Friday, May 18, 2012

Repost: Personal Politics and Writing

Another pertinent re-post from the old blog. I only have three or four of these, but I think the content is still good. 

 I was watching that TV show about the missing persons unit of the FBI today and it was about a girl that went to jail for her sister after a car crash which killed a friend of theirs.

It made me think about Bloodlines and how my characters would respond if put in prison. This led me to thinking about the 1950's and how mental health care has changed over the past fifty years which had me recalling an episode of Cold Case about a girl that dresses as a boy, falls for a boy and whose father has her committed after which she ends up brain dead and her boyfriend kills her out of mercy.

Yeah, that's how my thought trains work. Basically, I left out a few stations.

In any case, this led me to thinking about how I insert my personal prejudices and beliefs into what I write. We all do it, it's nearly impossible not to. But I've also found myself writing a scene, character or incident that I find distasteful, immoral or just plain wrong. This was a particular issue some time ago while writing a very bigoted side character who used words I would never use, ever, ever, ever, ever.

I suppose the central issue was that I didn't want other to think that I thought that what he said was all right. Because I didn't. But in the end, that's why I was writing him in. I wanted to show how wrong it was to behave and say the things he did.

A huge theme in everything I write is about lifestyles, cultures and occasionally racial, differences. I don't think anyone should be discriminated against just because they are gay/straight/bi/transgender, culturally bizarre or a different color, religion, creed or species.

(See that, I included aliens.)

While I'll admit there are aspects of certain cultures I find repugnant, I can say the same about my own cultural heritage. There are things about the past within my own culture that I would never condone. It can be difficult to balance those feelings with the position of a character. They say that you should always write what you know, but as a person who writes mostly fantasy, well, I've never actually seen or been bitten by a werewolf so...I have to go with what I read, watch and learn about through alternative sources.

A writer should be capable of writing anything. Any character, any scene. In theory. We all struggle with different things that are outside our comfort zone. The only way to push past that is by doing just that, pushing. Freaked out by swearing? Write the most profane dialogue you can think of.

Can't write an action scene? (I recommend acting it out with furniture, alone) Write the most brutal action sequence ever!

Blood and guts? Bloodbath time. Murderer? Do it. Dialogue? Talk it out and then, write pages and pages of dialogue until your fingers bleed and you get it right.

A writer should push the envelope of their comfort zone. You never know what amazing thing you'll discover when you do. The things you could write. The people you could meet. The characters you could kill off in a brutal sequence of murder by toaster....

We can't entirely erase our personal politics and beliefs from our writing, but we have to try and be objective. Show both sides. Sure, you might make that murdering psycho toaster bastard kill himself with a toaster in a bathtub on page 246, but you did show everyone that despite his murderous ways he's also an accomplished chef and animal lover.

There are two sides to every coin.


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