University of Iowa

Writing Wild: Exercises in Fictional Voice

Weekend July 14 to July 15 2018

What do Thomas Pierce, Lorrie Moore, Junot Diaz, Raymond Carver, ZZ Packer and Haruki Murakami have in common? The answer is voice, that certain wild energy readers crave. You can read the first page of a story or novel by any of these writers and know without a doubt who wrote it. The idea of voice is a mysterious combination of writer and character. Voice is the sound of the storyteller; it’s what is in the air and on the page, a combination of speech rhythms, diction, attitude and perception. Barry Hannah said that “of all the qualities, voice is the most unteachable and the closest to magic, a sort of natural music in the head.” This workshop will focus on a number of short exercises written over the weekend to better define voice and encourage writers to locate the unexplored “natural music” of their own voice. We’ll let you know what we hear and suggest ways to shape your voice. Writing that sounds flat or bland or unfocused often lacks a distinctive feature. If you’ve read your fiction aloud, you have some idea of how you sound, of how your characters sound, and of how maintaining that voice can hold a story together. We’ll invent voices and let them loose: ragged voices, calm voices, charming voices, distant voices, nurse voices, cowboy voices, burglar voices, bold voices, smart voices, foolish voicesand your voice. What an amazing motley chorus we’ll make!

Short Story