Using Your Voice

This post was originally sent to my subscribers.

Since the election I’ve been thinking about how we have to use our voices to speak up about things. And, how that voice is also what drives writing.

Writing often comes from a need to speak up about something, to find an avenue to express what’s on your mind. Like Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote in her blog post: Why I am No Longer Talking to White People About Race, which is now a book. She has something important to say and used her voice to do it. Using your voice doesn’t always have to be political when it comes to writing, it can be personal too. But the thing is, when you use your voice, when you don’t borrow from someone else, people can feel the truth and that’s what they connect with.

You see, your voice is a powerful tool, it can affect change, it can comfort, it can heal. By voting in an election you’re having your say, you are telling our government what you believe in, what you want from our country. By using your own voice when writing, you are telling a story in a way no one else can. You could open someones eyes to an issue, no matter how small, that they have never considered before. That was the power of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – she used her own voice to tell a powerful story and that’s why it resonated with so many, and why it woke so many other people up.

To use an example from my own writing – I had the idea for Rebellion after the Arab Spring when I wondered how differently our Western society would react to similar riots. And then later, when there was a  huge surge in Islamophobia, I finally decided to write it. I grew up in the Middle East and so I wanted to speak up. And so I wrote a story about riots across Europe – by Europeans, not Muslims – being crushed by a corrupt organisation. I wrote two characters who would take two very different paths in their retaliation against an oppressive regime. One was the path of an extremist but I didn’t write him as a Muslim. Instead, I wrote him as a middle-class white boy, because terrorist does not equal Muslim. I took religion out of the narrative on purpose to show that Islam is not terrorism. It’s likely this has been missed, I didn’t want to ram my ideas down peoples throats. But, it was the way I wanted to speak and so I did.

Even my novel about a superhero, which is a comedy, is me saying there aren’t enough women superheroes. Yes, we have Wonder Woman (hurray!) but it’s still not enough. Even my novel about an evil queen is me saying that, yes, she takes awful, drastic actions, but she thought she was doing the right thing. Sometimes you have to look at the whole picture, not just the part you’re interested in. And the book I’m writing now, which is light-hearted and fun, I’m writing because when I read the original as a young girl it was the first time I felt represented as a girl. It was the first time I read a woman who wasn’t easily manipulated and stayed true to herself. I want to retell the story so that other girls might feel the same.

So, no matter how small the thing I want to speak about, it’s important that I do and because I do this there is always some truth in my writing. By doing this I instinctively use my own voice, and that’s how you develop a style as a writer. That’s why you should write about the things you believe in, or the things that anger you, or the things that bring you joy.

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