Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Yet Another Limitation To My Writing Range"

In a not entirely infrequent burst of manic Earlo-centrism, I once requested a friend of mine to imitate my voice, so I could hear what I sounded like.  (This was not before tape recorders; I am not that old.  I just never thought of doing it that way.)  I wanted to hear the effect that my voice had on other people and I had no idea myself, since, being inside my head, I was unable to hear me the way they did.

My friend’s imitation of me emerged disturbingly whiney.  I did not dispute his ability to imitate my voice, at least to the standard of a “Police Drawing” of a “Person of Interest.”  Nor did I impute any malicious intent to his efforts.  Though I did not know for certain, I had the strong albeit sinking impression he was doing a relatively accurate job.

I now knew how I sounded to other people:

Disturbingly whiney.

Suffice it to say, though I had specifically asked for it, I did not enjoy that experience one bit.  And I have never repeated it.  Nor, until this very moment, have I ever given a moment’s thought to altering how I sound.  I imagine it can be done.  I just never thought of trying.  You’d think that would be the logical next step.

“Your voice sounds disturbingly whiney.”

“That’s terrible!”

“What are you going to do about it?”


That’s kind of odd, don’t you think?  If somebody told me I had an offending booger – is there any other kind? – hanging from my nose, I would immediately take ameliorative action.  But reveal to me that my every pronouncement comes out sheathed in an annoyingly insistent moan, and I do nothing? 

How do I explain that?  To myself.  Or my therapist.  Which I do not have at the moment, but I have had in the past, where, speaking in my natural tone of voice, I must have inevitably whined disturbingly through every session. 

You’d think one of them would have said something.

But that’s not I’m talking about today.  Although, in a way, I am talking about it.

That’s confusing.

Let me explain.

Somebody – at my request – had imitated my voice.  And it was a less than enjoyable experience, a kind of self-inflicted, bad voice “outing.”  This brings to mind writers appropriating the less appealing characteristics of some family member or acquaintance and injecting them, invariably without permission, into their writing.

To my knowledge, I have never consciously done that.  In these sixteen hundred and thirty-plus blog posts, when I delineate other people – true, I am not doing fiction, so I try to stick conscientiously to the facts – but even here, unless they committed some unforgivable grievance against me – and even then I try to rationalize their behavior (a drinking problem, they were bullied as a child, they hate Jews) – I do not like to portray anyone in a way that is likely to upset them. 

As a setup to a story, I once revealed a person’s behavior which was not them at their best.  When it was brought to his attention, he asked me to delete it, and I immediately did so. 

That situation only happened once.  Though that could be because I am not widely read.

The stories I tell from my life involve actual situations (Duh!) where, if people’s behavior comes off badly, it’s because they behaved, identifiably, badly.  And I do not do a lot of those stories.  As far as fiction is concerned, when I wrote for other people’s TV shows, the series characters were already in place.  I simply followed the template.  As a result, you saw very little “me” in those efforts.  (If something about me inadvertently slipped in, it was inevitably cut by the show runners and replaced by something about them.) 

In the shows I created?  Well, let’s see…

On Best of the West, there was an eleven year-old boy who refused to go outside because of the life-threatening perils of the frontier environment.

That’s me.  If I had been hijacked to the West.

On Family Man, a seven year-old boy steals chalk from his classroom, and when his thievery is discovered, he pulverizes the sticks of chalk into powder so he would not have to return them to the school.

That’s me too.  That actually happened.

In Major Dad, an eleven year-old girl capsulizes the idea of going camping thusly:

“Hey, we’ve got a few days to kill.  Why don’t we go somewhere and live worse than we usually do?”

My sentiments about camping?  Not entirely, but there is something to that.

“I peed outside.”

“Isn’t camping the best!

My point here:  The negative traits displayed by the characters I created were drawn exclusively from me.  And nobody else.  And that preference continues to be the case in my blog.

DISCLAIMER:  “No reputations were damaged in in the writing of this blog post.”

Except the writer’s.

My mother, along with her myriad positive attributes, exhibited characteristics in the guilt-inducing department that could easily be exploited for comedic purposes.  I have never written a character modeled on my mother.  My older brother, who protected me in my youth – successfully as I am still here – is on a perennial lookout for moneymaking opportunities.  I have never written a character based on my brother. 

Why not?

I like to think it’s because I am nice, and I choose not to do that.

Did this predilection, like my parameters concerning taste, inhibit my writing range? 

Of course, it did.  But being fortuitously flawed, I had enough to write about, so I didn’t care. 

Bottom Line:

I did not like it when somebody imitated my voice.

I can’t imagine others liking it if I imitated theirs.


Hurley Buehrle said...

Now you have to do an audio post for us once!

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Margaret Thatcher famously took voice lessons to lower her voice and, I assume, make it more authoritative. I do remember hearing her on the radio in a Parliamentary debate once and the voice alone made me understand how she got elected: she could cut through all those men shouting like a buzz saw.

But I'll tell you: even the best singers listen to their voices on tape and don't like the sound. (Singers have to, especially when making records). It never sounds the way it does inside your head.

But that was not your point, of course.

Has it really never occurred to you that it's just possible your friend's imitation wasn't any good?


Mike said...

To be fair, it wasn't the voice that was the problem. It was when the impression was extended to include the silly walk. That was just gratuitous.