John Ostrander: VOX
As part of the Kickstarter campaign for Tom Mandrake’s and my new project, Kros: Hallowed Ground (which, by the way, is still going on at x.co/kickkros), I’ve done a number of podcast interviews, which have been fun, and I always try to listen to them. I want to get an idea of how Tom and I sound to the fans who might be listening. However, my voice always surprises me. It’s not how I hear myself. I’m told this is the same situation for many people. How you sound to others is not how you hear yourself.
The same has proven true in my writing. Every writer develops a “voice” – a style, a way of expressing oneself that is unique to the individual writer. If authentic, it will reflect your views, your values, how you think, how you feel, how you react to the world around you and so much more.
Can you imitate someone else’s voice? Of course you can just as all the Elvis imitators out there try to channel Elvis Presley. It’s a whole industry. Within that industry are variations and nuances as each imitator tries to develop their own “voice” as Elvis.
In addition to all your own experiences you add the influences that work on you. What you read, what you see, the music that you hear and so on. One of the ways you develop your voice is by imitating the works that have made an impression on you. You take a bit from here, a touch from there and gradually it becomes how you express yourself. Imitation is certainly permissible at the beginning but, to be a good writer, you must develop beyond that. You take what you learn and make it your own.
The first time I came to the halls of DC comics, I met several editors including Dan Raspler who would later become the first editor on Tom Mandrake’s and my version of The Spectre. Dan did a double take when he saw me and confessed he was startled. He was a big fan of my work on GrimJack and, from my writing, he thought I’d be a big burly and surly young biker type. Instead, he got a genial, balding, pudgy white guy edging into middle-age. I’ve been told I’m very personable and pretty easy to get along with. Some editors have said that if you can’t collaborate with me, you can’t collaborate with anyone. I don’t think that’s how my stories read and that surprises me as well. Dan was right; I write like a surly biker. My work is often cynical, with a dark sense of humor, and I love conflicted characters. I prefer villains to heroes. That’s not who I am in life but it is how I am on paper. And, yes, that sometimes surprises me.
So if you meet me at a convention, come up and say hello. I don’t bite. (Hard.) I’m not that guy you’ve encountered on the pages I’ve written. Overall, I’m pretty nice.
Just don’t cross me.