Writers! Break The Rules—Use Your Outdoor Voice

by Randy Murray on September 23, 2013

While having lunch the other day with a business associate a stranger came to our table and interrupted us. She had been seated far across the rather large restaurant and had a question about something that I’d been talking about. She was pleasant and polite and I answered her question and went on with our meal.

Penny, my friend and editor, will frequently remind me during our meals together to lower my voice. She’s not the only one.

Yes, I speak loudly. I also have a voice pitched so that it carries. That’s by design. I was trained as an actor to project my voice to the back of a large theater without amplification. I can do it at a whisper. And I can sing over a full orchestra.

And occasionally I need to reminded that I’m not in an auditorium or singing over a big band.

But there occasions where I like to turn it loose. Screw using my indoor voice. I’m going to stand on the decks and shout orders to the top of the mainsail during a full gail. I’m going to rattle the rafters and call down fire and brimstone upon the trembling congregants. I’m going to cut loose.

And then I’ll pipe down (I can use a bosun’s whistle, so I know how to do that as well).

While I can reduce the volume of my voice, I find that as a writer I sometimes need to remind myself to do the opposite. Rattle the rafters. Call down fire and brimstone (Or is it call up? Which direction is Hell anyway?). Too much control over one’s writing can make it stiff, hushed, and far too restrained when what is called for is intensity and VOLUME and excitement.

Writing with such intensity isn’t easy, especially if you spend most of your day trying to be inoffensive, unnoticed, and pleasantly quiet. Your voice as writer can have a volume as well. While few want to be lulled to sleep by a monotonous tone, fewer still want to be shouted at over and over. Learning when to let loose, to pump up the excitement, can be challenging.

Quiet is nice. Quiet is required at times. But when emotion and intensity are needed, when one’s attention must be in only one place, then the right amount of “outdoor” voice is required. The meek may inherit the earth, but they won’t get a taxi. Whistle, shout, and be unafraid to let your outdoor writing voice off the leash occasionally.

You, writer there. Heave on that line. Let’s have this paragraph ship shape and Bristol fashion.

Carry on.

The Writers! Break The Rules—Use Your Outdoor Voice by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lucinda September 25, 2013 at 2:52 pm

I appreciated your post. I’m quiet, in general, so letting loose in my writing is liberating. As you say, it’s sometimes difficult to let my characters yell and scream, or let the scene rush along and be loud. But being honest is sometimes the hardest thing for me. I don’t like being vulnerable, however, that’s when my writing is at it’s best.


Randy Murray September 25, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Good for you. Let them hear you in the back row!



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