People and ideas : Alexandra Sokoloff and the Elusive Voice

I’ve been a faithful reader of Alexandra Sokoloff’s blog, as well as her posts on Murderati for you can find there both truly inspirational material and a simple, passionate, fresh and friendly tone. Most of all, it comes from someone who knows what she’s talking about. So if you don’t have it in you bookmarks, I suggest you go and take a while to read Alex. She recently posted a wonderful note here. The comments too were a great source of inspiration. And as she invites us to share our thoughts with her, participate to a lively debate, let’s play ! So here I go Alex.

The title is that elusive voice and Alex talks about how mysterious is what we call the voice of an author, how difficult to explain, how frustrating it is when it comes to trying to help young writers find theirs. Still, and I think we all agree with her, a great author has a voice, his voice, and even, as mentioned in one comment, each book, each movie has his voice.

So, what ‘s the secret with voice ?

Alex stated it : “Voice is like the unspoken narrative that makes a dream seem to make sense at the time that you dream it. » It ‘s about the unseen,  as the title of one of her books.

Unseen, yes. Full and empty. Holes. Sound and silence. Seen and unseen.

What is a story, in a book or in a screenplay ? Pieces of life, bits, moments, parts, carefully chosen by the author. Now, how does he chooses what not to show, not to write ? Where is the story in the silent writing, in the silence, in the whites of the pages, in between two scenes of a movie ? It’s still there, somewhere. At least it should be. We hope the author lives the holes of the story his tells.

That’s where the voice comes from. From the unsaid, the unwritten. It’s beyond, or above, or behind. It’s the inside of the inside, in a nowhere somewhere, in the blood of the writer or some sort of extra dimension of the story.

The difficulty is that the human brain, the rational and conscious part of the brain, can only work with solid pieces of meaning : a word, a character, an action, a situation. Bricks, stones of meaning.

With these pieces you can build a message, express a clear purpose, and be understood. But you sure won’t have a voice. Voice is poetry. It lives under, between, everywhere around these pieces.

That’s what it is. Voice tells the story you won’t write. It makes alive the scenes you won’t show. With empty and invisible waves of an inner ocean, you communicate to us a hidden but powerful truth of the story.

When something lives and never is accessible, you have a voice.

The soul of a writer, the ultimate essence of a story cannot be held or understood. But it sure travels and makes its way to the reader.

So if everything you have written is solid and clear, well executed and you feel there is no voice, maybe your writing is too tight. Let the words breathe. Let some emptiness in. Let something of you find a place in the air. Let a silent music be heard at every second.

Try that. What if you couldn’t tell your story with words, written or spoken ? Tell me your story and don’t speak, nor write. What is it that begins to fill all you body, take control of your emotions, what is the very source of the frustration that drives you mad and desperate ? You see ? All that is the frustrated voice that lies in each cell of your body. So take care. When words are allowed, their first will is to keep this voice shut. Words are your enemies if they are not only the visible part of that iceberg we name voice.

Nothing hard or difficult. Each human has his voice. Each animal. The way you cook, kiss, walk, the way you cry and smile, the way you run and hide, the way you choose a present for your lover, pet the dog, talk to your mum, all this is your way, your unique voice. We’re all different, all unique.

The only detail is that in real life, we all try to be the same. Be understood, not suffer too much. Not be ashamed of being different.

In writing things are quite simple. Be unique, find your voice, express it. Or no one will ever spent a minute reading you.

Writing is life, with no right to lie, hide or cheat.

Your voice is the only thing we need and the only thing you really need to express.

It ‘s a straight line between the world and you. Between your voice and the Voice of the universe. Don’t be afraid. Each of us will listen, walk on the line with you, to you, through you, and enjoy it, if only your voice is true, sincere, if it defies the storm standing on its only legitimacy : being fragile and sacred. Because it ‘s yours and yours only, in the immensity of this universe.


  1. Masterswriting04-09-2011

    Great blog! The information you provide is quiet helpful, why I was not able to find it earlier. Anyways I’ve subscribed to your feeds, keep the good work up.

  2. Zara07-22-2011

    Silence like white space. Great concept, the silences.

  3. omeyer07-22-2011

    Hello Zara good to see you here. C’est si bon ; )
    I agree with you, silence is the ultimate language, especially in movies, like writing is all about going beyond words. That’s why I love so much old silent movies.

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Stories beyond frontiers. Les histoires font la loi.