Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Just Write The Damn Story

Folks, I've done my best to stay out of politics.  I don't comment on the current President, just like I didn't comment on the last one.  I don't talk about Congress, or the federal budget, or the latest polls and what they may or may not say about an upcoming election.  I even stay out of topics sensitive to readers on all sides regarding same-sex marriage, abortion, and the war on drugs.  However, I'm going to stray a bit here, because some stuff is creeping in that affects actual writing.

The biggest takeaway is that writers are writing scared.  Far too many are getting so worried about not offending people that it's getting in the way of writing good stories.  Some folks are going so far as to have sensitivity readers look at their work so as to ensure that no one is offended and all the proper PC etiquette is observed.  Remember the saga of The Black Witch?  Laurie Forest endured scathing criticism of a novel that most people hadn't even read yet.  One reviewer talked about how the book was culturally insensitive, and suddenly the McCarthyites came out of the woodwork.  You'd have thought she penned a new Mein Kamp or something.

Then there is "cultural appropriation," a term which makes me want to vomit.  This is the belief that we're all supposed to stay in our own little world and not write about that which is from another culture different than ours(as if one culture or another "owns" something, or readers even know which culture is doing the writing in the first place).  This is idiotic from several standpoints, not the least of which being how limiting it is to both the writer and the audience.  Who gave anyone the right to tell us what we can and can't write?  If writers stayed only within their own world, we'd be denied some tremendous stories...stories that belong to all of us, not just select members of a certain group.  There's also the myopic view that this creates, limiting us to only what we know and never allowing us to explore outside of it.  Isn't the whole point of exploring other cultures to get to know them?  What is the point of diversity if it can't enrich us all?  Further most of those talking about not culturally appropriating things are referring less to real culture and more to skin color, which is an awfully stupid way to assess which culture someone came from.  I know folks of all races from all cultures, so assuming someone's culture by the color of their skin is only slightly less racist than...well...nothing.

I've come across a lot of writers that won't engage on certain topics or viewpoints because they're worried they may upset the wrong group of people.  Doesn't this keep us from writing good stories?  What's wrong with writing what you like and then letting the audience decide if it's any good?  So many classics throughout time have been maligned as wrongthink, from Huckleberry Finn to I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings to A Wrinkle In Time, that if those writers had listened to such scolds, we'd have been deprived of some amazing work.

Write what you're comfortable with and think is a good story.  I didn't write Wrongful Death from the point of view of a high school girl, but I originally tried, and I wouldn't begrudge anyone, man or woman, who could pull it off.  I doubt JK Rowling was ever an eleven year old boy or a wizard, but she did a great job with Harry Potter.

This isn't just a political issue - it's an issue of freedom.  I thought we'd long since moved past the era of book burnings, but today's scolds are trying to accomplish basically the same thing, which is to prevent a larger audience from enjoying a certain work because the scold finds it to be heresy.  Where we used to worry about fundamentalist churches banning books, now it's "sensitive" people who somehow know what's best for our entire society.  What a joke!  If you don't care for a book, don't read it!  However, acting as judge and jury because you think you're all "woke" is incredibly conceited and stifling.

Writers should write.  Let the audience decide what's good and what's not good.  I promise they will.  Beyond that, don't worry about what a bunch of overly sensitive ninnies who wouldn't know good literature if it smacked them will say.  Just be creative.

Okay...rant over.  Now go back to your lives...

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