We Don’t Have to Write About It
There are endless topics to write about, including fictitious genres, current events, and history. Plus, trends, fashions, problems, and opinions. Honestly, it can be overwhelming.
What should we write about? Horses? How about a Science fiction story about purple aliens? Or perhaps we could examine Richard Nixon’s life. A classical romance novel? It is all possible. Yet readers have strong expectations. They have become knowledgeable, curious, risk avoiders, opinionated, and politically correct.
As a result, there are taboo subjects, expected subjects, and strong opinions. The WOKE movement is an example of a group that desires to promote their values and dislikes specific topics. As a result, it is essential for an author to be aware of the WOKE opinions and to avoid offending readers.
That is all good, but not quite the topic I wanted to touch. Let’s examine the book Misery by Stephen King. The story begins with an author who gets injured in a car accident. A book fan rescues the author and takes him through the woods to their house. Umm, wait a minute. As the fan transported the author, did they discuss how important it is to plant trees? No? Well, Stephen King should have included that topic.
What other topics might readers complain about? “Why don’t you have an LGBTQ character?” “You wrote a book about the ocean and did not mention whales?” “Why is the man a hero and not a woman?” “There was not a single Latino character.” “The lead character was far too young. Stop age discriminating!” “The lead character was far too old. Stop age discriminating!”
Wow, that spiraled quickly. Readers now have many expectations, and they have a powerful voice. Not including popular opinions can lead to critical reviews, a Facebook/YouTube rant, or even a boycott. Yikes!
Wait a minute. Does this mean that Stephen King needed a tree-planting paragraph? Would that help the story, lead to more sales or better reviews? Or could this addition have upset some readers or not mattered at all?
One is tempted to say, “That helpful pro-nature addition would not offend anybody. It would likely improve the story.” Yet, I often see critical reviews citing authors who added excessive and unnecessary detail. Having a pleasant tangent about planting trees during a dark mood scene would indeed lead to negative comments.
I wanted to provide a different example to prove my point. Society has developed a glass ceiling, meaning that minorities and females have difficulty getting ahead in business. I have many opinions on this topic and would like to share them to help eliminate this obstacle.
Nobody is forcing me to write about this topic, and I have received no requests to discuss it. Yet, I am sure that by writing about this important topic, I could help (in a small way), but my opinions would upset people. Why? Women and minorities are well aware of this issue (far more than me) and would prefer I keep my “lame-brain opinions to myself.” And my conclusions and recommendations? Yes, I know where I can stuff them. So, I will not write up my thoughts because I chose not to potentially offend some readers.
It is tempting to say that we have come full circle, but the central issue remains. How does an author please their readers? I answer, “Write what is in your heart and let the rest sort itself out.” Of course, that is a copout. And what about adding shock value (controversial content)? That usually leads to book sales. Right?
Authors, artists, and other creative people always decide what to include in their work and what not to. Intentionally leaving something out of a book is a difficult skill to master. An even more difficult skill is properly writing about a controversial topic.
Yet, there is another problem. It is challenging to develop a new topic, and readers always want more. As a result, authors must be bold with their choice of content. Meaning that the decision not to include tree planting was one of many bold choices that made the book Misery a great success.
It is also essential for an author to have a broad view. The characters and topics should never be stiff. Authors are now expected to explore alternative lifestyles, controversial issues, liberal viewpoints, and different cultures.
What about readers who complain about missing topics? In any endeavor, it is impossible to please everybody. That is human nature. Meaning that just because society is (presently) focused on a specific topic, it does not have to be included in a story. I advise developing something interesting and including a few popular trends, even if they are outside your comfort zone. This open perspective will both attract readers and make for a better story.
You’re the best -Bill
September 06, 2023
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