Last month I asked a series of questions to determine if there were any topics considered off limits. The comments were unanimous. There doesn’t seem to be any topics a writer can’t use.
One commenter, Darusha, says:
“I believe that no topic is off-limits – that writers in fact have a duty to explore those dark places that society abhors. “
That’s a pretty big statement and I see what she means, however, I’m not sure I entirely agree that we have a “duty” to explore dark places. Sometimes a story is just a story, even if it contains a taboo subject. Sometimes I don’t want to have a deep hidden meaning. Sometimes I just want to be entertained. Isn’t reading supposed to be an escape?
“An author that shines a light into these corners of our world wants to reveal them, not live in them.”
I agree, but is that reveal, a duty or a desire? What do you think? Does “duty” take things too far? So, if a story is sometimes just a story does that mean it can’t contain controversial subjects? Obviously, not. Some stories use disasters or traumatic events as a device to bring readers in. And as one commenter, Tiel, tells us, this can sometimes have unforeseen results:
“I was deelpy offended by a recent fantasy novel in which what amounts to magical genocide was comitted. What offended me about it was that it was treated in a completely off-hand manner, and the group that was destroyed had been presented in a very stereotypical and unsympathetic manner. Also, when the narrator figured out what he’d done (to be fair, he was tricked into it), he didn’t have any remorse or regrets. I really felt it was “OK” with the _author_ that these people got wiped out, and I find that reprehensible.”
This made me think. Perhaps our duty as writers isn’t necessarily shining a light into the dark corners. Perhaps it is making sure that once those corners are illuminated, we do our best to handle them properly. Then again, haven’t we always been told that good writing is something that invokes an emotional response in the reader? So what’s the line?
Please join the discussion by posting your comments below. As with last month, if you feel uncomfortable posting an opinion here you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next month we’ll continue the discussion based on comments received.