Recently this issue reared it’s ugly head. I say ugly head because I believe sometimes we need to get dirty in order to tell a story with as much truth as it deserves. Just to clarify, it wasn’t me who was concerned but a fellow writer. They prefer not to use profanity, or sex or other more sensitive topics and issues within their stories. I, on the other hand, tend to lean towards whatever the story requires in order to move it forward and well, whatever it takes…just tell the damn story.
- Do you allow your personal feelings about these elements to keep you from pushing the boundaries in order to not violate some sacred or self imposed oath you’ve made?
- Are you afraid of what Mary Jo at PTA will say when she sees the F word in your book?
- Do you allow the judgments of others to hold you back from expressing yourself?
- Are some subjects just too taboo for you to touch?
- Would you use a different pen name if you had to in order to protect yourself out of fear that someone you know might raise an eyebrow?
There are all brands of writers. If you enjoy writing books that are cozy and comfortable, I applaud you. That’s your lane and you’re comfortable in it. This post isn’t about you. You’re fine doing what you love and most likely, your audience loves you for these sweet stories. This post is for those who hold back from pushing a readers buttons or fears some sort of backlash if they explore new subject matter or God forbid, a character does something bad.
Just to clarify again, I have authored two book series’ that couldn’t be more different. They are both Historical Fiction but one is a family saga / paranormal and the other is about the Golden Age of Piracy. One story explores love, relationships, spirituality and faith while the other delves into the dark, dank and seedy atmosphere of piracy, murder and every other awful thing you can imagine. I know deep down that I haven’t fully explored myself as a writer and in truth, I have no reservations about digging deeper and I already have a story on my imagination radar that will push my limits even further.
The point I’m making is there are plenty of wonderful, wholesome and clean books out there. My Fireflies series are two good examples of that. Although they explore relationships and adult subject matter, it is written as to how a family in a small town in 1800’s Pennsylvania would experience it. Then at the opposite end of the bookshelf, are my pirate tales. Violence, foul language, sexual situations, objectification of women, rape, murder, thievery and abuse are prevalent throughout. I’m not afraid of that. I’m not afraid when my characters are evil just as I’m not afraid when my characters are good. They reflect the era and environment in which they are written. I love Jack Sparrow but he’s about as much of a real pirate as I am.
I don’t believe what we write is any indication of our own personal moral compass. Writing is a journey in exploration of one’s imagination. Writing what we know is a proven myth, except when it comes to our characters. Just as Anne Rice has never personally interviewed nor experienced real vampires and Stephen King hasn’t encountered Giant, prehistoric insects or lived in an extra-terrestrial dome, we imagine these tales. What we hold onto throughout them are the players. People are people, whether they live in a galaxy far far away or in a world where by an unlucky draw from a fish bowl, they have to fight in a game for their lives to feed their families. Writing about pirates doesn’t make me one any more than killing off main characters book after book makes George R.R. Martin a murderer. However, that’s what makes being a writer the most wonderful and tantalizing craft!
What if Mary Shelley had created her monster like this?
Or Bram Stoker’s Dracula like this?
Okay strike that…I kinda liked Twilight but you know what I’m saying.
Now what say you?
What is OFF LIMITS?
What is it?
What’s holding you back?