Write it simple, write it true

I’m alive, I’m back, and I have no idea why someone searching for “poopy cola” ended up here, but I’m sorry to disappoint!

On the other hand, hiiiiiii to all the lovely people coming from Kiersten White’s blog. No, I didn’t pay her to say any of those nice things about me. But maybe I should send her some Dr. Pepper as a thank you. Being called “good strange” by Kiersten totally made my day.

Anyhoot, I spent this past weekend in Houston for my sister Alex’s wedding. I admit that going in I was quite nervous about being Maid of Honor. Would I look good? Would I walk right? More importantly, would I still be able to function after 10 hours of cropping and sorting photos for the slideshow? I had my doubts.

But the big day came and went without a hitch. In fact, it wasn’t just okay — it was perfect. My parents were on-time, I didn’t fall while walking down the aisle (although I did stumble), and oh yeah, MY SISTER GOT MARRIED.

(On a boat. Hee!)

For me the biggest hurdle (besides the thing I tripped over) was my Maid of Honor toast. I’d been stressing about it for weeks, and every time I tried to write it, I started to cry. Part of it was that I didn’t know how to describe everything I felt about Alex and her getting married, and part of it was the pressure. For some reason, when you tell people you’re a writer, they expect you to be able to write things well. Things like speeches. Weird.

I finally got my emotions under control and wrote a crappy first draft about 5 days before the wedding. Andy told me to sleep on it, and I did. But when I woke up the next day, it was still crappy, plus now it was wrinkled.

My mom’s advice was to make it funny. Unfortunately, I’m not a very funny person naturally. (See previous paragraph.) Still, I tried adding some jokes, including one about the groom speaking Klingon. After listening to me read my revised speech aloud, Andy politely vetoed the jokes. Thank God.

With about 12 hours left before the wedding, I sat down and said, This is it. I have to do it. I have to write it down, and I have to write it in the simplest, truest way possible.

And you know what? It worked. My toast was heartfelt, captured everything I wanted to say to/about Alex and Paul, and even made people laugh. (And not just because I accidentally congratulated Paul as my new sister instead of brother — whoops! I hadn’t even had the champagne yet!)

So what’s the point of all this? (Besides the fact that HOLY COW MY SISTER GOT MARRIED.) It’s that sometimes when a speech, or a scene, or a story isn’t working, it’s a sign that we’re not writing in our own voice. Yes, the elusive “voice” that everyone in the publishing industry talks about. That voice. That’s what I was lacking, and that’s what I feel like I finally understand, thanks to this speech.

The Maid of Honor toast is nothing new, but my MOH toast was completely original, because I finally wrote it in the way that came most naturally to me. If you and 3 friends go out to dinner, and some guy in a crocodile costume comes by and steals your food, you’re each going to tell the cops a different version of the same story. (The cops will probably laugh at all 4 of you, because come on? Guy in a crocodile suit? Seriously?) But what I’m saying is, everyone has a unique perspective and way of expressing it. So your historical family saga or dystopian sci-fi thriller might not be the first of its kind, but if you write it in your voice, it will be fresh. If it means something to you, it will mean something to readers too.

And that’s the key to good writing: making people care.

(Also, contrary to what this post might have you believe, I realize that my sister’s wedding is in fact about her, not me. I was only writing about one small element of the event, an element that I thought might be relevant to this blog. It was by no means the most important. In fact, it wasn’t important at all. Aren’t you glad you wasted your time reading this? :P)

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22 Comments

  1. Congrats on all the blog stuff!! I am proud to know you Kristan!

  2. Hey, the “and wrinkled” made me giggle : )

  3. Weddings can be stressful for those involved in “the production.” I’m glad you made it through and can look back on it all fondly. :)
    .-= • Recent post by Sonja: OMG it’s a new decade in the 2000s =-.

  4. Writing speeches…public speaking…that’s some scary stuff! But it sounds like you did a great job. And I don’t believe for one minute that you aren’t funny. Maybe your just so funny that you don’t know it. : ) You make me laugh, and that’s all that matters (to me)! : )

    And I screamed a little (okay,not really, but if I wouldn’t have been at work I totally would have) when I read Kiersten’s blog and saw she mentioned you. So now it’s Go YOU!

    Great post today!

  5. I laughed at the joke.

    That’s Hemingway’s advice, you know. Write the truest thing that you can.
    .-= • Recent post by Eric: Butcher’s Crossing: an Argument for Length =-.

  6. Margot-
    Thanks, girl! Right back at ya. ;)

    Kiersten and Kimberly-
    Sweet! There are some kindred spirits who think I’m funny. Then there’s Andy, who likes to keep me real.

    Sonja-
    Thanks, haha. Once they were actually married (i.e., the ceremony ended) the rest felt calm & easy.

    Eric-
    Hemingway, eh? Figures. I love Hemingway.

  7. Julia

    As maid of honour, your primary job is to get the bride to the ceremony, on time and, ideally, dressed. Sounds like you did an outstanding job.

    Salinger said that as a writer, you just sit down and think what you, as a reader, would most like to read, and then write that. But I’m pretty sure there are plagiarism problems with that approach, since what I, as a reader, most like to to read is anything by Jane Austen.

  8. Hahaha. I think it’s good advice, though, if you can remember not to plagiarize. ‘Cause remembering that, and following that advice, is part of what got me excited about writing again. :)

  9. Oh, and so I don’t forget. A little birdie told me you should definitely visit my blog tomorrow. : )

    Have a good night!

  10. Oh, no worries, you’re in my Google Reader so I always know when you update. ;)

  11. Alex

    Your speech was absolutely beautiful. I sort of remember it through a haze of happy tears… :-) You are the best sister ever.

  12. :) I can email it to you. I thought about posting it here but then I thought it might be more special personal.

    If I email it to you, it will lack the in-the-moment parts though, hehehe.

  13. I most certainly did NOT waste my time reading it. It was actually just what I needed as I’ve been struggling with the whole “voice” thing in my writing–at least in my current WiP. So, thanks :)

    And congrats to your sister!
    .-= • Recent post by Dara: Contest Entries =-.

  14. Aw, I’m glad to hear that. And thanks!

  15. albie

    toasts are hard! i concur. =P christian asked me to be best man for his wedding like 8 mo in advance. all i knew for the first 7 months of it was i was more worried about the toast than anything else (that might also explain why bachelor party planning and tuxedo rentals took place so late) both the MOH and i wrote our speeches the morning of… easily verified by the fact that both of our speeches were written on the same hotel notepad paper =P

  16. Great post! And a great reminder that the best writing comes from our hearts. It’s so much better to “just be you” than to try to be someone more clever, more witty, more outgoing than you. Thanks for this.

  17. Ah, well, congratulations anyway. Sounds like a good time.
    .-= • Recent post by Todd Newton: Bleach (the anime series) =-.

  18. I totally understand the stress of the toast…especially when it’s someone you care so much about! Great reminder about voice in writing and how important it is to make the “you” come through! Something that’s so easy for us all to forget!

    I just stumbled upon your site from Kimberly Franklin’s site! Congrats on your award!!! Great blog!

  19. Jay

    Where the hell is the poopy cola I was promised?
    .-= • Recent post by Jay: So Much For Effortless Beauty =-.

  20. Jon

    If you and 3 friends go out to dinner, and some guy in a crocodile costume comes by and steals your food, you’re each going to tell the cops a different version of the same story. (The cops will probably laugh at all 4 of you, because come on? Guy in a crocodile suit? Seriously?)

    I laughed through this entire blog post, especially at this–who said you weren’t funny?!
    .-= • Recent post by Jon: Learning to Laugh =-.

  21. Kristi-
    Hi! And thanks! I’m hopping over to yours in a minute. :)

    Jay-
    Um, I could probably get my dog on that for you…

    Jon-
    Thanks, Jon! Hehe, random I can do. True wit like Jon Stewart, not so much.

  22. Alex

    Well, I know Paul was especially touched to know that you consider him your new sister… Hee! That was one of the best gaffes ever — and it certainly got me to stop tearing up! :-D Love you!

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