Everything these days has a footprint:
Carbon Footprints
Footprints in the Sand
Starting to sound like a Top 10 :)

Today I'm talking about footprints on our manuscripts. Not the Arf and Woof kind when that stack of pages fell on the floor, but our own footprints pressed onto the pages by our words.

An editor says, "I need a story about a boy and his dog." One writer produces Clifford the Big Red Dog. Another, Old Yeller.

If the editor handed each of those writers the other's manuscript and said, "Something's missing here. Fix it," imagine how different each of those books would be.

Our footprints are beyond voice. They are everything we bring to the table. Our experiences. Our loves, our hates. Our personal points of view. Even when we write in the viewpoints of our characters, we are still the writers of our stories. It's possible to blur our footprints, especially if we're writing to strict guidelines or in deep point of view; but in my opinion, it's impossible to hide them.

Don't believe me? Ask ten people to complete a sentence, or even to fill in more than one blank in a sentence. You will not receive ten identical answers.

Unless you ask ten of your neighbors to fill in the blank of I live in (city, state). Or something similar.

But you knew what I meant.



Patti Lacy said…
I DO know what you mean.

Totally off the subject, just remembered your love of animals--and thrill to think how you share that bond with me.

Our foreign exchange students have fallen in love with our Humane Society Laura. So cool to see Hong Kong kids see dogs in a different light than as menacing guard dogs!

Yes, exactly, Carol--and there's the opposite of that in the writing biz. I've heard from editors that sometimes there are "title runs" where they'll get manuscript after manuscript with the same title! Weird, huh?
Helen Ginger said…
Great post, Carol. The term "footprint" really nails it. I'm going to use that term!
I know what you mean! We each have unique views on the world and that comes through in our writing.
KarenG said…
Funny comparison between the two very completely dog books! Excellent post. The writer's voice and take on things is everything. As writers, we must keep on refining our own unique voice. Oh, the joy!
Carol Kilgore said…
Patti - Very cool about your Hong Kong students!

Conda - I've heard the same thing about titles. As if we all zone in on the same thought.

Helen - Go for it!

Alex - Exactly.

Karen - Joy? More like darn hard work.
Clarissa Draper said…
I know what you mean. I write mysteries and I know my plots have been done before so I try to add a bit of my personality and experiences to my stories.

Kathy McIntosh said…
Absolutely. I was just wondering how I might let more of "me" shine through, how much to put in. But what you said indicates maybe I can't help it. How to know when enough is enough would be my question.
VR Barkowski said…
You've touched on why we must write for ourselves. Because really, in the end, what else can we do? Writing is art unique to the writer.
Carol J. Garvin said…
I've been considering my writing "philosophy" this week so your "footprints are beyond voice" resonates. I also like VR Barkowski's comment that "writing is art unique to the writer." Thanks for giving me something to think about. :)
arlee bird said…
I guess that's why there are so many books and why so many keep coming out each year, and that's why we keep reading them. There are a lot of different ways of looking at something and putting it into our own words. If it weren't that way there would be no point in writing anymore and not much point in reading anything but textbooks and non-fiction.

Tossing It Out
Carol Kilgore said…
Clarissa - I think every plot has been done before. It's the characters and writers who make it new and fresh.

Kathy - I don't have the magic answer for you. The best I can do is say always be true to your characters.

VR - "Writing is art unique to the writer." What a great comment. Definitely quote worthy. Thanks for leaving it here at the Tiki Hut.

Carol - I loved VR's comment, too. See above - LOL. I'm glad we could make your brain work. Thanks for commenting.

Holly - Yup.

Arlee - That's what I think, too. And also why we like some authors' work more than others. We're all different.
How true. One of the writing groups I belong to sometimes uses a photo as a writing prompt. I am always amazed at the many ways that photo is interpreted. None of the resulting stories are similar in style or content.
Carol Kilgore said…
I love writing to a photo. You're right about every story being different.
Talli Roland said…
I love this, Carol - so true! It's funny how our unique view on the world comes out in our work in different ways.
Carol Kilgore said…
Our own writer DNA.
Elle Strauss said…
Good distinction between voice and footprint- we do bring a lot of ourselves to the table, even when we try hard not to! And it's okay.
kimberlyloomis said…
Totally know what you mean, Carol. The characters can only go where the author's mind is willing to lead.
Carol Kilgore said…
Elle - And that's a good thing!

Kimberly - Oh, no ... I have to put my mind in gear :)