cocktail parties in the swingin’ 70s. A developmental history further muddied by surviving earthquakes, typhoons, and two volcanic eruptions. He somehow continues to live and breathe in the oft maligned, yet not nearly as soggy as you’d think, Pacific Northwest, with his wife and four furry monsters that think they’re children and have a complete disregard for carpet.

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Discussion

12 Responses to “The Mouth on this One: Finding Your Voice with Mark Henry”

  1. Morning Mark!

    I think I have a good handle on my voice…like yours, it’s a little snarky, a little fun and for some reason it likes to use the word was. was. was. was.

    =)

    I seem to have lost it a bit this year though, or maybe it’s just rusty from lack of use…any suggestions on getting my voice back???

    thanks for posting with us – love your photo!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | November 27, 2013, 8:33 am
    • Hi Carrie.

      I had a bit of an issue with this transitioning from writing for young adults back to adults. What I found helpful was to work out of sequence, writing scenes that tended to rely heavily on the snarky tone first so that I got used to it again. It’s always a good idea to jumble stuff up when you get stuck!

      Posted by Mark | November 27, 2013, 2:07 pm
  2. Hi Mark,

    My voice was pointed out to me by others. I spent too much time looking for it and didn’t realize I had one all the time.

    Happy Thanksgiving Eve to you and RU!

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | November 27, 2013, 9:05 am
  3. Hi Mark – I think I discovered your books via Paul Goat Allen at Barnes & Noble. You DEFINITELY have a distinctive voice – I love it!

    This should go on a plaque:

    “My personality has a tendency to negate the sweetness and light, like some kind of goth sponge sucking it out of the air until everything is greasy and smeared with kohl…like those girls on America’s Next Top Model.”

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | November 27, 2013, 11:58 am
  4. Hi Mark!

    “The nuts and bolts, the grammar, the spelling and such, can be taught but voice has to be lived.” This is so true! Trusting your voice takes time, too. It’s another organic, self-taught process.

    Thanks for joining us today. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | November 27, 2013, 2:32 pm
  5. Mark I love your unique and authentic voice. I’ll be reading your words and follow you on a crazy, voicey jaunt right off the page. It’s like the loop-di-loop roll coaster, but you deposit the reader right back in the story without really having taken you out. It’s additive to the ride. IMO, perfect voice. Rock on Maestro!

    Posted by Susannah Scott | November 27, 2013, 4:17 pm
  6. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | November 27, 2013, 4:32 pm
  7. I’m still getting a handle on my voice, but I’ve got most of it figured out.

    Amusingly, I found that after taking an editing course. It was about preparing your submission for query, and filled with great advice about reading aloud, find and destroy words, passive voice, never start a sentence with And, etc. And after I was done polishing everything up, I had bled every last ounce of interesting out of the manuscript. Seeing that sent me on a voice hunt.

    Posted by RJ | November 28, 2013, 12:07 pm
  8. I’m a new writter, just getting started at age 60. Yep, a little late to get started, but since I plan to live for another forty years, I have time to write tons of books.

    I think my love of books is helping me to find a voice. Your article helped enormously. My voice still has that dreded bi-polar disorder, and the more I write the deeper the fracture grows.

    Should I trust myself and allow my writing to stay bi-polar? I am thinking of using one voice for my hero, and another for my villain. Could that work?

    Posted by Vicki Boyd | December 1, 2013, 11:33 am

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] The Mouth on this One Mark Henry on the Romance University blog about finding your writer’s voice. […]

    Happy new links! | Becky Black - January 3, 2014

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