It’s surprising how many people confuse schizophrenia with multiple personality disorder. The first makes it difficult for a person to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s unreal—commonly categorized by hearing voices. The second has caused a lot of argument as to whether it’s real or not, but is the development of several distinct personalities in one body.
Oddly enough, in their most basic definitions, either could describe authors. We hear voices and tend to become any range of distinct creatures both realistic and mythic in service of our stories. Not only that but “voice’ is the key to our finding our places on the literary landscape.
It took me a little while to figure out what voice is. I’m the kid who asked my mom if I could be more than one thing. Pinpointing a single style, a singular means of storytelling seemed such an odd thing to me. Like choosing one part of myself to give greater importance over the rest. How could my fantasy self override my romance side? Could my literary voice be more important than my genre one? Why did I have to choose comics over screenplays?
You, like my mother, probably know the truth. I didn’t have to choose. I only had to look to Neil Gaiman, who writes comics, children’s books, epic novels, teleplays, screenplays (and, sidebar, draws a mean sketch). They all contain his slightly fractured whimsically dark voice, but he hits a plethora of delightful notes.
Or I could turn to Steven Moffat, a television powerhouse, who writes shows as disparate as Coupling (comedy) and Jekyll (occult), Sherlock (mystery) and Doctor Who (science fiction), yet excels at them all. Sometimes I gape at the genius of Moffat episodes like Blink or A Study In Pink. How about you?
Then there’s one of my favorite people to ever walk this earth, Leslie Esdaile Banks aka Alexis Grant aka L.A. Banks. This woman had an imagination that filled the width and breadth of the universe. She wrote romances and suspense and women’s fiction and paranormal, and she did it all with a voice so distinct we didn’t need to see her name to know who was speaking.
I guess that’s what voice is. Despite the fact some might mistake it for crazy, it’s the freedom to flagrantly fly your freak flag, or be pedantically highbrow, salaciously lowbrow, ridiculous, brilliant, sappy or odd—as long as it’s authentically you.