On Risking and Writing

One of the things authors get asked periodically is how much attention they pay to things that readers might find offensive. The short answer: it depends on the author.

I know some writers who feel they’re always skating a fine line, trying to make sure they don’t offend anyone. Now I realize there are other places to stand on this one -- that is, there is room for other opinions -- but I tend to not pull back from plotlines or fictional situations that some readers might find offensive. It’s that whole avoidance of Pabulum again. Like trying to please everyone and ending up pleasing no one. But if you please yourself and stay true to your heart, there are others who will share you passion and enthusiasm. And others who will not. That’s just how it goes.

The thing is, you can always find someone who takes offense to something. All three of my published novels contained some material I figured would be somewhat controversial. And I did get some offended letters: though mostly not about the things I actually thought might offend some people.

All of this is on my mind because of a short piece I wrote for January Magazine yesterday about this dude in Arkansas who is suing his city because of the emotional trauma his sons -- aged 14 and 16 -- endured when they encountered The Whole Lesbian Sex Book in their local library. The book apparently caused the boys “many sleepless nights,” (I’m not even gonna go there) and their father wants the city to cough up 20 large -- $10,000 for each boy -- that will somehow mysteriously erase their trauma.

As I sat down to write about it, this teeny voice -- probably spawned by my mother -- said, “Should you?” And then the answering voice -- I hear it a lot -- said, “Hell yes.” And so I did.

Will everyone love what I’ve written? And will everyone agree with my position? Probably not and probably not. And words like “teen” in the same post as “sex” and “lesbian” will probably cause the search engines to flush us for a few weeks. (And, come to think of it, ditto this blog, since I just mentioned all three hot button terms right here.)

I guess that’s the thing about writing -- any type of writing -- that you hope people will care about: there’s often an element of risk.


Popular Posts