Trying Voices on for Size, Shape, or Whatever Else You Want
by Kori Linn, WITS Intern
Have you ever wanted to be a violin? A pig? A toothbrush?
What would you say if you were able to inhabit an animal or inanimate object, or rather, what would they say if only they were given the ability to speak?
Free write in four voices: write about an object or animal, first addressing your subject as it, then as you, next as thou, and finally write from the first person (the I voice, or even the we voice if you feel that works). Try to spend a minute or so on each voice all the while imagining not only what your five senses can tell you about your subject but also what the subject itself might know, notice, have to say, care about, etc.
This exercise is genius for writers of all ages because it allows them to escape their own headspace. Even though writing can clearly be fictional, many students, especially those in the poetry residencies, need prompting to remember that they can write from a voice other than their own. Here, as with the riddles, students are forced out of their own voices, forced to write from the perspective of something inanimate or at least nonhuman. They can say whatever fits their subject. They can make statements they don’t agree with or even ones they do agree with but aren’t ready to broadcast.
And so, hidden in this activity is another one: the chance to see the world from a different perspective, even if it is one created from within. Even in imagining, students must ponder, must consider this character they are creating. What is significant to a violin? What calls a pig into giving a monologue? What does vocabulary choice or tone reveal about the specific toothbrush in question?
Here critical and creative thought processes work in tandem, allowing observation and hypothesis to fuel the imagination.
Now it’s your turn: what animal or inanimate object would you inhabit? Try the free write. You might surprise yourself.