that separates you from the pack and wins you literary, commercial,
and social-emotional praise. The fact that books also recommend that
you be married to the chairman of Random House and/or Judith Regan is
neither here nor there. But what kind of voice do you want to have? Do
you want your voice to be strong and masculine like Hemingway and that
dude who told Oprah he woke up on an airplane with no teeth or clever
and flirty like Lauren Weisberger or whomever writes Candace
Bushnell’s books? If you said neither, books would point out that
Either way, to discover where your voice fits in on the voice
spectrum, please take this short, two question quiz and then feel free
to spend the rest of the week in a semi-concussed state of food coma
remembering the vaguely worded story of Squanto and the Pilgrims
before venturing to the mall at 5 AM on Black Friday to buy
vanilla cookie candles at 40% off. It’s totally worth it.
Directions: Read then choose, then read then choose, then learn.
1. Your protagonist finds themselves seated across from their true
love at the Olive Garden. Please describe said scene.
A. The breadsticks were warm and garlic-scented and I was hungry.
First, I was thirsty though and I ordered a whiskey and thought about
bull fighting and other sports. I like sports. A girl was there, I
B. Unless he’s being ironic or something, the fact that Jeremy even
considered taking me to an OG (in the burbs!!) is kind of ridic. Olive
Garden’s are full of ew people, and ew people cannot appreciate the
fact that I squeezed into this Bottega Veneta Camel Shearling Shrug
and these Jimmy Choo Biker Leather Flat Boots With Rabbit Fur Lining.
I need like eleven Cosmo’s.
C. Music. The gentle hum of the synthesized version of “Hey Ya”
reverberated off of the plush, faux-Italian decor. A cold rush came
over me, a suspicious rush of season’s past, a remembrance of things
before, before a flood of emotions crept up on me like our vaguely
mustachioed waiter. As Daphne ordered her Endless Pasta Bowl, I
reflected on a time when the song of my love still played, still
reflected towards me like a pool of reflective water. That my heart
still beats is a wonder at all. I ordered the Tour of Italy and became
D. Don is famous for a lot of things, and most of those things have
something to do with being a naughty, naughty boy.
“Have you been a bad boy,” I asked in a whisper, leaning over the
table as the waiter brought the breadsticks.
“You know I have,” Don said, his crystal clear blue eyes running up
and down my body. I picked up a breadstick, seductively. Three minutes
later, we were doing it in the men’s lavatory.
2. Your character finds themselves at an ATM machine needing money.
How do they handle it?
A. We went to the woman at the bank and requested money. She said to
use the machine. I told her I don’t use machines. Walking home, I
tried to think of what she meant.
B. Jeremy made some joke about going “dutch” to dinner tonight, so I
went to the ATM, the one down on Houston and Mott in Nolita by that
cute brunch place Nolita House with the morning margarita’s. Going
“dutch” wasn’t my problem. My problem was that as I was walking up to
the ATM, I got my Purple Label Grey Metallic “Lizard” Crissy Evening
Sandals stuck in a grate and I slipped, nearly ruining my Adriano
Goldschmied Boyfriend Shorts and that cute top I borrowed from Kristin
(whose new thing, apparently, is not eating). I should have moved to
C. Doors. Opening and closing, exposing and then covering up. The
automatic doors at the ATM remind me of the clapping hands of a
babysitter I once had, a small Latina woman with strong, callused
hands. Isn’t life often like the closing and opening of doors, be they
automatic, manual or otherwise? Friends become enemies, enemies,
friends and the seasons pass with nay a look in the direction of God.
I’ve forgotten my ATM card.
D. “Where are we going to do it?” I asked Don, the bad boy actor. I
felt bad. So bad that I kind of felt good.
“I don’t care baby, as long as it’s hot and in public,” Don said. He
was smoking a cigarillo.
“Well,” I said, slyly plucking the cigarillo from his mouth and taking
a long pull. “The ATM machine has a camera.”
“You’re bad,” Don said with a mischievous smile.
“I know,” I said. “I am bad.”
Mostly A’s: Your sparse prose gives the bare minimum of details and
doesn’t really let us “inside”. You pull it off, you’re Hemingway. You
don’t, and you’re (insert any male high school writer after just
reading Death in the Afternoon by Hemingway). I’m pulling for you.
Mostly B’s: Your voice is a little bit sexy and a little bit city. As
long as your protagonist is 23-25 and working in a cool, creative,
city job (fashion, magazines, advertising, corporate accounting, etc)
with some boy trouble, you’re pretty much already published.
Mostly C’s: Oh, pseudo-literary. The eternal quest to flood the page
with hyper-symbolic prose and internal reflection. When it’s good,
it’s amazing, when it’s bad, it’s the worst. A little bit like sushi.
Mostly D’s: You are Jackie Collins. And you are naughty.
Ok. Let me know where you stand in the comments. And–if you feel like
your voice wasn’t given a shout out– feel free to drop where exactly
you place yourself, preferably in that Hollywood movie-pitch style,
“Tom Clancy meets E. Annie Proulx at Ken Follett’s house”. Don’t use
that one though, that’s mine.