You’re not the boss of me

I am all for independent thinking.  Don’t tell me what to write and don’t tell me how to write it.  Well, maybe suggestions would be okay, but only if I ask for them.  In a perfect world, anyone who reads my writing would just be completely impressed.  That was my initial sparkly fantasy about being an author.  Since then, the realities of writing have intruded into my psyche.  That hasn’t been a bad thing.

The written word (as well as other forms of story-telling) is powerful.  It has the ability to bring people to a subject or situation they may never have considered before, and it has the potential to sway opinions.  In anything capable of wielding such power, responsibility is intrinsic.

Wait just a minute!  Hold the phone, Charlie!  Say what?  Yeah.  That was my reaction, too.  What does this mean to me? I thought as my initial fantasy faded into an ethical quagmire.  Well, I’ve had many moons and several opportunities to think about it since then.

These are my choices: I can write in a way that benefits and gratifies both reader and community, or I can squander my efforts on biased, badly researched, self-serving writing.  I’m not saying I won’t write controversial issues.  I’m not saying I won’t write in controversial ways.  Authors of some of the classics presented in high school English classes were considered muckrakers when they were published, on a par with yellow journalism.  Their controversial writing stirred up the powers that be and precipitated change.  Prime examples are The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, which is about the meat packing industry a hundred years ago and Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in the 1960s, which brought the dangers of pesticides to light.

My point is they had a point and it was for the betterment of society as a whole.  Does that mean you can’t write a light piece that doesn’t tackle the big questions plaguing us all?  Nuh-uh.  My largest work in progress is a young-adult-turns-vampire story.  It’s not going to turn society on its ear nor re-write political rhetoric.  It’s going to entertain.

That said, my novel has interpersonal conflict and portrays social issues.  It’s a given.  It’s about a 15-year-old girl, her friends and relatives and they’re living in this world.  Any time you have a varied cast of characters launching on a quest it’s bound to happen whether in this world, on another world or in another universe.  Some things are universal.

My bad guys will think themselves good guys but will suffer consequences for bad choices.  My good guys will have an assortment of foibles and will sometimes make bad choices.  Again, there will be consequences.  All this comes about through conflict, just like real life.  Ask any teenager.

While preparing for this post I found sites that have tackled the issue from several viewpoints.  They are worth a look and are presented in no particular order.

First is William Mastrosimone, who is a movie writer in Hollywood and has impressive credits.  He wrote this article called “Confessions of a Violent Movie Writer” for a site that is no longer active but the information is still there for educational purposes.  You can find it here.

Another is at Media Literacy @ suite 101.  Called “A Writer’s Responsibility:  To Move and To Change,” it’s authored by Katherine Ward.  She aims her post to writers with a writing degree and assigns them a greater ethical burden.  I have to disagree on that point.  It doesn’t take a degree to write effective fiction or non-fiction, although it can’t hurt.  The onus is inherent to the writing, whether or not the author has a degree.  That said, the post is a good one.  You can find it here.

Next is not one but two posts by Annie Neugebauer on her blog by the same name and subtitled “The madness.  The heartbreak.  The writing.”  Amen, Sister.  I read the blogs in reverse order.  She refers to the second post in the first, which I found in a Google search.  The first post is titled “Disagreeing with Books: Writer Responsibility and Reader Accountability.”  It can be found here.  The second post was written earlier and is titled “Why I’m Tired of People Ragging on Twilight.”  It is a post that addresses the same issue from the back door and can be found here.

I’m compelled to mention a book called Writing and Responsibility by Carl Tighe which is apparently a text book.  I’m sure any student can attest that would account for the hardcover price tag of $110.00 at Amazon but you can get it for Kindle or in paperback for under $30.  I haven’t read it, but I intend to buy it with my next paycheck.  The editorial reviews on Amazon are sterling and the author’s creds are impressive.  Amazon’s offering is here, but I’m sure it’s available elsewhere as well.

Balancing writing ethics and personal freedoms is something each of us has to decide for ourselves.  My stand is firm, but if I should read a compelling enough argument or fictional situation, I might have to revise my view.

Thoughts?  Speak!  Please.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Annie Neugebauer (@AnnieNeugebauer)
    Jun 21, 2012 @ 10:39:06

    Thanks for including me! (I got a pingback that led me here.) I totally empathize with the whole “don’t tell me how to do it” feeling; I think that’s innate in my core, although I am learning to ignore it and take good advice (sometimes). =)


  2. C J Gorden
    Jun 21, 2012 @ 13:42:45

    You’re very welcome. I thoroughly enjoyed both posts and applaud your treatment of the subject. I was going to leave you a comment today about this post but you beat me to it. Now I have to find out about pingbacks. 🙂

    My “don’t tell me how to do it” phase was in the blush of youth when I knew much more than I do now.


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