Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Tagged: actors


Author Kristen Lamb, social media writers, social media authors, publishing
Like Batman only BETTER!

A few weeks ago, I started a series on voice. Part One introduced voice, why it is important and even what might be standing in the way of us developing a unique and powerful writing voice. Part Two offered three tangible ways to improve our writing voice. Today we are going backtrack a little due to some feedback I had in the comments. I can give you guys tips about training writing voice until pigs fly, but those tips will be more helpful if you really understand voice and what it is.

Rocket science, right? šŸ˜€

What is “Voice?”

All agents want one and all writers want to know what the heck it is. If it was easy to define, then we wouldn’t have countless articles, books and classes to demystify “voice.” Today, I will put in my two cents and see if it can help the light bulb go off.

Voice is, in its essence, that uniqueness that we as artists bring to the story. Remember, humans relied on an oral tradition for tens of thousands of years. We are a story people and “voice,” in my opinion, is a holdover from that oral tradition.

Ah, but the original storytellers were not only the precursors of the modern writer, they were also the precursor to the modern ACTOR. I can imagine the one dude in the cave who used the most dramatic gestures and movements and the best inflection at just the right time AS he told the story probably had the best audiences.

Writers are Also Composers/Directors

TIMING, is a HUGE part of being a good storyteller, thus it is naturally a large component of “voice.” Writers must have a natural sense of when things should be tense, versus the times we need to let the audience have a breather. Writing a novel is very akin to writing a symphony. If everything is crescendo, then nothing is. If every page is mind-numbing tension, then nothing is. Conversely, if our writing is just a character thinking, then thinking some more, then thinking some more, then that is not a story, it’s a diary. It’s the elevator music of story.


As writers, we are also directors. We need to take charge of the setting, the lighting, the mood and then tell the characters what to do (give stage direction). Our words are what give the pauses between the push. We must choose the right words at the right time to always control the pace, the push and pull of conflict. We not only must make sure the plot arc is progressing accordingly, but the characters must arc as well. All of this must be balanced until the grand finale, the Big Boss Battle that every chapter has let up to. How we balance all of this is known as “voice.”

Writers Have a Lot in Common with Actors

Just like actors have to get in the head of a character they must portray on stage or in film, we, too, must learn to “get in the head” of our characters…ALL of them. An actor must play a singular part, but we must, to a degree, play ALL of the parts. It isn’t enough to be in the head of our protagonist. If we cannot also learn to empathize with the antagonist and even the supportive characters, our writing will be flat and will lack dimension.

New writers lack confidence and skill, so often what will happen is they parrot a popular author. They become a bad copy instead of an awesome original. But, the bigger mistake I see is voice often comes with preparation, and new writers often fail to prepare. New writers fail to understand the characters before they start writing. They get a flash of a scene in their head and then start typing. This is like an actor not taking any time to study the part before he begins reciting lines.

Not that this way is wrong, but it can make the difference between a Saturday Night Live skit performance versus a performance that brings home an Oscar.

I’ve read many a new writer whose characters all sounded like the same person. They hadn’t taken time to understand the characters–all of them–and really think about GCM (Goal, Conflict, Motivation). Thus, either all the characters sounded alike and the dialogue sounded like a bad third-grade play, or the protagonist was the only character with depth (because he was based off the writer) and all the other characters are talking heads or bad knock-offs off the protagonist.

Voice Can Affect Our Career

First of all, voice can affect our career because if we don’t have a solid voice, we won’t connect with readers. Agents love a strong writing voice because they love finding works readers will love. We can have the best plot ever written, but if all the characters are talking heads, it doesn’t matter. We can have the most interesting characters, but if we cannot put them in an interesting and compelling story, we still have a problem (though, granted, an easier one to fix than the former).

But voice can affect more than whether we get an agent. Voice can affect how well we write. Do we have the right genre for our natural voice? This is why we should never write for the market. We shouldn’t write romance because it’s a hot market. We should just ignore trends and write the best story for us to write.

How Does Genre Affect Voice?

Let’s extend this idea of actors being related to writers. Let’s say I have a role to cast. I want a male actor to play a cowboy. I have three different actors. I have Clint Eastwood, Jack Black, and Robert Deniro. Same story, different actors. Can you see how the choice of actor–the choice of the voice–becomes essential to how the story will play out? If I cast the wrong actor for the story I as a director want to tell, I can have a disaster, even though ALL THREE ACTORS are highly skilled and talented.

If I want a Old School Western? Clint Eastwood. But if I want a comedy? Clint might not be the right actor, unless Clint wants to branch out and do some intensive study in the area of comedy. With a lot of work and training, Clint could pull it off. But does he really want to? Does the director want to mess with it when it is simply easier to cast Jack Black?

This is why we must really understand our voice and develop it accordingly. I LOVE thrillers, but I’m naturally a humor author. I find that I might love reading thrillers, but I’ve had a tough time writing them. I get far too sidetracked with comedy that isn’t appropriate. Thrillers are not a natural fit with my writing voice.

I made a mistake of believing that because I loved to read thrillers, that I should then write them. Yeah…um, no.

It took writing three thrillers that I was less than thrilled about (bada bump *snare*) to see what my true writing voice really was. My NF has been a success because I am true to my voice, whereas my fiction was good, it’s won contests, but it never felt…right. It didn’t have that connection that my NF did.

Why? I was writing outside of my voice. I was Jack Black trying to play the lead in Deadwood.

Yet, it is only because I wrote a lot that I figured this out. I experimented and I also gained CONFIDENCE to admit where I really needed to be writing. I was less prone to listen to what other people thought and decided to take my path.

This is why writing and writing A LOT will reveal our true voice. We get time to try the genres we like and if they are a fit? Perfect! If not? We’ll see it sooner.

Voice and Empathy

I feel a HUGE part of voice is the ability to truly develop the ability to empathize. The more we study the human condition, the easier we can get in the head of a character. This is why reading fiction is so vital. By reading good fiction, we are essentially studying people through stories. This is why I can spot writers who don’t read.

Writers who read a lot of fiction are better writers. Ah, but want to get even BETTER?

Broaden the Palette

Read NF, particularly psychology and sociology books. The more we study people, the easier it is to empathize and it will also ring as authentic. Read body language books. Read history. Read as much as you can. Then get out of your comfort zone and live life. Take risks. I jumped out of an airplane, but, in retrospect, I could have probably taken a pottery class and been fine. LIVE, then bring that to your craft. Get out among people. Listen to them. Study them. Take part in the human condition.

If our voice is our art, then how many colors, shades, textures and tools do you want to bring to the table? Sure, we are free to finger-paint with three primary colors, but it will limit our art.

So, do you guys feel that you finally understand what voice is? Do you have questions? What are your thoughts? Your suggestions? Do you think people are born with their natural voice? Or do you feel life experience shapes voice? If we don’t have a voice can we develop one? Do you believe there are “tone deaf” writers who will never improve no matter how much teaching?

Share! I love hearing from you!

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my bookĀ We Are Not AloneĀ in your blogā€¦you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of April I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Two Week Ago Winner of 5 Page Critique is JBW0123.

Last Week’s Winner of 5 Page Critique is J.L. Mbewe.

Ladies, please send your 1250 word Word document to author kristen dot lamb at g mail dot com. My web site is under construction so it has been a real mess catching up with all the contest entries. This e-mail should work fine.

I alsoĀ hope you pick up copies of my best-selling booksĀ We Are Not Aloneā€“The Writerā€™s Guide to Social MediaĀ andĀ Are You There, Blog? Itā€™s Me, WriterĀ .Ā And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

Yes, I am in L.A., the land of the rich and beautiful. Well, I have heard rumor they are around here somewhere. Didn’t see them last night when I snuck off to Broadway for dinner at El Pollo Loco. I found myself wolfing down my food prison style (arm curled in front of the plate, plastic knife at the ready). Why? Um…the five homeless people banging on the glass next to my head might have been a tad nerve wracking. I was tired, been flying all day, and I was not sharing my chicken with anyone, even if they were willing to trade me a bag of aluminum cans.


Yes, I have one. So here I am in L.A. and I walk into the hotel and see a gaggle of romance writers in the lobby. It was so refreshing to see FACES I knew from Facebook and Twitter; peeps I have seen float by my screen for-like-ever.

Channeling my inner Valley Girl. Oh muh Gawd!

Oh, yeah. Back to my point. Here in L.A. everyone has a headshot. Probably even the housekeeper who bought me extra towels. They have this headshot…just in case. They want to be movie stars and movie stars have pictures of themselves…which got me to thinking.

Yes, I made sure not to stand next to anything flammable.

Best-selling authors all have pictures of themselves on their Twitter (normally it is the picture on the back of their books). Experts and authorities all have a picture of their face. And suddenly it struck me how pleasant it is to see a human face. Not a cover of a book, or a cat or a landscape or even a hunka hunka’s six-pack abs. A face. A smiling, friendly, happy, inviting face.

I enjoy seeing faces. I connect differently with tweeps and FB peeps who use a picture of themselves. The people who hide behind book covers, to me, are always at a distance.

Thus, my position as social media expert is that we always use a picture of our face. It connects with people. It makes us more approachable. We don’t have to be model-beautiful. Some of my favorite faces on Twitter are real people…with a smile and twinkle in their eye that says, “Let’s be peeps.”

Oh, I know some people with wail and gnash teeth over this. But, I have to be blunt. The first people I approach at conferences are those I recognize. I also am far more likely to repost their stuff and promote them. Must be a subconscious thing because I just noted that behavior. If NY Times best-selling authors all use a picture of their face, and we want to eventually be like them, stands to reason we would watch what they do and emulate it.

I know that my avatar for the longest was a picture I had taken of myself. You know….where you set the camera on the counter and press the button and jump back and hope it is just blurry enough that none of your wrinkles show. Finally, as a gift to myself, I let the professionals take over and invested in a headshot.

What do you guys think? Author’s smiling face? Or book covers? If you don’t use your own picture, why? I’m curious. What’s your opinion?

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my bookĀ We Are Not Alone in your blogā€¦you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of AprilĀ I will pick a winner for the grand prize.Ā A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly forĀ 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Stay tuned for March’s winners. Will post soon. No Mash-Up of Awesomeness today. The hotel Internet connection makes glaciers look fast. I nearly tore out all my own hair just trying to get the blog posted. Okay, done whining. The MUA will resume next week. Promise.

Happy writing!

Until next timeā€¦.

In the meantime, if you donā€™t already own a copy,Ā my best-selling bookĀ We Are Not Aloneā€“The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents andĀ endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.