For the first time in my life, I find myself realizing that academic papers can have different voices, just like stories.
Maybe this was obvious to some of you. But while I knew I wrote papers differently for conferences (where I read out loud) than I do for classes or publication (where they’ll be printed on a page), I tended to think of those as two faint variants on Academic Voice.
That stories have different voices has always been obvious to me. I can’t tell you what “my” voice is, because “Calling into Silence” has a deliberately earthy, grounded tone to it, while “Nine Sketches, in Charcoal and Blood” is more high-flown Victorian and “The Snow-White Heart” is a pale lavender imitation of Lovecraft’s purple prose. And I’d need an outside eye to tell me what, if anything, is “my” voice in all of that, the common thread in the prose that links them together.
But here I am, plugging away at an article for kleenestar, and the silly thing has found a voice. I wasn’t making much progress on it yesterday or earlier today, but then tonight I hit upon the thought of structuring it loosely around the experience of “our hypothetical newcomer,” a stranger to RPGs who is getting into one for the first time. From the moment I put that phrase down, something changed. This article is just the slightest bit tongue-in cheek. I’m addressing my subject soberly enough, but hardly a paragraph goes by without some little thing to liven it up: a faintly snarky comment about the “What is a role-playing game?” section in rulebooks, a passing jab at GURPs and its rules for digging holes. Yesterday and earlier today, this paper had no voice, and I was getting nowhere with it. Now I’ve found the voice, and I have over three thousand words down, from about 800 two hours ago. I keep telling myself I’m going to bed, and then coming back to put the next bit down.
It’s just like a story. I can’t really progress on it until I’ve found the plot/organization and the voice. Once I do? Zoom.
We’ll see what kleenestar thinks of the result. If I have to, I can go back and make it more straight-laced. But right now, I’m going to run with what I have.