Should a writer’s voice be unique?4 min read
I’ve been panicked as a writer for a number of years by the idea that I need a unique and original voice. Short and bold like Hemingway or funny and irreverent like Gideon Defoe’s Pirates books. I’m not sure what it will be like, I’m only sure I haven’t nailed it yet.
But I’m starting to get comfortable with the idea that maybe it’s not such a necessity as I first thought.
A writer doesn’t need a unique voice, they need a unique sight; a way of viewing the world about them that renders it interesting and worth talking about. People laugh at Proust’s madeleines, but his way of writing about memory and experience at that level of detail was his unique take on the world around him. J.R.R. Tolkien, so the rumour goes, fell out with his good friend and fellow Oxford don, C.S. Lewis, for including Father Christmas in a story world otherwise easily read Christian allegory, but C.S. Lewis kept it in.
You are the owner of a unique life, so what can you make use of from it? What is your unique viewpoint?
This isn’t an homage to the write-what-you-know advice, I think that’s a load of hokum and you should write whatever you enjoy writing, from deep intense character driven drama to blood-and-guts Vikings in space. I do, however, think you should bring something true to what you write, something you really believe in.
There’s a sub-genre of science fiction called cli-fi, which I love. Writers tackling climate issues; I think that’s cool and it’s important.
So what’s true to you and what do you believe in?
I believe in redemption and second chances, it’s why I love Prince Zuko’s character arc in the cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender. I believe in the innate ability for people to change and better themselves. All these things are interesting to me, as well as being important and fun to explore.
Mental health, sexuality, poverty, bullying, tips for proper hair care maintenance; small scale or large scale, there are things in your life that will have impacted you deeply and you will have a unique insight on them. So are you writing about the things that you are most passionate about? And how does that change your writing?
I think writing about something true and that you believe in, whether in the context of gore-focused horror or those pesky space Vikings, raises it above the average. I think it helps keep you motivated and on point throughout the tens of thousands of words you have to write to finish that story.
Stop worrying about finding your voice. Focus instead on what you see and what you believe in. Write that. With space Vikings.
And robot dragons.
Tell me how it goes.
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