The best way to learn how to write well is to read, read, read. Read the good stuff and pick them apart to find out why they work. Read the crap to figure out why it’s terrible.
The problem is, many of us just don’t have time to read as much as we’d like. So I could give you list of novels that do things well, but I don’t expect you’d read them. But you know what you DO have time to read? Picture books.
The time commitment is only one reason why children’s literature is so freaking awesome. William Zinsser, author of On Writing Well, once said there are four “basic premises of writing: clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity.” What exemplifies these better than a picture book?
My son and I have increased our time at the library of late. Whenever I come across a good picture book that demonstrates a key literary premise, I’ll share it with you. Today’s book concerns VOICE.
Voice: Talk Like a Pirate
Voice is the way a character sounds when talking. Each of your characters needs to have his or her own distinct voice. An uppity Manhattan banker isn’t going to parrot a plumber from Hooverville. You, the writer, need to have your own voice, too.
The best way to see if your writing has some legitimate voice to it is to read it aloud. And that’s exactly what you need to do with this book:
Pirate Pete’s Talk Like a Pirate is a tale about a pirate trying to gather for himself a crew of scallywags. The condition for the job, however, is that each candidate needs to talk like a pirate:
“Ye gots to be stubborn and mighty cranky,
Ye gots to be dirty and awfully stanky!
Ye gots to load a cannon and know how to fire it,
But most of all, ye gots to talk like a pirate!”
Read this book aloud, and you’ll see the difference between Pirate Pete’s voice and that of each of the potential crew. I read the first candidate aloud with a mamby-pamby French accent, because that’s what it sounded like in my head.
I’m tagging this under “Writing Resources.” Give me some time to be creative, and I’ll come up with “Writing Exercises” for you to practice on. Until then, start talking like a pirate.