Writing

Finding Your Writing Voice

Amy Tan

Lesson time 12:40 min

Amy explores the importance of a writer’s voice and invites you on an inner journey to find yours.

Amy Tan
Teaches Fiction, Memory, and Imagination
The celebrated author shares her approach to voice, story, and the craft of bringing narratives to life from beginning to end.

Preview

[MUSIC PLAYING] - Before we begin writing stories, we began thinking in stories. I think that happens early in childhood. It is looking at what is going on and trying to explain to yourself what is happening. It is also at some point in child saying, that wasn't fair. What if it had been this way? It should have been this way. Those are the beginnings of stories. At some point, you learn to read, and you learn to write. I think almost every single writer loves to read. And suddenly, you decide with great delight you want to try to write a story. Later on, you might write a story typically that is based on something everybody likes. And that's common. You try other people's voices. But then there comes a point when you are a serious writer, and you want to speak in your voice. You want to write stories that are original. Isn't that the point? Your voice is going to determine the kinds of stories you want to tell. When I first decided to be a writer, the two questions that mattered the most to me is what is voice and what is story, and which determines which? Did voice come first, or was it the story came first? And I realized after writing for a while that voice is basically your mind, your consciousness, everything that happened to you up until this point from your birth. It is the way that you think. And in terms of a story, it becomes the guide that you give the reader into the world you are going into. It is the things that you choose to observe. The things that you see as conflicted or contradictory. So many people say you need to find your voice. Your voice as a writer. And basically, what they're talking about is what is true to you as a writer. What makes you different and unique from every other writer? That is what's going to speak to somebody. It's going to speak to the editor, the publisher, the people who want a voice that is like no other voice out there. So that's a given that you must keep looking for your voice. Your particular consciousness. Your beliefs. The stories you find interesting for a particular reason. And then there is the voice of the narrator. Now, that is not necessarily the same thing, meaning what the narrator says is not necessarily what you're going to say. But you have thrown that narrator into a situation that may be one that you want to examine. So your desire to examine that situation is your voice. That's your consciousness. That's your guide to the stories you want to tell. My voice I would say is the same as consciousness, my own consciousness. It includes beliefs and how I came to those beliefs. They're not beliefs that were handed to me. They were beliefs I struggled to find, often through difficulties and challenges. My voice includes everything that has been traumatic, for example. It does not include, in terms of my writer's voice, the happiest moments, necessarily. Not the birthday parties. It would be those moments that caused me to question myself. ...


About the Instructor

Amy Tan was 33 before she first explored her voice as a fiction author. A few years later, her debut novel, The Joy Luck Club, spent 40 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. Now she’s showing you her approach to the challenges and joy of self-discovery through writing. Learn how to craft compelling beginnings and endings, find your voice, and embrace your emotional memory to bring powerful narratives to life.