A Writer’s Power

Posted by Anthony North on January 20, 2011

Well, the title’s wrong for a start. I don’t think a writer can ever have ‘power’, but I use the word because I like snappy titles. No, the word I’m really looking for is ‘influence.’
Now this is a different matter. So okay, this is a piece about ‘a writer’s influence.’ And let’s face it, there hasn’t really been a great human movement without a book behind it.
There are two arguments over the influence of a writer. Does his craft ‘reflect’ or ‘define’ our culture? Just take a typical Soap Opera. Issues that are relevant to the day are played out in – well – sensational fashion.
It is correct to say that, here, the writer reflects society – this is where he got the idea from. But is it possible that, in reflecting something in sensational form, he ‘defines’ it? Basically, does the social ‘story’ being played out make it more likely that it will happen in society more often, and more dramatically?
Of course, I’m not saying, here, that the writer can directly affect a person and make him do something. It’s more subtle than that. More a probability of society moving in that direction.
I think storytelling acts as a conduit for social currents. The writer intuits something happening in society, and in creating it in cultural form, the culture moves forward – or backward – as the writer suggests.
It is all to do with the ‘symbol’. For as semiotics is showing us, we follow them, don’t we?



  1. Geraldine said on March 15, 2013

    I think writers can weld a great deal of power actually. To move people, to touch them with their words, change perceptions… move mountains really.

    What is written stays behind and words always stand the test of time.

  2. Anthony North said on March 15, 2013

    Hi Geraldine, an excellent way of putting it.

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