Now that “The Nomads Trilogy” has launched and that project—so far as I know at this moment—is finished, and my post-election night terrors are more or less under control, I am going to have some fun with my Bitmoji app. I am in love with my avatar, meaning, I suppose, that I am in love with the idealized image of myself I have created—with the help of my artist daughter. We took some time choosing the shape of my face and eyes, the color of my hair and lipstick, and my skin tone. I hope those who know me agree that the likeness is accurate (and not too idealized) and that choosing a spiffy workout outfit was a good choice as there was no bathing suit, cap or goggles in the virtual fashion closet. (My avatar is a lap swimmer, as am I.) The eyeglasses and nose are the right shape, my daughter assures me, and I have to accept her skilled, artistic judgment, though the nose looks a bit off to me. Of course, we never imagine ourselves accurately, do we? And the persona/avatar we project both in real life and in our writing is, in fact, a fiction or, at the very least, a factoid, a word coined by Norman Mailer to describe the narrative choices he made to tell his Pulitzer-prize winning nonfiction novel, “The Executioner’s Song.” Nonfiction novel? How does that compute?
It’s strange, I always tell my students, that when we write fiction, whether in first or third person, we can hide behind a narrative persona (an avatar), but when we write nonfiction, we are the narrator, it is us, and we must be credible. But is the narrator really “us,” or have we invented a nonfiction storyteller’s avatar? And is an avatar the same as a voice? I would suggest that our writing voice is a component of our narrative avatar. My avatar, as seen above, has a bold, mezzo voice. And I am using it here.