There comes a time when someone has to step up and take responsibility. Your parents probably told you all the time, “Somebody has to make the first move, why not make it you?” I know what you are thinking, “What are you, my mother?”
No I am not, but I am going to spend a little time sitting on your shoulder, whispering.
As an author, my main concern has always been to write the most engaging story possible. I come from the romance genre, so this generally included a fair amount of intimacy and angst. There were situations where people got nekkid and some where women were coming out of abusive relationships. It happens. My stories are based on as much reality as possible. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s a good thing.
But–and you knew I had one—is there a limit to what you should include in your stories? Where does it go from being entertainment to being a “how to manual?”
Now, as publisher, I tell my authors all the time that they are NOT the moral police. They should never decide who buys their book to read. Adult romance to a 13-year-old girl? Not our decision, it is up to the parent to monitor what their kids read. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be intimately aware of what lessons we are teaching in our fiction. Oh, shush, I know we aren’t teachers, and this technically goes against the grain of what I just said, but hear me out.
I read a book quite some time ago about a young woman who fell in love with a man who had some issues. He drank too much, and he was a bit of a mean drunk. The young woman loved him in spite of this and did her best to get him to change his ways and be her man. Well, she won half the battle. They did quickly fall into bed, but he was horribly mean to her. He hit her a couple of times and then of course became the mirror of self-deprecating remorse—on the surface. He eventually did it again. The story goes on, he simmers down a little bit and we get a hint that maybe he doesn’t really want to hurt her, but we never see an actual change in him. We never got to see the consequences of his actions for him. Bottom line was, he was bad and got the girl anyway.
Coming from a series of abusive relationships myself, I found this QUITE disturbing. In our books, there must be consequences for all actions. Every main character must have redeeming qualities, and there must be some kind of resolution, whether good or bad. The readers deserve this.
Same thing with kid’s books, juvenile and young adult. When did it become okay to write all these books about the issues that are so critical in our society without offering some kind of lessons? Don’t get on your high horse, I am not saying they should not be written, I’m just asking if maybe we should spend a little more time ensuring that when we have a teen on a killing spree that the teen get what they deserve. Suicide? Come on people, it is not glamorous and it should not be treated as such. Teen drinking and drugs? I love Gossip Girl as much as the next person, but rarely are there consequences for these kids’ actions.
I know it’s out there, but do you really want your kids to think it is cool? Do you want your kids to know that they can just go out and find a fake ID to get in bars and buy booze? Or would you rather they learn that if they do, they WILL get caught and they will have to pay a huge price for their efforts?
By now you must be wondering f I have lost my mind. If we spend all our time worrying about crap like this what the heck is it going to do to our stories? Well, in all honesty, I hope that if even one tenth of the people who read this or get wind of it will give it a try and that their work might go on to encourage or instill some kind of useful knowledge into the mind of a kid.
As for the adult stuff, would it be a bad thing if a woman who might be in an abusive relationship herself read a romance novel and discover that she can move on or she can face the issue and make the man she loves get help and actually become worthy of her affection?
No, we are not the moral police, but we are decent human beings who use our words to enrich the lives of so many people, but often those words can harm and cause damage and we may not even know it.
Are you willing to take responsibility for your words? Does it matter to you that hundreds, hopefully hundreds of thousands of people will read your words–many of whom will be unable to differentiate them from reality?
I’m not your mother. I’m just another writer who wonders if my work has done harm or good? You might not think it’s your problem, but if you write a book where the villain, a fifteen year old boy goes on a shooting spree because his parents wouldn’t let him go to a concert, and then he gets a smack on the wrist and a hug. You may reconsider when the kid who lives next door to you is mad because his folks took his video game away so he finds a gun and starts killing neighborhood kids and they find that your book was the last one he read. And good lord, put that rotten tomato away, I am not saying it would be your fault, but it is even a realistic assumption that this could happen. As writers can we change the way readers are impacted by our work?
My current romance, DARK SHINES MY LOVE, has a character coming out of an abusive relationship and it deals with a few issues that are touchy, but I’d like to think that when someone reads this book, they will find hope and comfort in the fact that everyone deserves to be loved.
In today’s society there is so much negativity, and many stories will paint those pictures, but I hope that each of you will take the time to consider each and every aspect of your book from the view point of your readers. What is entertaining? Hey I love a good thriller, James Rollins, Andrew Gross, and John Gilstrap are among my current favorites, but even in their “shoot e’m up, kill ’em dead” books, there are consequences for every action, and the killing is a necessity of the story, not simply a glorified act of violence.
It’s just something to think about. You may become hurling your responses at me now.
About the Author:
Karen L. Syed is the president and COO of Echelon Press, LLC. Every day is a new success story for her as she continues to grow herself and her business. She has seen eight of her own novels published (writing as Alexis Hart), along with numerous articles and short stories. As a former bookstore owner, she garnered a nomination from Publishers Weekly for their Bookseller of the Year award. She is committed to helping and encouraging everyone she comes in contact with to seek a healthier and more positive quality of life by reaching for their dreams. You can learn more about Karen Syed at http://klsyed.com.
About the Book:
Darkness surrounds Patric LeClerc. Blinded in a tragic accident years before, he does nothing but drive everyone away with his anger and resentment over the life he’s been cursed with. Everyone, that is, except Callie Carpenter. Desperate for a home and a job after the break-up of her dreadful marriage to a wealthy but abusive man, she tries to restore Dark Gardens Plantation to its former glory. Patric lets his guard down and shows her that deep within, a spark of warmth and humanity still glows. Soon she finds herself more interested in him as a man than a patient. When her ex threatens to take away her son, Callie and Patric join forces to try to save the boy. But can Patric’s dark past ever allow him to see Callie’s love for him, or will he drive her away as well, for having come too close to the true, if vulnerable, Patric LeClerc?
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