Sunday, April 17, 2016
What Shouldn’t Authors Write About?
What topics are off-limits for writers?
No topic should be off-limits to writers. There is a responsibility for the writer to tackle the subject with accuracy and fairness, but what about other issues, including:
· Privacy violations
· Manifesto for violence
· Legal issues
· Being right
· Revealing trade secrets
· Matters of national security
Writers have many tools at their disposal. They can use fiction to get across ideas and concepts too problematic for non-fiction. With fiction, anything goes because none of it is real – even though it could be based on real people, actual events, and important issues. Fiction allows writers to entertain their darkest fantasies and provides an outlet for nightmares to unfold harmlessly.
Fiction has examined the minds, lives, and souls of perpetrators and victims of all kinds of horrific acts, from rape, war, terrorism, and genocide to serial killers, mass murderers, racist violence, and child exploitation. There seemingly is no limit to what novels can tackle. They address the “what if” scenarios that many of us privately or briefly explore in our minds. Our fiction lets us debate and dialogue about things we’d otherwise not speak about.
But non-fiction faces some real challenges – both to be published and to be accepted. For instance, some books would have a hard time getting published and sold if they are libelous, slanderous, or reveal something that violates a law, confidentiality agreement, or an off-the-record remark from an interview subject. Books calling for a violent attack on a specific race or religion may get published but would fall under harsh scrutiny.
Writers should tear down walls of suppression and expose us to as many new points as possible. We hope they will use a certain level of care and compassion in the process, but sometimes there’s no polite way to introduce issues or concepts that involve death, anger, hate, or atrocities. Some topics require a layer of ugliness to be present. The tone, language, events, and ideas expressed need to match up with the significance of the subject matter. You can’t go write a rated G book on the Holocaust, slavery, or terrorism. There’s no Disney approach to discussing gang rapes, the KKK, or pedophilia. Some issues need to be discussed in the raw and offend readers, challenging their mores and rattling them.
Let’s explore another area that writers may be challenged to enter, for everything one writes has repercussions. Anything from public shame, job loss, lawsuits, and arrest can come as a result of what one writes. Of course, on the positive side, many things can come as a result of writing on taboo topics, including law changes, bringing entities to justice, and forever changing how society views an issue, event, or person. The area I’m talking about is violating a confidential trust.
Let’s say a family member did something – or had something done to them – and you want to write about it. Nothing stops you from writing about them – except you don’t’ want to lose that relationship or friendship. You may feel you mean well and hope to shed light on something that can lead to change or enlightenment; but the subject of your prose may suffer harm and real or perceived consequences.
I wanted to write about something that impacted me personally recently, and I had it all written out and ready to go and then the subject of the piece asked, as if he/she knew I would want to write about it, to not publish anything about it. I now realize this could happen several times to a writer and there are millions of writers with untold stories as a result.
I’d like to believe that any subject can be written about – but writers have to weigh the consequences vs. the benefits of doing so.
Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016
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