They say the pen is mightier than the sword and that words are powerful. And indeed, writers have quite the power.
Just recently I listened to Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk where she says how she believed Nigerian girls like her couldn’t be heroes because the books she read as a child only portrayed white protagonists. Some books are banned while others are studied as world-changers. Self-help books sell like crazy.
So yes, a bunch of words can have a huge impact on other people’s lives, and quite often the words are fiction. In fact I have heard of authors who’ve said writing saved their lives and readers whose lives have been completely changed by a book.
To some, writing is the only outlet for their thoughts but perhaps, when they’re brave enough to share those words, they’ll find others who are in the same situation. To some, reading offers an escape or a way of understanding life. Some simply paint a picture of the future or the past in their liking. Anything is possible with words.
But while I think the individual impact of words does matter the most, once there are enough individuals on board, the story starts affecting the world. Think of how J.K. Rowling and George R.R. Martin shaped the landscape of fantasy. 50 Shades of Grey’s success influenced markets waay beyond paperbacks.
No one can tell which book will be the next major hit and running after trends is far from a good idea, but if we write a story that finds its way into the hearts of enough people, the consequences can reach far and wide.
What does it mean for the writers?
Some would argue writers, even those writing fiction, have a responsibility to try to make the world a better place. Then again, preaching rarely goes down well. Where’s the fine line?
The answer varies and I think everyone needs to figure it out for themselves, but I think the line is there, deep inside all of us and in our stories. Perhaps the world doesn’t change just because we wrote a short story but it can make us feel better. Doesn’t that already make the world just a little bit better?
Which book has impacted your life the most? Do you think fiction can change the world?