On Friday, our Kids’ Writing Workshop discussed the elements that give a writer his or her unique “voice.” Voice is a difficult thing to define, but we read a capable definition of it in this article by Dave Hood: Developing Your Writing Voice. Hood writes that voice is composed of three major elements: word choice, tone, and sentence structure. We read examples of books by different authors and talked about whether they choose simple common words or lesser-known, harder words; whether their tone is direct or indirect, funny or intense; whether their sentences are active or passive. The books I read to the kids were books written by:
It was not a coincidence that I chose these authors–their styles are all very different but they have all published multiple children’s books, especially books for tweens. After we read passages of their books and discussed their styles, we each took turns going to a laptop and answering the questions on a quiz called Find Your Voice: Which Children’s Book Author Writes Like You? The quiz is only four questions long, and uses your answers to pair you with one of the five authors above. You might write like Jerry Spinelli, in simple, heartfelt prose with mostly colloquial and common words, or you might write like Erin Hunter, in longer, poetic passages describing scenes in meticulous and lush detail. Take the quiz and find out which one you are, then read their books so that you can discover what makes your writing style so great!
Then we talked about clichés. I used an exercise I found in Karen Benke’s book Rip the Page! Adventures in Creative Writing.
The exercise was called “Catch that Cliché!”. Kids were given a list of cliché phrases to rewrite, turning phrases like “cold as ice” into “cold as the edge of an Antarctic glacier,” and “tough as nails” into “tough as a kick from a disgruntled, unfed horse.” One of my favorites from the class was a rewrite of “old as the hills” to “old as my dad’s lucky socks–they get luckier as they get older!” I think the kids got the point–cliché phrases don’t help you to express your own unique voice, so it’s important to eschew them and craft a voice that is as original and creative as your own unique personality and speech. You are limited only by your imagination!