If you write books, are a blogger, post on social media and tap into the latest pulse of our social and political landscape it’s easy to consider popular opinions while churning out your current content. The question is: how much are you allowing these to dictate what you write?
Our world has become very judgment-minded, politically and socially correct and is constantly trying to find the right balance as to what’s trendy, acceptable and careful not to offend. It’s become exhausting and I’ve known some who’ve resorted to keeping their opinions to themselves for fear of reprisal—delicately walking that tense tightrope. They don’t dare write something which could be interpreted as argumentative, biased, or subjective. However, we all have a right to our viewpoints and this really shouldn’t affect the way we express ourselves creatively.
I’ve been developing a new novel for a while and am trying to get it finished. It’s been a long journey fitting all the pieces together. And like lots of writers, I sometimes feel like starting over. But, one thing I’ll never do is allow political and social correctness to influence my craft. I like to create realistic characters who aren’t afraid to be who they are, and no matter what, they have a right to be the individuals God created (well, I’ve plucked out of thin air). If they happen to be anti-gay, a member of the KKK, non-believer in Global warming, Democrat or Republican, Christian or Muslim, war monger, Capitalist, Socialist, or Communist I’m going to portray them exactly how I see them. It will never be about what I think personally, it’ll always be about the story and its characters I’m trying to create.
I’ve read several books from a well-known writer who also happens to be very far-left with his politics. Some of his personal activities include financially supporting and giving speeches for certain political candidates during election time. However, the characters in his books can be extremely racist, even using the “N” word describing persons of color or calling homosexuals people destined for hell. He’s very blunt bringing out the demons in his personalities. The point I’m making is his writing has nothing to do with his personal beliefs; it’s all about making a great story that’s both believable and very entertaining. Does he get much backlash about this? I’ve yet to see any change in his readership.
As writers look to gain an audience, it’s only natural and part of business to go-with-the-flow in regards to what’s hot and cool. Nobody wants to turn off a piece of the market and offend anyone with our words. But, if you’re intentionally sacrificing your writing style for the sake of business the only one you’re truly hurting is yourself.
My current novel, Sons In The Clouds and my future ones I regard as being in the Inspirational Fiction genre. “Inspirational” to me meaning the stories I tell, hopefully, will leave readers with feelings of faith, positivity and encouragement. They’re not intended to be filled with fluff, fairy godmothers, knights on white horses, or Romeo and Juliet dashing off into a sunset. All of that isn’t realistic and tends to put readers asleep. What they are intended to bring is optimism and uplifting endings while sometimes churning through the mud to get there. And that is often accomplished by using strong, raw human emotions and actions to draw the story together as well as pulling in scenes that some could find offensive. It’s all part of the game and not being timid while portraying a story is what makes things click.
I started a novel a couple of years ago about a Mexican immigrant whose family was suddenly murdered by the drug cartel. He crosses the border into the United States, lives off our government for a while, later becomes a wealthy hit man killing everyone from women to babies, dreams about seeking revenge against his family’s killers, then miraculously turns his life around with the help of newfound love and some omnipresent, spiritual signs.
Just the paragraph above could cause many to become offended. I bring out the words, “Mexican,” “immigrant,” “drug cartel,” and “living off the government” in two sentences. And with the issues of amnesty, social entitlements and racial equality ravaging our headlines these days I could run the risk of turning many people away. But, this is a story and I’m creating a fictional character that just happens to be from Mexico and enters the U.S. illegally; something happening everyday. Am I concerned about political backlash? Not in the least because it will make a terrific, graphic and uplifting story.
As an artist, feel free to express yourself and create stories that sing. The politics will take care of themselves.