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Write your own role to create authentic success

Writing your own role: break the mold to create authentic success
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in publishing it is often used by authors in an attempt to take advantage of the latest trend. “Fifty Shades of Grey” launched a sub-genre unflatteringly referred to as “mommy porn.” Harry Potter inspired numerous paranormal coming-of-age series, such as “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games.” Many authors attempting to jump on the bandwagon fail to hit the mark. Indian comedian Mindy Kaling offers a unique solution to this quandary: Write your own role. It’s good advice, especially for writers.

Write my own role? What do you mean?

Mindy Kaling is a thirtysomething, curvaceous, exotic-featured woman of color who has achieved success as an actor, author, sitcom creator and comedian in an industry dominated by white men. Instead of viewing her gender and ethnicity as obstacles to be minimized and/or overcome, Kaling embraced the characteristics that made her unique. The result is The Mindy Project, a sit-com which launched in 2012 featuring Kaling as an Indian physician.

Writing your own author role means embracing your authentic self as inspiration for the characters you create and the plots you weave. It means drawing on the life events that have shaped your philosophy, reflecting the relationships you’ve experienced and revealing your emotional and intellectual perspectives. It doesn’t mean write a tell-all autobiography; it means go deep within yourself to find the raw, realistic human elements that will add depth and authenticity and realism to your writing.

How do I identify my role?

The answer to this question is deceptively simply; it is simply “who you are.” If that sounds like metaphysical woo-woo, here are some additional questions to guide your search for your role as a writer.

  • How do people describe you – cheerful, independent, curious, helpful, courageous?
  • What issues are important to you?
  • What was your childhood like?
  • Where do you live?
  • What is your occupation?
  • What themes rise to the surface of your writing?

Writing authentically means writing like you talk and express yourself in your daily exchanges. Staying true to yourself in how you write, the words you choose, the way you construct paragraphs, will help you define your author voice for more compelling, emotionally engaging stories.

Marketing and publicity benefits of writing your own role

Writing your own role as an author offers several benefits. From a writing perspective, authentic writing rings truer and the emotion runs deeper. Words may flow easier and plotting may require less effort because your process is more intuitive. Authentic writing also results in more compelling, more engaging, more distinctive stories, or, from a marketing perspective, higher-quality products.

While there are many reasons writers write, profitability is one of the least altruistic yet most practical motivations. Creating sellable stories and novels that appeal to a wide readership are key elements to building a successful career as an author.

Writing your own role as an author can benefit your marketing and promotion in a couple of ways:

  1. Drawing on your own experience qualifies you as a subject matter expert
  2. Finding a unique niche aids in product differentiation—standing out from other authors
  3. Defining your author role enables you to define your readership, platform and niche

How did Mindy Kaling ultimately find and write her own role? One interviewer summarized it like this:

“She owned up to her real desires, she proved (and is constantly proving) that her offscreen persona is just as relatable as her televised alter-ego. And she did so without apologizing, without trying to be a demure lady or pretend she’ll settle for less.”