An Exercise in Voicing and Telling a Story

An Exercise in Voicing and Telling a Story The purpose of this paper is to tell a story in a voice (or voices) different from your own. No two people tell the same story the exact same way. Think for a moment about the stories you frequently tell about yourself. You might, for instance, be fond of describing a great party you once attended. In your description,

An Exercise in Voicing and Telling a Story
An Exercise in Voicing and Telling a Story

you emphasize certain details while ignoring others. You give prominence to certain people, conversation, while others get pushed to the background. Someone else who attended the same party, and perhaps even partook in the same events, might describe things much differently. They will embellish details that you ignore, omit facts that you consider important, give prominence to people that you don’t even remember being present. Each of us brings different psychology to the events that we observe. Your friends, family members, acquaintances do not tell stories the same way you do because they do not use language the same way that you do.

An Exercise in Voicing and Telling a Story

The goal of this assignment is to get inside another person’s head and use his (or her) language and voice to tell the story. There are several ways of doing this

  1. Imagination and memory. This is the most effective method. The voices of our parents, best friends, coaches and teachers from high school, or pastor are so ingrained in our memories that we know how they would respond to, and describe events that did not witness. My own father has been dead for twenty-five years, yet the sound and rhythm of his voice is forever etched in my memory. When events happen to me or other members of my family, I know how he would have responded and what he would have said.

For this assignment, you might take some event in your life, and then imagine how your mother would describe it-use her voice to tell the story. You could also use the voice of your best friend, your girlfriend or boyfriend, brother or sister-anyone who plays a prominent role in your life. One of the reasons people become important to us i because their voices stand out in some way-we choose to pay attention to them.

Those of you interested in the grayer, more sordid mysteries of life might consider how an ex-girlfriend or an ex-boyfriend might tell a story about you. She or he will give that story a certain slant that is breathtaking in its ability to cut through layers of ego.

  1. Dialogue. Instead of telling a narrative in prose, write a small play. Don’t speak for the characters. Let the characters speak for themselves. Try to give each character a different style of speech. You may include yourself in the dialogue, but your part should be small. The other characters and their voices should be more prominent.

An Exercise in Voicing and Telling a Story

Your play can have various levels of complexity. It could, for example, be two people in conversation. Or it could be multiple characters, which means multiple voices Let your imagination run wild. You are not obligated to describe something that actually happened. Feel free to make something up

  1. Voices of famous people. Because of mass media, the voices of politicians actors and actresses, athletes, radio personalities and talk show hosts, surround us on a daily basis. Take one of these voices (or several) and create your own scenario. Describe yourself having an encounter with these figures. Create a fiction or fantasy that involves dialogue.

An Exercise in Voicing and Telling a Story

Give a voice to an inanimate. I recall an episode of The X-Files in which a tattoo spoke with the voice of Jodie Foster. You might try the same thing involving a different object (a pair of shoes, for example, a jacket, a coffee mug you use every morning) and someone else’s voice (and not necessarily a celebrity; it can be anyone who is close to you). The important thing is to use a voice different from your own.

Many people, myself included, assign voices to our pets and cars. Take this idea and expand it. If your dog, or cat, or car, could speak, what would it say? What stories would it tell about you?

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