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Finding My Voice–Louise Gouge and Randy Ingermanson

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Please make welcome Louise Gouge and Randy Ingermanson.

In 1986, Louise Gouge started college the same semester as her oldest child—talk about experiences to write about! Having a very busy imagination, Louise had always wanted to write books, and had already completed one novel, but wanted to polish her skills. Louise received her Associate of Arts degree from Valencia Community College in 1988, then enrolled in the University of Central Florida (the same year her oldest son started there) as a junior, graduating in 1990 with a creative writing degree. While in graduate school, in November 1994, Louise’s first novel, Once There Was a Way Back Home, was published by Crossway Books. Her second novel, The Homecoming, was published in January 1998. Louise earned her Master of Liberal Studies degree from Rollins College in May 1999. Her thesis was a historical fiction novel entitled Ahab’s Bride. Louise currently teaches English at Valencia Community College and continues writing. Her newest title is Then Came Hope, hitting bookstore shelves in May 2007.

Randy Ingermanson tags himself as a “Physicist, Novelist, Speaker, and All Around Troublemaker.” If you haven’t heard of his Snowflake Method for novel plotting, you might subscribe to his Advanced Fiction Writing Course or E-Zine, or you might have read one of his books. Randy was both class nerd and class clown. He’s now an award winning novelist, a physicist, and a fiction teacher. He wants to be Supreme Dictator For Life and First Tiger. He’s getting closer every day!

WPWT: How did you find your unique writing voice? Did you struggle to find it or did it come easily to you?
LG: Not meaning to cause a problem, but I really must ask, “What is ‘voice’?” I must also take a quote (loosely) from Flannery O’Connor: I just write what I write. And my writing definitely does not come easily to me. I labor over every word, every passage.

RI: When I got started, my writing style was pretty vanilla. I did some things well and some things really badly. Style is made up of a lot of different components, and voice is only one of those, but it’s a very important one. I went to a critique group for probably two or three years before my style really started gelling. I know some writers do it much quicker, but I had a lot of unlearning to do. And I did it by writing every day and taking my work to my critique group every month and seeing what worked for my critiquers and what didn’t.

WPWT: How would you describe your unique writing voice? What is it that you do to make sure your writing “sounds like” you?
LG: With my first answer in mind, I must tell you that I have an amateur acting background, backed by a few drama classes in college. As such, I have always taken on the character of my, um, characters. Brandilyn Collins has a terrific book entitled Getting into Character, which explains this approach. I become my characters in order to discover their motivations and actions. With my husband’s help, I even take on the characters of my heroes. Further, as a historical writer, I rely on my family history. My maternal grandmother, who was born in 1875, had a big influence on me in my early years. I hear her voice in my head AND on one fading audio cassette (made when she was over 100 years old) to capture the nuances of a nineteenth century heroine. Maybe it’s her voice that people hear in my writing.

RI: For starters, my writing voice is AUTHENTIC. I don’t have to put my voice on–it’s just a reflection of who I really am. I think that’s a key thing–don’t try to be someone else. Just be yourself. My writing voice is a weird mix of “deep thinking” and “whackball humor.” Both of those are essential to who I am. I’m a physicist from Berkeley, for heaven’s sake, so there’s bound to be some depth to what I write. But I’m also pretty crazy (Berkeley is Berzerkely) and I put that craziness in my writing. I like to tell people that I was both class nerd and class clown. Those are the key components of my writing voice. As for how to make my writing sound like me, it’s not something I do, it’s something I don’t do. I don’t censor. I just pretend like I’m talking out loud and then I jam it out on the page. Yes, I’ll edit that later. But to get it down on paper first, I just write as if I were talking. And that often means throwing in a random line about “ironing the cat.”

WPWT: What advice would you give to beginning/intermediate writers to help them find and develop their unique writing voice?
LG: Write. Write, write, write. Discover yourself. Abandon rules. Follow rules. Act out your story. Seek counsel from those who embody your characters’ qualities. (Cop, doctor, teacher, homeless person, Starbucks clerk, etc.) DO NOT struggle to find your “voice.” It will come naturally when you begin to master the art of telling a compelling story with real, compelling characters.

RI: Write a LOT. And then toss it out there and see what works. When I said above that you should “be yourself,” I don’t mean that you should never bother learning what works and never modify your style. Some aspects of “you” will just work better than other things. You want to learn which parts to select and amplify in your writing. And that’s a matter of trial and error. These days, I think a blog is a great way to do that, because you can get immediate feedback. Write a piece, toss it out there, learn from your mistakes, and then go do it again tomorrow. There really isn’t any substitute for that pesky hard work.

  1. Erica Vetsch permalink
    Wednesday, February 28, 2007 4:59 pm

    Guess there’s no way around it. Writers write.

    I’m so enjoying this series, Kaye. Thanks so much for all the hard work.


  2. Georgiana D permalink
    Wednesday, February 28, 2007 10:32 pm

    What? We have to write? I was kinda just liking the title. JK–I go nuts when I can’t write. Seriously, you don’t want to be around me when I haven’t had my fix.

    Thanks for the great series! I’m loving it!


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