We often write blog posts here about things we do or don’t want to see in the media. We discuss topics that may or may not be controversial that we read, hear about, or see through various means like television, movies, radio, and books. There is a very good reason for this.
As writers, you influence people. Yes, you. Whether you write poetry or erotica, screenplays or textbooks, your words are a whisper thrown into the void. Sometimes, most times, honestly, they echo. You may not have set out to change the world, but when people read your books, it can give them insight. Perspective. It doesn’t always have to be a life-altering experience. It may not be Lady in the Water epic. But sometimes it is the little things that can make the biggest impact on people’s lives.
For example, as a pre-teen I read Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret. My mom gave it to me for some reason I can’t fathom. Maybe she thought she wouldn’t have to explain periods to me if I read it? I don’t know. Anyway, I had no idea what I was reading at the time and halfway through I was wondering when we were getting to the point. Was she going to learn that periods suck? That growing up isn’t all that exciting? (I very much had the Peter Pan mentality about growing up when I was a kid: don’t.) I didn’t realize until later that I took something away from that story. Just because I was not looking forward to “reaching womanhood” didn’t mean that other girls weren’t. There were girls out there that were actually excited to get their period, who saw it as a right of passage or something. There were others out there that didn’t think like me. That blew my mind.
A more recent example: Under my other pen name, I published a story about children from two different worlds suddenly living together. Two completely different cultures and languages learning about each other. I wrote a scene where one of the main female characters, a girl of twelve, gets her period. One of the boys from our world is grossed out, doesn’t want to hear about it or be near her. The boys and girls from the other world are kind and try to comfort her, asking what she needs, and soothing her. I don’t draw it out or dwell on it for long, but I slid it in there to make a point. This book is aimed at middle grade readers. Girls this age are going through this, boys are developing opinions about it. I wanted to show girls and boys that this is normal. Women should not be ostracized because their uterus is under maintenance once a month.
Your words matter. They can make a difference. I like to hope that when people read my books, they say “I never thought about it that way” or “Oh, okay, that isn’t at all what I learned from society.” I love reading books that make me sit back and really think and I often find that you can do that without being overly lyrical or philosophical. It can be the little things, like a guy hugging a guy just because they are friends, or Harry accepting Luna even though others thought she was crazy. The happy ending and good triumphing over evil is important, but the small details are what stick with you.
So, dear writers, make those words count. Say something kind. Say something outrageous. Change the norms. Shout your story to the world. We are listening.