Saturday, June 8, 2013

What P.S. BE ELEVEN & An Obituary Taught Me About Voice

I recently finished reading P.S. BE ELEVEN by Rita Williams-Garcia. What makes this book unique is that it's infused with voice. Big Ma is one of the most memorable adult characters since Richard Peck's Grandma Dowdel. And I giggled every time Fern said, "surely did," or Delphine called her sisters Heckle and Jeckle.

While I was in the midst of reading this novel, my father-in-law, Walter Hitchcock died. Walt had asked me a couple of years ago to write his obituary, but it didn't go so well. In retrospect, I think he was afraid to give me feedback, (afraid he'd hurt my feelings), and I was uncomfortable writing an obit for a man who was still alive and whom I didn't want to lose. A little frustrated, I asked Walt to look through the local papers and send me examples of obits he liked. To which he replied, "I don't like any of them. None of them sounds like me."

In the end, Walt left some notes about what he'd like in his obituary and his wife and kids edited them after his death. He himself wrote some of my favorite parts. Like these lines:

By his own admission, and from what his sons and friends told him, his golf game left a lot to be desired. However, he enjoyed it and could boast of a hole-in-one at Lake Hickory, hole #6. Sometimes, he would say, "It is better to be lucky than to be good." 

These lines make me chuckle. They sound like Walt for a very good reason. He wrote them and his voice shines through. 

You can't fake voice. It's unique to each writer. For excellent examples read P.S. BE ELEVEN or my father-in-law's obit.  Both are infused with voice, and both make me smile. 

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