20 November 2009

The Authentic Voice

The best part about authenticity is its reward.

This week we've been using Jen and Kristen's Great Indian Adventure (Part III) as an analogy for authenticity. So far we've--barely--made it to the restaurant and ordered our food. The mood is set, save for the fact that the restaurant is WAY too quiet. If it were India, everyone would be yelling.

The first taste of our appetizer calmed any fears I had. It was so hot I downed an entire glass of water. And when my heavenly chicken curry finally came, I drank another gallon. It was so good! Instantly, I was on the other side of the world, eating with my fingers and sitting on the cold marble floor, asking myself how I could live without spice. The garlic naan was exactly what I'd dreamed of since August.

We found our portal to India.

After our meal, I order chai, which is the Hindi word for "tea". Chai is tricky because I haven't found a place in America that does it right. Most places call it "Chai tea" on their menus, which is a clear sign that it's not authentic--because they are calling it "tea tea". I figured this place was safe. So I placed my order.

This is not what I received. I did receive chai, just not the kind in the picture above.

I just had to laugh, though. The truth is that I've never been to a restaurant in India where everyone at the table got exactly what they ordered (food and drink). Something was always mixed up. If you ordered Coca-Cola, they'd bring an off brand that tasted nothing like it. If you sent it back and asked for Coca-Cola again, you might get "lucky" and score some Pepsi (if you prefer Coke over Pepsi like I do, it's still a sacrifice). Sometimes you don't get your meal at all. That's just India. So ordering something and receiving something different was the most "Indian" thing that could happen to me. It was most definitely authentic.

So far, we've talked about research and committment to Story as key ingredients for authenticity in our writing. Today we're going to look at something we discussed a few weeks ago--voice.

We need to know our characters, our setting, details, and plots. We need to do the research or else someone will know something is missing. We need to be fully committed to telling our stories, no matter the pain and fear we might experience. Most of all, we need to be true to ourselves. We need to know who we are, how we write, and where we shine. I'll never write horror. Mysteries would even be a stretch for me, as much as I enjoy reading them. And while my stories have romance, I don't know if I'll ever write a novel in that genre--even though I read them. I know where I fit now. Changing genres wouldn't feel authentic to me or to anyone else.

If the chicken curry hadn't been full of spicy fun or if the garlic naan had fallen flat, I would have been so disappointed. It would have been a while before I looked for another Indian restaurant, because I wouldn't want to risk it again. Our spice is our syntax, our rhythm, our subtle art--the inflections that are completely our own. It's what keep readers coming back, what hooks the agent from the first page of our sample pages. It's what makes us unforgettable.

When we write fully researched, fully committed, and fully like ourselves, we find authenticity. It's hard fought and takes a lot of time, but it will make all the difference!

Below is a picture of Jen and I, taken by her husband, photographer Jon Chandler of Jon Chandler Photography. Authentic Indian Adventure: Check! We'll definitely come back!

See y'all Monday!

***Images found at Google Images***


  1. Oh gosh, sounds so good! Can I come next time?

  2. That looks soooo divine, yummy!

    This is Dreamdancer, aka Roxy. I'm moving my blog and I hope you will join me on my new one:

    Hugs and God bless!

  3. Sounds incredible, Kristen! Good friends, good food, good chai = great fun!

  4. It it hard - to be fully committed, fully ourselves, fully researched. It does take time. What a great reminder that it's not going to happen the first time around. Our first drafts just won't be great. It takes time, like you said!

    Thanks for the reminder as I continue to freak about over my less-than-stellar rough draft prose as of late.

    Looks like you had a fun time! your post has me craving Indian food!

  5. You're so right about disappointment. When I read a book and it disappointments me, it'll be rare for me to pick up that author's book again.
    btw, I'm loving Dunkin' Donuts completely fake chai lattes. Yum! LOL

  6. What an awesome picture of you and Jen! Love it! And I loved sharing in your experience at the Indian restaurant!

  7. Your food looks so yummy. And then I saw the "chai." And then the pretty clothes you and your friend are wearing! It's a visual feast!

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  8. Ohhhhhh it looks SO good! I had my first Indian food this summer and I LOVED it. Chai rocks. Curry rocks. So delicious!

  9. Excelent post! You're right we need to be committed and do it right. Someone will notice if we don't and that will be our down fall. Yikes. Love the picture!!!

  10. Yes, Tabitha--please come! Of course, I speak for both of us when I say we'd be willing to go down under for some authentic aussie food too! :0)

    Katie, if your less-than-stellar rough draft landed your dream agent, then it must be incredible! Sounds like you have a great beginning point on the edits! Thanks for coming by in all the craziness! You too, Jody--I know you have A LOT on your plate.

    Haha, Jessica! I don't drink coffee, but if I did, I'd try those! They sound good! I had some cold chai this summer (homemade) and it was pretty similiar except for the fact that it was cold. I'll have to find that recipe!

    Thanks, T.Anne, Julie, Heather, and Roxy! Have a great day!

  11. Jill, that's definitely how I feel about India. It's a feast for the senses. The smells, colors, sounds, movement, tastes--so great. It's so rich that it's almost impossible to describe. I love it!

  12. You're making me hungry. THose dishes look so good.

    "When we write fully researched, fully committed, and fully like ourselves, we find authenticity." I love these words. It takes a lot out of us to follow them, but so worth it!!!

  13. I really enjoyed this series of posts, looks like you guys had a lot of fun. Great thoughts about authenticity, too!

  14. Thanks, Cindy! This was fun to write!

    These pictures are making me hungry too, Eileen! All of the sudden I'm craving it again!

  15. An authentic voice is so important. It's the first thing that sucks me into a book when reading.

  16. I have yet to try authentic Indian food. I need to do this!

    I love your background, it's so incredibly pretty and cool. I like everything here..except the part about Coke being better than Pepsi - say it ain't so!

  17. Haha, Deborah Ann! That's my preference, but can we still be friends? That means more Pepsi for you! :0)

    Me too, Susan!

  18. What a fun series this has been - entertaining and insightful. Thanks for sharing all these goodies with us:) Have a great weekend!

  19. Beautiful photos. Have a nice day Radka.

  20. I have loved this 'research' journey. And your words to be authentic has inspired me to really look at my character, setting, details and plot and review until I feel it...until it's real. Thank you for this....You're the best. Have a great awesome weekend....Sarah

  21. I love the mix up. And the coke being something close but not quite right is funny, too. Coke is one of those things. You know the difference between an authentic one and a knock-off.

  22. Yes, you do, Tara! It's so important to get the "real thing"!

    Thanks, Sarah! I'm glad! Have a great weekend!

    Thanks, Radka! It's great to meet you!

    You're welcome, Karen! You too!

  23. Were you trying to make me hungry? You've succeeded; officially for Indian food and for an authentic voice. Awesome post!

  24. I'm sorry, what we're you saying, I kinda went into a daze when you started talking garlic naan and spicy chicken curry. But I am with you. Authenticity always wins out. Can't read books that try slipping in and slipping out. Too annoying. Have to leave and go get a good curry.

  25. Haha! Sounds good, Jdcouglin, can I join you? I really need tomorrow to come for a new post because every time I pull up my blog I see the pictures and get hungry!

    Thanks so much, Ellie! Have a great night!

  26. Mmm...visions of orange fanta and water buffalo danced in my head after reading this post ;)

    Being authentic has become a very important ideal for me in writing as well as in life. If we aren't ourselves in our writing, people will know it or they will expect things from us that we are unable to deliver. If we aren't ourselves in life, we will end up miserable, trapped, and feeling unfulfilled. It's a delicate balance and yet it should be the most easy thing in the world. Just be yourself. Easier said than done.

    Happy Tuesday,

  27. Haha! Fanta. Definitely easier said than done, friend, but so important! Love you!