Writing and Self Censorship

Adventures in novel writing.

This really applies across the entire spectrum of writing –blogging to novel writing and everything in between.

I wrote a post a few months ago called Writing Romance In the #MeToo Era. In summary, the post was about how we as writers need to be conscious of how we portray the development of a romance, not as semi-stalker behavior (guy chases girl until she finally gives in) but in a healthy way (still can be exciting). There is one thing that has been rattling around in the back of my head since I wrote that piece. An extension, if you will, of the idea that writers have responsibility to the reader. In the context of my previous post, I still believe that is true. But…

There is a difference between writing an uncomfortable theme into a story and glorifying it. I believe in making that distinction clear. Isn’t some of the most compelling fiction that which explores the most troubling aspects of human life: heartbreak, betrayal, injustice, psychosis, and even death? How much greater is the satisfaction at the end of a story when the characters successfully overcome what seem to be the most insurmountable odds? The direst of circumstances? The writer must plumb the depths to pull the hero from the mire. And the mire might be pretty revolting.

Nevertheless, in the way that writing about a serial killer doesn’t make you one, neither does writing about any other abhorrent behavior make you guilty of that particular sin. In this confusing atmosphere of political correctness, we may feel the heat of closer scrutiny. It is my personal feeling that even truly awful themes can be explored and written about with tact and style rather than shock and vulgarity. However, not every writer will have the same set of standards or comfort level. Fortunately, we each have the right to set our own. But as a reader and viewer, I always have the option to look away.

14 thoughts on “Writing and Self Censorship

  1. I’m with you on tackling touchy subjects. Life is messy, and the stories should reflect that with the characters. Tactfully, of course. But shying away from the mess isn’t always believable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Guy chases girl is still romantic, IMO. Along came Polly is a good example, and I don’t think it’s offensive to anyone. Sometimes vulgarity as a theme can be offensive, too, but also integral to the story. Silence of the Lambs comes to mind. But to your point, being a great storyteller and writing about the dark side doesn’t make you complicit in any way. It only means that you’re a great writer.

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    1. That’s it exactly, Rob. No one would accuse Robert Harris of glorifying cannibalism. (I hope!) And yet he makes Lechter an absolutely fascinating and compelling character. Its a weird world for artists and writers at the moment. There is a sense of having to tread carefully lest you step on someone’s toes. That rarely leads to innovation. 😕

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  3. One of my favourite books as a teenager was an historical romance whose main characters fell in love after he raped her. I’m sure we would question that these days.
    I watched the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last night (Daniel Craig version) I was so uncomfortable with the initial rape scene it was really graphic. I read the book a while ago, but it did make me think about the female actor who had to act such an awful scene.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That sounds like a Victoria Holt novel I read! There’s no way that would fly today. And I’ve often wondered about actors that have to portray rape on screen. It must be gut wrenching. Thank you for your thoughts, Ruby!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Kathleen E Woodiwiss! I was 18 and read the book overnight as I couldn’t put it down! I bought her books again a couple of summers ago – brought back a lot of memories.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. This is such a complicated issue… so many things need to be considered in time and in context. There are many facets not just two sides. I try to address this from a writer’s view but to expound on the entire subject would take more than a meager post like this one to cover!

      Liked by 1 person

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