A year or so ago, I completed my first non-fiction book proposal. It sounds easy but, boy oh boy, it was a lot of work.
I followed what I thought were the correct steps, and I suppose in retrospect they were right but I missed one important–perhaps the most import—factor and that, was personality.
When I got the proposal back from my agent, she requested a rewrite and wanted me to interject more “me” onto the page. She told me to have some “fun” with it and off I went. Hmmm…what exactly does that mean and how do you put yourself on a page?
So, here goes…
Write the Way You Talk
Your personality comes through in your choice of words, phrases, and interjections.
When you read my work I want you to feel like I’m sitting there talking with you. For the most part it’s all me on the page, and I say for the most part because some time I will purposely temper my language–like cuss words.
I don’t like what I call $20 words, (you know the ones where you have rush to the dictionary to find out what it means…) and I like to feel authentic when I write.
So, what you see is what you get. I hope when you ‘read’ me, you can ‘hear’ me.
Believe me when I say, being able to present yourself on a page doesn’t exactly happen over night. It comes from a lot of practice and you have to turn off that little negative censor in your brain that’s telling you, you’re doing it all wrong.
There is no wrong. There is no right. It’s just being you through your words.
To add personality to your writing you need to OWN IT.
The writing is an extension of you. Write the way you talk and allow your distinct personality to shine.
Shake it up a little.
Get rid of the formal words or stiffness that can come through in language written for someone else.
We don’t always talk in full sentences. Especially when we’re telling a story we may go back and forth and not in a linear fashion.
Make sure you’re using contractions and if the writing is informal, you could use slang–like gonna for going to…(this is not a must…it’s a personal choice. It’s yours, right?). Again, though this needs to feel natural and not forced. It needs to feel like you and not like you’re trying too hard to be someone else.
Ugh, it’s tough to find that middle ground. Play with it. Write a lot and don’t stop. Own who you are and what your writing is.
Remember we don’t speak like robots or linguists–we’re just a bunch of scribes. Now, there are always exceptions to the rules so if you’re a British Diplomat then carry on as you were…
Owning It doesn’t mean throwing all good writing manners out the window it simply means lighten up and allow your own voice and style to emerge from the depths. Over time, it will. I promise.
To Grammar or Not to Grammar? That is the Question!
I’ll be the first to admit, I loathe grammar and politics (I see them as kissing cousins). I seriously think they came from the same fiery awful place. They’re both bossy and always think they’re right, as well as, dictating the meaning of something bigger and better… Ugh….
I’m guilty of slaughtering commas. When they come for me, I either fight against them or go running for the hills. Yikes…they’re not my friends. (If you ever come to visit and you’re carrying comma’s in your pocket–I have a built in comma-detector at the door and you’ll be denied entry….seriously…)
With grammar I know enough to get me through and what I don’t I use ProWriter or an Editor. They’re such lovely inventions, aren’t they?
Editors, I mean.
They’re supportive and know all the grammar stuff because they want to… totally and completely foreign to me, but whatever floats their boat. Hey, who am I to judge, right?
I believe readers get to know your style and it all somehow falls into place. Oh, and don’t berate me for making the dreaded semi-colon suffer at the hands of the editor, it’s not my fault. Bwwwaaaa Haaa Haaa.
I’m Just Me
If I’m going to put “personality” on the page then I’m gonna talk about me. Yes, I am. Me, myself, and I.
Sharing parts of yourself is putting yourself on the page. It could be an experience you had and while it isn’t the incident that the important thing it’s the way you react to it and feel about it that shows the reader who you are. This will help the reader see you behind the words.
Face it, you have to go first person. You’re not going to write about “putting ones’ personality upon the page” or if that’s who you are….frikken go for it.
This doesn’t mean you have to bare your soul and give away your whole person but open up a bit–have an opinion and discuss it. See what happens.
Break Some of the Rules
I break grammar rules all the time.
Remember that to break those dang rules can lead you to think outside the box and show a different side to your personality.
I also, sometimes sorta, push the spelling thing too. But remember showing personality can go even a bit further by using token phrases that become yours.
Like seriously, people?
I. Can’t. Even. Right. Now.
or by starting your sentences with catch phrases like
So, let’s take a look….
While these may sound too casual, they’re also friendly and get a point across. There’s a universal understanding as to the feeling behind the phrase or set of words. They can be pretty powerful if played right.
Know Your Audience
If you’re going to go off with a bunch of f-bombs and political rhetoric then you’re going to attract a certain audience. That’s great. Just don’t get ticked when your Granny reads it and falls out of her chair clutching her chest.
It’s all good. First and foremost you have to be yourself but you also need to be respectful to your potential reader.
I know for me, I write fictional stories a lot different than I do my blogs or nonfiction.
The thing with fiction is that it’s the job of the writer to give the personality over to the characters and let them shine. It’s not necessarily about me anymore so if a particular character has a potty mouth–hey, not my fault.
Overall, the best advice I can give you to add personality to your work is to Be Yourself and Be Real. Readers can sniff out a fraud like a golden retriever seeking her fiftieth snack of the day…way too easy.
If you can allow yourself and your personality to fall onto the page without fear of repercussions (’cause really, who cares what they think of you….believe me, if they don’t like you they haven’t read this far) or reprisal…it’s a good place to be.
Have a great day. xo