Much has been written about finding your “voice.” You can attend a writer’s conference and learn how to reach deep within yourself, discover the real you and express it in cogent terms.
But how many of us have found someone else’s voice? How many of us have been charged with the responsibility of expressing another person’s thoughts without tainting them with our own?
Recently, I had the privilege of doing just that.
By divine appointment, I was given an older gentleman’s journal. As I sat and read it and later interviewed him, I discovered he had a story to tell. He had a message to give us. Like a canary, held captive within a cage of flesh and bone, his spirit yearned to be set free. However, with his limited vocabulary and lack of skill, it languished, thinking it would never take flight. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to set it free. When that happened, his voice echoed throughout the pages of his story, and it rose to new heights.
The more I studied his life, the more I saw his motivation and message. I discovered his love and passion, his goals, his dreams and yes, his weaknesses and failures.
He taught me two important principles that guided his life. The first one; God can use a person for His glory no matter how unskilled that person is. This simple man took faith’s baby steps and soon found manly strength to run the race, keep the faith, and win the crown.
The second guiding principle was a bit harder to find, yet it was there. He said, “Find people smarter than you to do the things you don’t want to do and hire them.”
That was his message and his motivation. He spent his life finding jewels in the rough and developing them, polishing them, getting them ready to take his place. And by doing so, he built people and a fortune.
From his humble beginning as a dirt farmer in central Georgia during the Depression years to the present day, he invested his life in helping people reach their potential.
The benefit to me was that I was privy to those formative years through his journal. I watched him grow to manhood; I grew with him, I hurt with him and even loved with him. I heard his voice, captured his thoughts, emotions, his heart. For those precious hours in which I labored over the text, I became this man. And so will you when you invest the time to get to know the person you are writing about.
So the next time you undertake a story: fiction or non-fiction, biography or historical, get to know your character. Plunge deep into the well-spring of creativity or reality and discover their voice. In so doing, you may find your own.