As the summer continues its languid descent into fall (in the Seasons According to Moxie, fall begins the moment the school bell rings in the first week of August), I’ve been spending increasing amounts of time doing advance planning for the changes I’ll have to make to incorporate the language arts standards into my literature units. By advance planning, I mean that I think about it during commercial breaks or while in the shower. I’m not that motivated to flip back into I Teach, therefore I Rock mode just yet.

Back to my point – at least in Georgia, by the time students get to eighth grade, the language arts standards focus less on the conventional rules of grammar and more on cultivating sophisticated writers who make good use of firm themes and ideas, supportive and descriptive details, strong organizational structures, and style and voice. On the state mandated, standardized writing test the students take in the spring, use of ideas is weighed most heavily. Falling in second to ideas is voice, which can be one of the most challenging, but also one of the most fun to teach. Helping students to infuse their writing with their own personality, flavor, and style and to recognize the distinct voices in others’ writing, if planned effectively, can be an exciting time in the classroom.

While on the drive back from Savannah yesterday, I was simultaneously doing some advance planning and mental blogging (I can multitask like nobody’s business). My thought lines crossed and I thought of bloggers who I think have very strong and clearly recognizable voices. I wondered how differently the same experience could be told by different writers:

Me: Can you make me some toast?

He: What’s wrong with your feet?

Me: Make it with the raisin bread. AND I’d like some coffee to go with that, too.

He: You’d better be glad I love you. Can we DO IT after you eat breakfast?

Me: Only if you put some EXTRA butter on that toast, buddy.

So after I suckered him into making my breakfast, I sat down to eat. You will not BELIEVE what I saw. Some JOKER just walked by and let his dog take the biggest CRAP I have ever SEEN in the middle of my FREAKIN’ flowers!!!! Just cuz it was THERE he seemed to think it was okay to use MY GARDEN as a TOILET for his damned DOG! People have some SERIOUS problems when they can’t even RESPECT other folks’ PERSONAL PROPERTY!

I sat sipping my iced grande nonfat latte and nibbled on freshly-baked pain du raisins. As I idly watched the irises outside my window sway in the delicate breeze, a man, unawares of my observation, allowed his dog to relieve itself in my flowerbed.

Where is the humanity, I wondered.

I was minding my business eating my raisin bread toast and drinking my coffee, when all of a sudden I noticed this asshole was letting his butt-fugly dog take a shit in my flowers. If it wasn’t for the fact that my feet hurt like a mofo, I would have got up and shanked a bastard because I’m gangsta like that. He don’t know me. What the fuck is wrong with people?

As much as I’d love to present those examples to my classes as the introduction to my unit, I think I might get fired if I did so. So, here’s my challenge to you, Dear Readers: write a short blurb using a distinct and clear voice for the following scenario –

A teenager making a call on his/her cell phone to explain why he/she missed curfew

It doesn’t have to be long. If you’d like to, you can write more than one, each with a different voice. The point of view can be from either the busted teenager, the parent, or even the cell phone (Oh, my goodness! Why must I endure this torture? I really wish she would invest in some Mentos, because her halitosis is kickin’ like it knows karate. Every time she speaks into me, it makes me want to lose my signal.) If you really wanna be the bomb diggety, you’ll give me a range of moods; they don’t all have to be funny. That way, I can use the same examples to incorporate a discussion of tone and mood. 

Please, please help me with this so I don’t have to sit and write fifteen different versions of the same scenario. I’ll be your best friend and put you on my They Write, therefore They Rock list.

15 thoughts on “Voices”

  1. Becky, I thought of you, but the only reason I didn’t brave your style was because I’m still relatively new to reading your blog and I’m still getting a feel for it. Your voice is VERY distinctive, but I wasn’t sure if I had it down enough to attempt it. Yours are big shoes to fill. I’ll do some more reading and will give it a try. 🙂

  2. Teen past curfew:”Uh, like hello?” Gulp, dry swallow, gulp
    Parent of past curfew teen, “Freaking Late Again? Please, no sorry excuses! Do you know how sick with worry we’ve been? Get your A$$ home pronto or you know our deal, we will come and get you, No Questions Asked. Tomorrow we talk, We love you, thanks for calling, GRRR!”
    Really cute, Moxie and you can see why I was not an English major in college.

  3. *ring*
    ManyMom: Where are you?
    Child: Well, Suzy told Jackie to call her mom and let her mom know we were going to be late because when we got to Jim’s house his mom said that she needed us to take a stack of magazines to the recycling center before we went to the movie, and the magazines were really cool and stuff, like, super old National Geographics and stuff, and we all got in David’s car because it’s smaller and we thought it would save on gas and we’re trying to all green and stuff, and it was really too small for all of us so then we went in separate cars and we got lost on the way to the recycling center because we got stopped at a red light but David didn’t, so we were late for the movie so we decided to see a different movie. And it wasn’t very good. It was, like, so cheesy and romantic and stuff. Do they really think we believe that’s how love is? People just don’t give us enough credit. So, I’m still at the mall and we’re going to get a quick bite to eat and then I’ll be home.
    ManyMom: (bemused) And why didn’t you call?
    Child: Mo-ooom, weren’t you listening? Jackie’s mom was supposed to call you and tell you we were going to be late! Geesh! It’s not my fault if she was irresponsible.
    ManyMom: *sigh*

  4. It’s not exactly what you asked for, but it’s what my brain produced.
    Mom! I’m safe but late.
    I’ll be home when haiku’s done.
    It’s a bad connec|

  5. Today, when I was at my favorite coffee shop, avoiding the stack of paperwork I’d brought, I overheard a one-sided cell phone conversation between a mom and her child. The child was clearly calling to explain why she was late, and it was also clear that the mom was really upset.
    I hope, really just hope, that I can grow into the grace that she possessed. It was as if she was straight out of the book, How to Talk to Teens So They’ll Listen, and Listen So They’ll Talk. First she asked some questions, and listened to each answer, then she said that she was mad that the child wasn’t there and hadn’t made a better choice but was glad the kid had called, then she said they’d talk about it later, told her kid she loved him or her, and hung up.
    And then, you know what she did? She finished her coffee unhurriedly.
    Man, I’ve got a lot to learn.

  6. I love these exercises. So fun to be in other peoples’ shoes for a smidgeon.
    Girl(on phone): nah, I can’t go. I’m grounded.
    Friend: That totally sucks. Were your parents being lame?
    Girl: No, it was kinda my fault. I went to the coast with Mike and missed curfew.
    Friend: *Squeal!* OMG, OMG! I can’t believe you didn’t tell me! Did you guys, you know, like…hook up?
    Girl: ewww. No. But we did kiss. But you know he’s still kind a got a thing for Jenni.
    Friend: riiight. He really needs to get over her. She’s no good for him. Are you going to go out again? Oh wait, you probably can’t, huh? I bet your parents went ballistic.
    Girl: Actually, they were kinda cool about it because I called, but they were still pretty mad. I’m grounded for 2 weeks. But ya know what?, it was totally worth it.

  7. OMG, these made me laugh. Out loud laugh. Actually, I think the initial scenario is far funnier than any cell phone conversation I could possibly dream up. Mine would obviously be coarse and salty: “I’m wolfing down some toast when this fucking asshole lets his dog take a shit on my salvia.”
    I’m wickedly behind, Moxie, but reading along. really.

  8. True Story, Moxie….this is a conversation between me and my 19 year old foster son a couple of days after he moved out.
    ManyMom: Mark*, it is 1:30 in the morning. WHY are you calling me at 1:30 in the morning?
    Mark: Well, I told you I would call every other day, and I didn’t call yesterday and it was the every other day. And I didn’t want you to worry. So I’m calling you.
    ManyMom: But Mark, it’s 1:30 in the morning. Don’t call me at 1:30 in the morning unless it is an emergency, and you need me to come pick you up because you are in trouble or someone is drunk.
    Mark: Ok, yeah, but I didn’t want you to worry.
    ManyMom: Thank you for that. I appreciate that you are thinking about me and don’t want me to worry.
    So, at two in the morning I wake up to sounds in the house, and when my heart stops pounding I realize it is Mark rummaging around in the refrigerator. The next day I tell him that he can’t just show up at 2 in the morning if I’m not expecting him or he’s likely to get beaned in the head because I think he’s an intruder. He says, yeah, ok, got it. Sorry to scare you.
    Saturday night, he calls at 1:30 am to tell me that he *might* be coming over in a few minutes to get a couple things and to raid the fridge and that he wants me to know so I won’t be scared.
    OMG! At least I know he listens to half of what I say. LOL
    *not his real name, of course.

  9. I sure hope you read your comments regardless how old the post, cuz this was awesome. I am totally and COMPLETELY flattered, and impressed all at the same time:-)

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