Write Like You Speak
Now, I do want to caution you. These tips, I don't advise putting them next to you while you're writing especially not that first draft, because, again, the first draft is all about getting the truth, just getting whatever is in your mind out on paper. Let's start with... Tip number one. Start with who, what, where, when. Save the why for later. Why is the whole reason you're writing a story. And why is so important that there's a whole tip for it. But I'm just gonna tell you that we're gonna talk about why later, but what why is, is why am I writing this story? Why should anyone care? But you don't start with that, that's what you discover while you're writing. You start with... who so that the reader can sort of get a sense of who they should care about. And you tell us what just to give us a sense of what's going on in the story. It's so nice to tell us where we are in the world and to ground us a little bit in time. This is the most natural way to tell a story. Some people, and I'v...
e seen this tons, think it's really clever and interesting to start a story like in the middle of dialogue. And okay, and you can probably show me examples where that works really well. But I think that if you start a story and drop the reader just into a scene or in the middle of dialogue, we don't know who's talking or who we should care about and it requires so much work on the reader's part. So I don't recommend it. While I was giving my vows, telling the woman I was about to marry why I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, my 80-year-old uncle collapsed. Oh God, I see big eyes out there. K, let me just relieve you of all stress, he did not die. But he did have a heart condition and he went to the hospital but he came back later and we all danced to I've Got a Feeling. He made it. But I give you that example to show you, who? Bride. Where? Under the altar. But in my case, the Chuppah. When? Wedding night and specifically, in the middle of my vows. What? Man dies and comes back to life. That's what some of my doctor cousins said, "He died! And then he came back to life." Okay. So I gave you that example to show you how, and I hope you're hooked in, I hope you're interested in what happened in that story, but you know right away, who, what, where, when. Why? We'll see. We're gonna get back to it. We're actually gonna get back to that story. Okay. Tip number two, this is number two out of 10. Write like you speak. Henceforth, lose words you wouldn't normally use while talking. (audience laughs) Thanks for laughing. Okay. I will never use henceforth again. (audience laughs) But what happens when people sit down to write, and this is what happens to me, I sit down, I'm like, oh I have a story to write and I'm like, (imitates dramatic music) like I'm going to compose a masterpiece. And then sometimes I get all writerly and henceforth slips in and I don't sound anything like myself. The reason I'm telling you to write like you speak, it's because writing true, personal stories is about writing the truth and being authentic. So if henceforth shows up in something I write, no one's gonna believe it. It doesn't sound natural. I have a trick on how to get myself and how to get you to write in the way you speak and that is to consider one specific person, your best friend. Like really think about one person and write directly to that person. And that way, your most genuine, authentic voice will come through on the page, 'cause you wouldn't write henceforth to your best friend. I don't think.
Everyone has a story to tell, and most everyone has a desire to tell it. What stops some is the mistaken belief that they can’t write. But if you can speak you can write. And the most important thing for a writer to do when telling their story is to speak the truth.
Andrea Askowitz is a teacher, writer, performer, and co-host and creator of the podcast Writing Class Radio. In this class, she’ll inspire you to figure out what your story is, help you write a first draft, and learn key techniques to strengthen your writing.
In this class, you’ll learn how to:
- Mine your life for story ideas.
- Start with the who, what, where and when of your story.
- Use specific details.
- Raise the stakes by figuring out why you’re telling this story.
- Create a likable narrator, which means a vulnerable narrator.
- Practice by reading your story out loud and telling your story without reading it.