As most of you know, I am current attending a writing workshop hosted by Writescape’s own Ruth Walker. We are covering a number of different facets of writing, each one designed to make us, as a writers, break out of our comfort zones. I LOVE that. I love seeing what new thing I can accomplish, what a new genre feels like under my pen. I’ll be the first to admit that I may not be suitable for some genre’s but I want to find that out for myself.

One of the recent exercises is on ‘voices’ as in our ‘writer’s voice’. In case you don’t know what that is, think about the books you’ve read, about your favorite author and consider this, if their name was not on the cover of the book, would you know it was them? Chances are you would.

What about the ghostwriters out there? Or replacement writers? Yes, a writer can change their style of writing to meet a requested project, or to try and fill in for another writer but I feel ultimately, tried and true fans would notice the difference. It is possible though and the basis of our assignment.

They say a writers voice is shaped by the landscape of their lives. The scenery they grew up in, the people they knew, their own life experiences. For example, have you noticed that most Canadian writers write stories set in Canada, with characters from Canada? The same can be said for U.S. writers and European etc.. It is the old adage ‘write about what you know’.

So, the challenge was to try and write in a voice that wasn’t ours. Like we had been raised in another country, time or even planet.

Well I tried and as much as I am always looking to stretch my writing, I felt I couldn’t shake my ‘writer’s voice’ all I managed to do was change the scenery. That the pieces I wrote ended up being variations of my own voice; accents if you will.

So I put this to you, my hopefully growing fans, you’ve read my writing (right?), my short stories like Snow Blind and the excerpts of Echoes and Appetites (if not please do). Let me know if you think I was able to change my writers voice.

As always, I encourage you, if you like my writing, tell others and always comment. I love hearing from you. It is not only good for my ego, but it helps me improve.

So here are the two short pieces I wrote for the class.

Playing With Words: Assignment #2
By Dale Long.

   The miles bleed away behind and stack up in front. Tires humming, thrumming as asphalt meets rubber. The yellow line flash, flash, flashes. All the highways, the I’s blend into one. Long ribbons of asphalt reach out and recede, tangled and woven like a bed of black snakes, twisting and turning, aimless until guided, climbing mountains, stretching impossible on the plains. Trees, brush, rock and sand flash by the window, blending into a kaleidoscope of textures and still the car moves on. Destinations are finite, driving is infinite.

   The brain rails against its cage, the container that pilots the car, as it creates. Worlds expand and contract. Music weaves, colours and binds. Memories. Forgotten paths walked again, forgotten voices speak.

   But time keeps moving, bodies at rest decay, bodies in motion, are. They just are. Everthing is new, the road calls. Adventure ahead, it whispers. Come, come, come its words flash yellow. No arrows on those dashes. Arrows indicate a contrived path, a correct direction, but destination is finite.

   Flash, flash, flash. Forward or back, direction is fluid as long as movement is constant so just keep moving.


   The wind sighs softly, capping waves and ruffling papers under the Underwood typewriter on the table beside me. The sun – hot but not close – inspires the condensation to bead on the outside of my glass, taking on the green hue of its icy contents and salty rim. I burrow my brown toes deeper into the golden sand. My laptop sits in quiet anticipation on my lap as waves wash foam almost to my toes, but falling short again. Like my kitchen full of raw ingredients in anticipation of their combination, shrimp, wild rice, lemon, it waits for my fingers to descend and fill the blank screen with black. I close my eyes and drink it in. It never gets old. I can hear the palm trees sway, the tinkle of delicately tickled ivory and a voice softly crooning wafts out to me from the Lou’s Bar, on the waves of delicious odours, and suddenly a voice speaks, a picture forms. I open my eyes and black slowly fills the blank screen.

   The smell of coconut sunscreen, the salty tang of Margarita, the warmth of the sun, all building blocks and a world opens up at my finger tips. I pity the corporate vacationers that pollute the beaches every March but thank them just the same. The quiet they leave behind when they return to their glass towers, crowded dirty streets, seems so much sweeter.

   Bronzed perfection drifting by breaks my concentration, “Excuse me miss, you dropped your sarong.” Flimsy fabric passes from my hand to hers. Fingers graze, eyes touch, waves tug at our feet. “I know this place…” 


The first one I set in the early 60’s and was inspired by the road stories of Route 66. The second one I had a Hemmingway/Jimmy Buffett/Casablanca thing going on.

And before you ask, no, I don’t know where it comes from. It shows up as pictures and I describe said pictures. I feel like I’m cheating…


About Dale Long

Writing ambushed me from the shadows. At first I pushed it aside as nonsense, but luckily my wife and two girls saw the potential. Since then I have had an article published by Metroland, placed as runner-up and in the top ten in humour writing contests and various other contests. The icing on the cake was placing as runner-up in the WCDR's Wicked Words contest (130 entries) and having my entry published in the contests anthology of the same name. My entry was an exerpt from my upcoming novel, Echoes.
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7 Responses to Voices

  1. Bonnie says:

    When did you turn into Stephen King…so much description (albeit very vivid). I could picture the scene in my mind. I know, I know that is what a good writer is suppose to do but you know me and the amount of description I like. I guess I will begrudingly say that your writing is starting to change my mind about the stuff (but only you). You have a talent of putting together just the right words for you to paint the picture but allow us as a reader to use our imaginations. I love it Dale

    • Dale Long says:

      Thanks Bonnie! That’s high praise indeed. Amount of description is a very fine line. I like to use less because it makes the description I do use more vivid also it lets the reader fill in their own mental pitures and THAT is a powerful tool.

  2. mary says:

    WOW Day, do you use drugs mama doesn’t know about ????Cool stuff kid.

  3. Dave says:

    Dale, you are not cheating with those pictures. That is how the description goes from mundane to vivid. (My picture had nothing under the sarong).

    I think you should consider doing some peotry. I found the first one very peotic.

    Yoo da man!

    • Dale Long says:

      Thanks Dave! The sarong… well… you may not be far off on that 😉 that is why I didn’t put more description there.
      Poetic… hmmm. That was the overwhelming feedback I got in Ruth’s class, but I dunno. It was 60’s inspired which would encompass Beat Poetry… but it wasn’t consciously intentional.

  4. Lisa Llamrei says:

    I agree with you that the voice is the same in the two scenes. The moods are very different, though and I think that’s the real battle. I think very few, if any, writers successfully disguise their own voices, but learning to create different moods is crucial and you’ve done that.

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