Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | December 30, 2011

Using Your Outside Voice

Before publishing my very first blog post, I ran it past my teenaged daughter Bea.

She said, “Mom, you’re using your storyteller voice again.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

She shrugged. “Oh, you know…narrative, formal, soft and wise. You might think like that inside your head, but it’s not the way you talk.”

“How do I talk?”

“You’re funny.   And sassy.  Mom, your idea is good. Just say the same thing, only write like you’d say it. Write in the same voice you used to write Real Troopers.”

    Out of the mouth of babes. How many times were we told as children to use our Inside Voice, the demure, soft, polite, quiet voice that will offend and disturb no one?   I’ll tell you: LOTS.  Now my own child was urging me to use my Outside Voice, that of the goofball, smart ass, class clown. It’s the sometimes-too-loud voice that spills out of my mouth when I’m with my family and friends. As Bea observed, it’s the voice I used in my novel-in-progress, Real Troopers. Maybe I struck the right chord in Real Troopers because it’s about sassy funny Girl Scout leaders, written from the point of view of a middle-aged woman who is desperately trying to find her real voice.

That post is now much more a conversation than a story, and Bea was right—I like it so much better. Conclusion: I am happier when using my Outside Voice, in my backyard, in my living room, and in my writing. All I need to get going is to make my readers a virtual cup of coffee, and come to the table–or the computer–in my jammies for an early morning chat.

Hey, got a minute? Wanta cuppa? Cream or sugar?

Have you had to struggle to find your voice in your writing, or in your life?   Do you have any tricks you could share with us?

BTW: Adventures for the Faint of Heart is my daughter Bea’s writing blog.  I can almost hear her voice when I read it.  Here is the link if you want to look her up: http://adventuresforthefaintofheart.wordpress.com/

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Responses

  1. When I was 20 and learning to become a folk dance teacher, my teacher suggested “When speaking to a group of people, drop your voice an octave.” Not sure I could do that, I tried. Lo and behold, it felt more natural. I felt calmer, more confident. I realized that parents and relatives had always encouraged me to speak “ladylike” in a high, soft voice. How many generations of girls were trained to sound “feminine” – translation: gentle and harmless, unthreatening, “so don’t fear me or hurt me, please.”
    In later life I found I could calm an argument in seconds by saying something quietly but in the lower voice. Meetings where everyone was getting upset could be re-centered in rationalness by saying something in a lower octave. Your lower voice carries better and carries more strength.

    • Wow! That is so interesting, and so apt. Thanks so much for sharing, Anne. I know you are a writer…do you find this is also to be true in your writing?

  2. I guess I don’t have that problem these days. I know it was an issue years ago, but now I teach middle school. Most Americans I talk to think that Chinese students are very polite and quiet in class. No, that’s more likely in Japan. The Chinese are more anarchistic in their approach to things. Yes, the students do have a certain respect for teachers, but that doesn’t mean they are quiet in class. So by necessity I have left the inside voice behind at my office desk and spend lots of time just trying to be heard above the din of 11-14 year olds dealing with the excitement of friends and hormones. It can be very freeing to do that, but in my writing I seem to go the other direction. “Ah, a chance to have my quiet voice for a change!” So that’s the one that ends up in my writing these days, when I have the time to write. But congratulations to you my friend on finding that that authentic voice in your writing. May it speak loud and clear to many people!

    • Hi Tom, thank you for sharing. I wish you many quiet moments in which to give your outside voice a rest. Good luck with your writing. It is an amazing adventure you are living, and I wish you all the best. Happy New Year to you and your bride!

  3. Bea nailed it. But she was using the term “storyteller’s voice” to mean “writer’s voice”. Your “storytelling voice” is something else again.
    There is the conversational voice….the performance voice…and the writers voice.

    Interesting example…Vi’s story “Lifting the Sky” in my PEACE TALES was transcribed from a TELLING by her at a conference in Hawaii. When she sat down to WRITE the same story, the language came out differently. She switched from teller’s voice into a writer’s voice. This is why oral histories are so engaging…they are the spoken version of the person’s history.

    • Hi Margie,thank you for a spot-on clarification of voice. It’s interesting that even Vi would have her voice for telling orally and another one for the written tale. I think, ultimately, the most important thing is to find the voice you are comfortable with, for the situation and medium in which you are sharing your story. I have found, for the most part, stories told “from the mouth” are generously received in the spirit with which they are offered. Thanks so much for stopping by, and Happy New Year.

  4. Thanks for the cameo, Mom! I love your outside voice. Being raised in a family that is anything but quiet, I’ve had the advantage of never being hushed when speaking for and as myself. That background, I’m certain, has helped my writing sound authentic. Great post once again!

    P.S. Nice picture.

    • Dear Bea, that means so much to me. My mom said the best friends you’ll ever have are the ones you raised yourself, and it’s TRUE! Not only that, I gave birth to my own critique group! You and Eli are talented writers with a good eye and ear for the turn of a phrase, and the stuff that lies beneath the surface. How’d I get so lucky?

  5. thank you, Naomi, for your decision to follow your daughter, writing a blog!

  6. I found a voice by joining a community choir. No audition required. It was wonderful, and finding my singing voice, helped me find my voice to deal with some of life’s tricky situations also.

    • That is so interesting, and so cool!


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