Early on in life, there is a drive to fit in. To be one of the boys or girls. From the first day of school, we innately look to find a place where we feel comfortable, and then we want to blend in with everyone else. No one wants to be separated from the pack. We seek protection in the sameness. For most people that begins to change a bit during the teen years. Most teenagers want to blend in, but they also want to stand out. In high school, athletes are held in high regard. Many follow that path. For those who are not as athletically inclined, academic achievement is another area students seek to excel and stand out from the rest of the class. The rest of the students usually find themselves somewhere in the middle. Some will use fashion as an identifier. Bohemian, nerdy-chic, rocker, metalhead, Goth, and eclectic fashions are just some fashion teenagers used to express their individuality.
The sea of sameness doesn’t go away, it just changes form. For the purposes of this post, I’m limiting it to writing and the publishing industry. There is no shortage of things we can write about, yet it’s important to realize that there’s nothing new under the sun. We may not be able to reinvent the wheel, but we can bring a fresh take on the wheel into the spotlight.
What is Voice?
In both fiction and nonfiction, it is all about voice. According to Masterclass in literature, “voice” refers to the rhetorical mixture of vocabulary, tone, point of view, and syntax that makes phrases, sentences, and paragraphs flow in a particular manner. Novels can represent multiple voices: that of the narrator and those of individual characters.
When it comes to your voice. There is no right or wrong. It’s your writing style, dialogue, or turn of phrase, just to name a few aspects. Each adds to the way your story flows and is distinct to each writer. It will be evident in anything you write whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. In addition to Covid-19, 2020 was a big year for issues such as race, gender, civil rights, and the wealth gap. Publishers rushed titles dealing with these subjects and more to the online and book and mortar bookstore shelves. Especially if the authors were women of color. It’s tempting to hop on and ride the issue train to get a publishing contract. Writers should be able to connect with the material on a deeper level on every page. That is not to say it can’t be done. You would have a book that is grammatically and stylistically correct, but it will be bereft of soul. Think of it this way, if you love math and you write a book on algebra, the love you feel for a topic that’s antiseptic to most people will come alive with your excitement and passion for it.
Use fiction to speak up about the issues you care about
As wonderful as it is to have the opportunity to have a platform and to hopefully be a part of the change in issues that affect our communities and society-at-large, there’s another group of voices to be heard. Other writers may take a different approach to confront major issues. They weave it into their stories as a sub-plot, through the main and supporting characters, or through the setting. While writing is a solitary endeavor, no woman is an island. We are aware of the changes happening throughout our world, and we don’t ignore them. We use the power of the pen to raise a literary fist in protest and support. As a writer, you are only as limited as your imagination.
The people who write about heavy and pertinent topics like race, African-American relationships with law enforcement, the chasm in wealth, and the pay gap between men and women in America, are passionate, knowledgeable, and formidable. We want to hear what they’ve got to say. However, when they’re done being a gladiator, who is to say they don’t want to kick off their sandals, hang up the sword, and read a book that makes them laugh until their sides hurt. Or maybe they want to go on a thrill ride with a criminal mystery. Or even read a scary book with one eye covered before the monster returns on the next page.
In the end, do you! Write from your heart.
The one thing I’ve discovered about at this point in life, is now my voice is clearer and more defined. I’d like to think that age has given me a modicum of wisdom. I meet so many women who want to write, and I’m happy to encourage them. Write what you feel and the world will listen.