On Drawing Lines and Staying Behind Them
There’s comes a time in every writer’s life when you have to decide where you’re going to draw the lines on certain, let’s say controversial, subjects.
Like Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon drawing their famed line between the north and south, we must determine where the line of demarcation is that separates our conscience from our craft.
We writers are called to above all else tell the truth. The challenge is deciding how we tell the truth while remaining true to our own convictions, beliefs, and set of morals.
We can speak loftily about writing truly and honestly and delving into the depths of man’s psyche but sooner or later everyone has to make the call: how far is too far?
And it’s a process. I’ve published six books now with #7 soon to be released and I’m still exploring and establishing where those lines are. Sometimes they won’t stand still long enough for me to hammer them down.
Here are some thoughts about where I currently draw the line on several touchy subjects.
- Regarding violence, I’m always mindful to include enough details so the reader is not lost, so he knows what’s happening, but so as not to glorify the violence or draw undue attention to it. I’m not opposed to violence (after all, our world is full of violence of the most dispicable nature) but I’m also not into shocking the reader with excessive gore or details. After I write a scene I go back and read it over and ask myself if the point was made without overstating it.
- Along with violence, I will not write about sexual violence directed at women (or men, for that matter). I know some have tackled that issue with great poise and tact but it’s just not for me. I may hint at it, or introduce it in a very roundabout way, but as for writing about it directly, I’m not going to go there, not even interested in going there. I’m not saying those who do are wrong; for me, it’s a no go. That line is pretty firm.
- Regarding language. Personally, I can tolerate a certain amount of vulgar language in the fiction I read. Some would say that’s wrong, that I shouldn’t introduce it to my mind, and maybe their right, I don’t know. But I won’t write it myself. Honestly, there are times I’d like to, times when it would fit in the context or with the character, but I simply chose not to include it. Oh, I know my publisher would never let it fly even if I did but I write a lot that doesn’t go through the filter of my publisher. The opportunity is there if I wanted it. I just don’t want it. I choose to find more creative ways to get the point across.
- Regarding matters of faith, I draw a loose, very negotiable line at being preachy, or at least what I perceive as preachy. I want the story to read as organic and the characters to resonate so I’m careful at the way I package the faith element in my stories. I am mindful of being over-bearing or heavy-handed but at the same time realize that the more you water down the message, the more murky the waters get.
Question for you: what are some lines you won’t cross, either as a writer or reader? We all have lines, share some of yours.
(Please check out my other blog as well: www.michaelkingbooks.wordpress.com)
Posted on June 28, 2012, in Writing craft, Writing Life and tagged Charles Mason, Jeremiah Dixon, mason-dixon line, taboo subjects, violence in literature, writer's conscience. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.