I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received this response when speaking about my favorite novels to nonfiction-lovers. While it’s true that Sherlock Holmes may not really be around to solve crimes and Hogwarts might not actually exist, that doesn’t make the worlds in which they exist any less relevant to us real folk.
Apart from sheer entertainment, fiction is an untapped resource for writers to learn about voice. Every famous character has their own iconic way of speaking: Lizzy Bennett is sarcastic and witty, Hamlet is brooding and troubled, Gandalf is wise and mysterious. We do or do not understand their intentions based on the way they present themselves through dialogue, and we perceive their characters based on these understandings.
Voice works the same way in the real world. Brands advertise in a voice that appeals to their target audiences. They speak to us in a deliberate, meticulous way: they’re our peers, our teachers, our trusted companions. They take on personas not unlike our favorite characters. When they do this successfully, we are often loyal to them. We feel that we have a mutual understanding, that we speak the same language.
As writers, our resources for content creation are practically unlimited. Why can’t Mark Twain help you write that children’s advertisement? Or how about Game of Thrones as an inspiration for your next political review? Creating voice based on the fiction you’ve read is a way to become more versatile in your professional work—it’s looking at your resources in a more fluid way. I don’t mean to say that novels are the only source to draw from when writing with a distinctive voice, just simply that the beloved heroes from your adolescence might be able to lend you an unexpected hand in your working life. Fiction is based upon the workings of the real world, after all.