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Finding My Voice–Linda Windsor, Bryan Davis, and Robert Elmer

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Please make welcome Linda Windsor, Bryan Davis, and Robert Elmer.

Linda Windsor has written quite a collection of historical and contemporary romances as both Linda Windsor and Linda Covington. Windsor’s historical novels are known for her distinctive voice and flair for incorporating history with romance and adventure, while her contemporary romantic comedies are guaranteed to warm the heart, lift the spirit, and tickle the funny bone. One reader commented, “Be sure to keep tissues handy. I laughed so hard I had to keep wiping off my glasses.” Windsor insists that nothing is more entertaining than life itself, be it past or present. Linda’s newest writing venture is The Piper Cove Chronicles with Avon Publishing’s new Avon Inspire romance line. Wedding Bell Blues releases in July 2007.

Bryan Davis is the author of the four-book Dragons in Our Midst series, a contemporary/fantasy blend for young people. The first book, Raising Dragons, was released in July of 2004. The second book, The Candlestone, followed in October. Circles of Seven debuted in April of 2005, followed in November by Tears of a Dragon. Bryan is the author of several other works including The Image of a Father (AMG) and Spit and Polish for Husbands (AMG), and four books in the Arch Books series: The Story of Jesus’ Baptism and Temptation, The Day Jesus Died, The Story of the Empty Tomb (over 100,000 sold), and Jacob’s Dream. Bryan lives in Winter Park, Florida with his wife, Susie, and their children. Please visit Bryan’s website for more information on his books:

When Robert Elmer was in grade school, he created a family newspaper and wrote essays for fun. In high school, Robert took every writing class available. His parents, both from Denmark, passed along a love of language and books. Writing naturally came from that kind of environment. Right out of college, Robert did some freelance writing, some public relations/admissions work for Simpson College, and served as an assistant pastor at a church in Olympia, WA. He worked as a reporter and an editor in the community newspaper business for four years before going back to school in California to pursue a teaching career. After not landing a teaching job in Washington, Robert became a copy writer for an advertising agency. He now works full time writing and speaking. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, Ronda. Robert also serves on the editorial board of the Jerry Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and as a mentor for young writers. His most recent release is The Recital, from WaterBrook Press.

WPWT: How did you find your unique writing voice? Did you struggle to find it or did it come easily to you?
LW: I read and read and read historicals, which were my first published works. don’t recall ‘finding’ my voice. It just happened. I think it was a base of the voices or prose of authors I loved, hewn by my own. The same thing applied to my contemporary voice, which is totally different. I read favorite authors, watched contemporary TV shows to keep my dialogue current, and, I suppose, when I put them together with my inspiration, the result was my voice. I never really obsessed with a voice per se. I simply wrote the story in the best way I knew how.

BD: I don’t think I “found” my writing voice through either searching for it or even stumbling across it and saying, “Oh, here’s my voice!” I just started writing the way I talk and then massaged it to comply with style points I learned over the years. When you read my stories, you’ll hear me speaking, especially in the narrative. Most of my characters will also have hints of my speaking style, though one or two depart from it, and that I do intentionally.

RE: I think it’s a hard thing for a writer to accurately identify their own “voice,” easier to identify someone else’s. Ever heard yourself in a recording and think “That’s not me, is it?” Same way with writing. Other people recognize it more easily than we do ourselves. That said, I think I have a slightly different take on “voice,” because I’ve spent years imitating other people’s voices as an advertising copywriter. In advertising, my job was to discover the best of what other people had to say (usually about their products or services) and then present it to the public in the way they would have said it, only better. I think that’s a good exercise; in fact, I have all my young writing students in the Jerry Jenkins Christian Writers Guild do the same thing. I have never worried much about finding my own voice, since I’ve always believed writers should be able to write with many different voices, depending on the occasion and the audience. That doesn’t mean we compromise the integrity of our message, only that we learn to offer that message with different packaging.

WPWT: How would you describe your unique writing voice? What is it that you do to make sure your writing “sounds like” you?
LW: I would say that my own quirky personality and sense of humor/mischief invades my characters, especially my heroines, and hence, my voice. Add my imagination to the above and heaven only knows what will happen. On the more serious side, my personal experiences with life, chemical depression, parenting, Mars vs Venus, and faith come into play.

BD: 1. I like solid sentence structure. Just about every sentence will be grammatically perfect–subject, verb, preposition, etc, will be in its proper place. You’ll find very few sentence fragments outside of dialogue.

2. I use a lot of transition phrases in dialogue: “In any case,” “What I mean is,” “As it stands,” in order to allow the reader to feel the flow.

3. I vary sentence lengths. Some are quite long, while others will be short and punchy. If it’s an action sequence, there will be more short sentences.

4. I like to alliterate. I would have a lot more alliterations if I thought my reader could stand it.

5. While I describe scenery in fair detail, I don’t describe my characters’ physical traits beyond the essentials–hair color, height, frame. I leave a lot to the readers’ imagination.

6. I like action verbs. I use “was” and “were” sparingly.

7. Going against much current advice, I don’t mind using adverbs where appropriate. As you see in #6 above, they can be useful, and they often communicate well.

8. Even though I write for the YA audience, my action scenes are not as frequent or frenzied as some might expect for our Xbox generation. I relish the rest and restoration periods where I can get into my characters’ heads. I enjoy emoting with them as they laugh or cry.

9. I frequently use present participles. They are dangerous, but someone has to use them.

I can’t think of anything else. Maybe you could tell me characteristics of my voice so I can tell others in the future.

RE: Whoops. I think I dipped into this next question in my answer to the last one. But I suppose that if left to my own devices, my writing voice comes out slightly more conversational. I try to make it flow easily from one paragraph to the next, to sound like a good friend relating a heartfelt story. Although I don’t usually write in first person, I do try to make the narrative language sound as if it originates with the third person viewpoint character, or at least hint at the connection. If it sounds like them — whether it’s a 60-year-old New York piano teacher or a 12-year-old Danish boy, then it sounds like me. The voice comes through when the reader connects with their heart, and that’s what I’m after.

WPWT: What advice would you give to beginning/intermediate writers to help them find and develop their unique writing voice?
LW: Read voraciously in all types of genres, watch good TV shows for the writing and dialogue, take notes on what you like or admire–memory triggers, not a word for word to copy–and let your personality and imagination do the rest. It’s part magic, part miracle. I had a friend question me when I told him God wrote the greatest scene yesterday in a current project. He asked, “How do you know it was God and not you?” To which I replied, “Because He’s a better writer than me.” Nuff said.

BD: As I wrote above, just write as you would speak. Record a casual conversation, then go back and type it out as you listen to it. Take note of pauses. That’s where you would put in dialogue beats. Listen for how you naturally add transitions to change from one topic to the next, or how you lack transitions. Do you frequently go for a one-line punch, like a quick analogy, to describe something, or do you add colorful, detailed scenery? Of course, you can’t expect to publish true, raw conversation. Even though it’s truly as real as it gets, when you read it, it’s pretty tough to follow. You have to massage it. Still, it will help you find that voice you’re searching for.

RE: Build up your bag of tricks by listening to speech patterns of different characters, and then imitating them. Write down the expressions people use. Listen to waitresses or other locals when you travel, and try to pick up on regional differences — such as they are, any more. Pay attention to what makes people laugh and cry, what makes them worry or what angers them. Know your audience. Then, as your story allows, build in those unique linguistic and emotional spices in your own writing. In the end, though, don’t worry about finding or developing a unique voice. Don’t try to copy someone else’s written voice; that will usually backfire. But any time you focus on the heart, on the deepest emotions of your characters, the voice will emerge. When you stay true to the story and to those characters, the voice will find you. I don’t mean that to sound mystical, only that voice is a byproduct of stories well done.

One Comment
  1. Erica Vetsch permalink
    Saturday, March 3, 2007 9:58 pm

    Excellent information in this post. I’m really enjoying this series.


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