This week we're going to talk about creating an avatar. In a lot of ways, the messenger is the message. So, one of the tragic consequences of being confined to a single body is that we will never know what other people experience when they meet us for the first time. I can't know how someone will register the slight change in the atmosphere that my presence causes when I enter a room. I'll never know what it's like to be in my company. What is truly unfortunate, in light of all this, is that as a memoirist, I've chosen to make myself the primary subject of most of my writing. As a memoirist, I've chosen to study someone I can never objectively grasp or represent on the page. But there are ways to cultivate a kind of out of body relationship to the self that does get on the page. The essayist, Philip Lopez, talks about creating an eye character. I think of this eye character as an avatar of myself. As the messenger, I create to deliver the stories that I've made from my memories. Basically, I'm talking about voice. Voice is the messenger that we send to greet the reader. We can craft voice the way one might craft a social media identity. Voice can conjure an entire world in a few phrases, a few images or references. The question is, how do you want to be represented on the page? So, let's think about creating an avatar. Anyone whose speech has marked them as an outsider to the community where they live or work, whether that's by the dialect or an accent, a speech impediment or stutter, these kinds of things, anyone who has worked with these knows all too well how much information we communicate through voice alone. We can't presume that our narrator is universal or transparent to the reader, however transparent it may be to us. For example, when Hannibal Lecter meets Clarice for the first time in Silence of the Lambs, he draws a rough biography based only on the qualities of Clarice's voice. What kind of information do you want to give or withhold from the reader? What might the reader infer about you from the signals, the clues you embed in your avatar's voice? Remember, your reader has no idea who you are, and is starting from scratch, building a psychological profile on you. This may sound intimidating, but it also gives you a profound opportunity. When I was in college, I worked in telephone sales. I was pretty good at it. I remember my first discovery was that the customer could somehow hear me smiling over the phone. Then I discovered that with every call, I could influence and guide, and okay, some might say manipulate the customers' responses to me just by altering my attitude, my tone, the speed at which I spoke. Now, I can produce equivalent effects in my writing by altering things like my word choice, idiom, and syntax. That is the order I place my words in. For example, take a sentence like this: "Once again I found myself reluctant to face the work week." Now compare that to a sentence like this: "Monday, ugh, what a drag." I'm no less myself in either case, but it has a considerable effect on the reader's impression of me, my mood, and my disposition.