I got a deep one for you... Personal, even.
Does anyone have ethical or moral issues when writing their antagonists? I write from shifting PoV. One of my fav. characters is an amazing person. I'd cover her tab if we ever met, that's how much I like her. One is from a unique way of life and he can seem a little... well, lets just say he's not politically correct, but you can look beyond most of his stuff. One of the guys is a total jerk-face. As in, if he were on fire -- you'd stop and take a picture with your camera phone. Writing from his PoV, I always feel slimy afterwards.
I refused to give my Grans a copy of my book and I've gotten some interesting "suggestions" about my next novel from some in my church. (Did I mention I like to write Horror for some odd reason? I've tried the other stuff...)Something related has come up two different times at kiddie functions after the local papers did an interview and put it on front page saying I was exploring the "Dark Side".
There are clear divisions between good and evil in my writing, and I'm very pro-good. ---Until I'm writing as my bad guy.
Has anyone had to deal with people treating them a little differently after reading their work? Has anyone had to defend their writing in an ethical light and not just a literary one?
I had a similar situation when my test readers told me they just could not swallow one of my main characters defending (as a lawyer for Mages) a person who was being charged with Rape. It was meant to be a strange situation when it was unclear if the person should be found guilty as they had used magic which accidentally ended up with consent that would otherwise not have been given (magic was meant to do something different originally).
Two of my test readers said they would stop reading a book about a character who would defend such a person, let alone accept the 'rapist' as a victim of a corrupt court system. Took me quite by surprise.
Also have interesting Church debates as my stuff is worse than Rowling (though not as bad as Pullman).
Lawyers do have to defend some pretty disgusting people, so why shouldn't a fictional lawyer defend a rapist? Maybe go into their feelings about it a bit. I think we have to be honest in writing, and describe the ugly at times, as well as the nicer stuff.
I have problems myself, writing about battles and atrocities, but atrocities are probably universal in war, and I've created a situation which makes them inevitable, so they have to happen. It probably makes my WIP a bit of an anti-war novel, but there's nothing wrong with that! I just hate writing the stuff though.
I actually enjoy writing my more deranged characters. Though, after my first novel, I looked back over it and had to ask my wife if I was a sick person for some of the things I thought up.
Posts: 487 | Registered: Mar 2008
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It's not just fictional lawyers to defend alleged rapists. At the risk of hijacking this thread or maybe not, I think it swings back around but . . .
If you talk to defense attorney's many of them will tell you that what thier client is alleged to do rarely affects the representation. It can't. Or if it does, you better be moving to get out of the case. They might not like the person. They may think the person is a waste of breath BUT they have a job. But, they too can get unhinged or too uncomfortable with a client. One attorney I know who did criminal defense work for years will tell you that the ONLY case he withdrew on was for an alleged drug dealer. Not because of the charges but because the defendant refused to tell anyone where a farm he owned was (the government was looking to confiscate it as fruits of the drug trade) and several horses staved to death before the farm was found. The other time I've seen a defense attorney get unhinged was when the defendant really hadn't done the particular crime they were charged with or was so young and emotionally damaged that the death penalty (which was likely) really wasn't appropriate. The fight in the last one was not to get him acquitted, the client had killed or been part of killing lots of people, but to prevent the death sentance.
Defense attorneys almost always are asked HOW they could defend that XY. Some have fairly creative answers but it mostly breaks down to: If you were charged with a crime, wouldn't you want someone like me to protect you? If I'm here for the ones the government can't prove their case against, then I have to be here for the ones the government can.
Lawyers have to maintain a level of emotional distance from their clients, whether criminal defendants or corporate executives trying to buy a new office building. Frankly, it's what the client pays us for. But, sure, there are some that get to you.
Writers need to maintain that same distance from characters they don't identify with. You have to write about the serial killer without your own prejudices overly shading it. Whether you show the killing and/or the level of detail if you do are the editorial brakes you put on the story but not the character.
Yes, having people read what you write can change the way they think about you. Stephen Horn gives a seminar on writing. One of his "war stories" is about his first novel (which went NY Times Best Seller). In it there is a short sex scene. He said if he knew that people were going to measure him based on the scene, it would have been 30 pages long!
In addition to the fantasy WIPs I'm working on, I also have an erotic genre story. That one often brings questions from readers from a moral/ethical standpoint as well as the "YOU wrote this?" question (Velma from Scooby Doo and I have more than passing physical similarities. You'd think people would figure out there's a bit more there though since my avatar on LH and other sites is often a nymph. Oh well.) Anyway, the research was . . . educational and eye opening. It made me rethink a lot of my previous ideas about a certain lifestyle.
That WIP isn't one that get circulated to the world. Generally though, I don't defend it. Either someone can accept that just because you are writing about something doesn't mean you are advocating for it. Or not. Those people in the last group can't be convinced. The people who are the "bad guys" in the story are people who are part of the system of law and order.
Reagansgame - if you're feeling slimy afterwards, you probably are doing a good job writing the character. If you feel that way, how's the reader going to feel? But if you need his POV, you need to do it.
If you're dealing with a sensitive topic like rape or abortion, you are going to cross lines some people aren't wiling to cross. Don't worry about them. They aren't your audience anyway.
_ Darned "effect" v. "affect"
[This message has been edited by kings_falcon (edited August 21, 2008).]
I tried multiple viewpoints way back...but all I learned was that I find it best to stick to one viewpoint throughout, even for novels. (Best for me, that is.) A couple of times I've had lapses, but, on the whole, that's what I do.
Then again, they're generally the heroes, and if there's an antagonist (instead of, say, forces of nature opposing the hero), I rarely get into their heads. Besides, I've taken a much-more-recent pledge to stick with sympathetic characters in the leading roles...I figure if the market reader likes my main character, I've got a better shot at acceptance...
I like multiple viewpoints. Both as a writer and as a reader. One viewpoint can get tiresome, but several can be fresh and interesting. Just don't have too many. Too many defined as giving us viewpoints of characters we cannot relate to in any way, or can't find a single likable thing about them. We have to care about them, on some level. Even if they're dark and twisted, we still need to see their humanity. To understand why they do what they do.
[This message has been edited by Zero (edited August 21, 2008).]
I get it about the lawyer. I've had to explain too many things that I've spent hours researching to people who read just my take on the research and questioned. Besides, without rapists and murders and insurance companies and bad people in general, lawyers wouldn't be what they are.
effect v. affect gets me every freaking time. And when I try to stop to think about it, I end up going round and round. That's why I have a great editor! (But not on here, sorry)
I've never really thought about it, so perhaps I've been doing it wrong all the time.
Effect is a noun, right, as in something that has been altered, changed, or influenced in some way. Affect is a verb, as in to alter, change, or influence something. So when meaning the verb it's "affect" and when meaning the noun it's "effect" ... but then there's that whole business with adjectives and adverbs, effective and effectively ... well I give up.
[This message has been edited by Zero (edited August 21, 2008).]
Two things come to mind reading through all the posts in this thread:
1) I believe it depends on a person's morals as to what they can stand to write when it comes to the antagonist doing horrendous deeds or not. I think we've all wanted to do terrible things to someone who has succeeded in getting us in such a rage that we see red. I'm sure everyone has had such thoughts at one time or another. And sometimes it's a good thing to let the devil out of the box that lurks within us all and run with it.
My one novel starts with a slave girl who humiliates her master in front of the most prominent personages of three different countries. He physically punishes her right in front of everyone for her actions to the point that she can't stand up. Then, she's taken to the whipping post to be flogged and then is brutally raped in accordance to her masters orders. All this is necessary or there wouldn't be any story. I found myself really getting into the character of the slave girl. She's my POV, and I could almost feel her pain all the way through my writing. The more exciting it became, the more furious I was typing it. It was like a huge adrenaline surge. And when the scene was finished, it was like WOW! Anyway, that's the way I felt at the time.
2) I like to use different POV's in my novels because there are some things vital to the story that one POV wouldn't experience. It would leave big gaping holes in some of my stories that would be very hard to express through a single POV. So, to my way of thinking, it makes the story(and the characters, too ) much stronger, much more believable, and much clearer to understand.
quote:Effect is a noun, right, as in something that has been altered, changed, or influenced in some way. Affect is a verb, as in to alter, change, or influence something. So when meaning the verb it's "affect" and when meaning the noun it's "effect"
Both words are both nouns and verbs.
Something that changes has an effect on something. So an effect is the change, so to speak, the outward sign of something. But you can effect change, meaning, you can bring about change.
An affect is... hm, I'll defer to Merriam Webster here: the conscious subjective aspect of an emotion considered apart from bodily changes; also : a set of observable manifestations of a subjectively experienced emotion.
When you affect something, you change it, you produce an effect on something. But you can also affect an emotion, like affecting affection... that sort of thing.
The affect of this discussion has effectively effected confunsion. Thank-you. I hope this has been as effectual for everyone else... Ah, there's my tail. I'm going to resume chasing it now.
Posts: 243 | Registered: Aug 2008
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If you did the research, then you don't have to justify it. Even when you depart from it. Take those people who argue with the details with a grain of salt. Part of the quibbling is showing off and part is generally because of they spent the time to learn about the area, they have a genuine interest about it.
Those who quibble about WHAT the character is doing or HOW could you write from that POV, although they won't say it that way, are a different lot. Stephen King writes horror but no one thinks that he'd actually do the things some of his characters do. Just gently remind those people that just because you wrote it isn't truely a statement about what you condone or would do.
I'm fairly certain that most people don't think that I would take a baseball bat to someone's face, but I live in a very, very rural Bible belt area. There's an old house down the way that has an entire wall of 'coon pelts nailed to the side of it, if I leave the house, I see someone I know and there's a 50% chance, that person will know some embarassing story about something I did while still in diapers. You see? This isn't a coffee shop in Big Sur. So, I can't just intellectualize so simply. (AS IN -- IT'S JUST A FREAKING STORY) because that would take away the juicy factor in the gossip. I do think my main character is a butthead, I Loathe Him, too! But when I explain this, I get the "Well you made him that way, Couldn't you write him a little less... fill in the blank". And I start to wonder, well, I suppose so, but then I think No! That's not Sam, That's not how he do!
It gets old. Not many have even read the story. But I get a "Hey, heard you wrote a book and chopped some'un's head off." about twice a month, and I don't exactly know what to say. "That's right" isn't, because I didn't decapitate anyone. So, I kinda just quit saying much of anything.
I wrote a column for a weekly tabloid format newspaper once upon a time. Politics forced the closing of the paper. Since then my fans have asked when I'll write again. I've been surprised by the quantity of readers who really enjoyed what I wrote. It drove up my currency in the community. A few have ragged on what I wrote, but I successfully avoided controversy. Controversy followed me anyway. The other community papers refuse to accept any of my nonfiction essays due to the very politics that forced the closing of the one that I wrote for. Guilty by association, even though before I worked for that one, they bought my columns.
Okay. That's the backstory. My response to my fans is also intended not to stir up controversy. I say, thank you for your kind words, but other priorities have taken up my interest for now. So to anyone who doesn't buy and read the novel, anyone who's looking to stir up controversy or criticize what they haven't read, I'd say, thank you. I'm happy you found it to be an interesting and dramatic story. I look forward to your comments on my next novel. Or some such...
[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited August 23, 2008).]
A slight slide...I may have mentioned this before, but there are people here who weren't around when I did...but in the days when I was involved in an Internet Fan Fiction community, there was a lengthy and ongoing debate on one piece of fan fiction, the plot involving a brutal rape and subsequent events.
There was a lot of discussion and a good deal of flame wars and one big bucketload of ill feeling, basically because some people equated the act of rape with the act of writing about rape. Those of us (including me, though I came to the table about halfway through) who did not see it that way found it ultimately impossible to sell our viewpoint that rape and writing about rape were not one and the same.
Ultimately, I see that, no matter what brutal or vile thing one writes about, somebody somewhere will read that as one's approval of that particular thing. They won't accept it as "just a freaking story," no matter what you tell them.
I like the idea of thanking them. That's a good one. I think I'll hone it for my particular situation.
It feels like one area of my life has kinda been closed off to me. I don't want my kids to grow up with people thinking they live in a house full of cob webs and wax covered skulls... I hate the "dark side" label. I use swears like good grief and don't like killing spiders. I'm not a dark person.
I guess it was the shock of people knowing me (I'm a volunteer working, food pyramid abiding, church going, gym member with kids in private school, cheerleading, dance, etc) and then reading the book or the front page article that started people acting differently. And its not all bad, but there has been a definate snubbing, like that changes who I am. (http://baldwincountynow.com/articles/2008/05/18/arts_and_entertainment/doc4824986c24b7d766027303.txt)
That shmoozing idea though, yeah, I can work with that.
I keep debating whether or not to say anything because, lately, I don't feel like anyone on Hatrack really wants to hear what I have to say. But I guess I'll go ahead and give you my opinion.
As I believe someone else pointed out, if you feel slimy after writing the bad guys POV (and you wrote the section well), imagine what your readers feel like after reading his POV sections. When you read a book, which character POVs do you like reading--the "amazing person"/heroine or the jerk/slimy fellow? Personally, I suggest really, really thinking about just how vital it is to use this slimy fellow as a POV character if he's turning off your target audience readers. Or perhaps cut down the amount of time spent in his POV since small, infrequent doses are easier for a reader to handle.
Why are you upset that a page said you were exploring the "dark side" (by which I took it to mean "exploring in your book the dark side of human nature"). From the description of your book, it sounds like that's exactly what you did. The article didn't say anywhere that you were exactly like your MC or that you were dark. Though it's slightly possible that, due to the fact the story has the author taking on the MC's bad characteristics, you sold your idea too well and now people are keeping an eye on you 'just in case.' Just teasing.
I suspect that's not the problem, though. If people are treating you differently, you might ask yourself if you are treating them differently. It's strange how that can work: someone acts stupid, then you go around acting differently/defensively because you're wondering if others will do the same, and then they react differently to you because you're acting differently, and so you think they're secretly agreeing with that first person, and so on. I'd suggest assuming the best about people, act like normal, and people will realize you haven't changed.
However, it's also possible people who read your book are a little uncomfortable around you. After all, generally people don't want to be sunk into the mind of an "evil" person or be reminded how easily a "normal" person can do horrible things given the right circumstances.
As for people being surprised you could write "such a book," I wouldn't worry about it if I were you. It just means they had a really high opinion of how...pure...you are, not that they now think you're just like your main character.
It's funny how many people think I know nothing about the shadier side of human nature, yet I'm the exact same person people come to to tell all the horrors they've seen. They are afraid if they tell other people, they'll be judged or treated differently. Throw in that I've been a pen pal to about 25 inmates and a number of active military personal, and you can imagine the crud that gets stuck in my mind. I've written some stories that use this knowledge and are rather dark. It startled a lot of my friends, but they were at least kind enough to chalk it up to the prison ministry I do. But I also quickly found that most people don't want to hear about the crud of life--from friends or in fiction. Maybe that's another reason people come to me when they need to unload the crud--I'll listen.
Anyway, this is getting a bit long, so I'll wrap up. It sounds like you write very well since you get such strong reactions, but your stories may never attract a large audience. People might like to be scared (by going into haunted houses, taking rollercoasters, surfing big waves, reading horror stories about axe killers out to get the heroine, etc.), but very few people like to face head-on the depths that humans can sink to.
[This message has been edited by DebbieKW (edited August 24, 2008).]
I'm horribly paranoid about the whole thing. That can't be good for the "I'm not scary" campaign I've got going, huh? Paranoids are usually the ones with a couple of extra detonators in the van just in case the aliens finally make themselves known.
I gotta watch that. I'm still Rachael from the block, so I guess I should stop being defensive.
I feel slimy after hanging with Sam, but I can't tell the story without it. And, I have to tell the story...
It can't just be me who feels like when you write, you're really just putting yourself out there. It's like going to a nudie beach for the mind. Okay, so it is only technically 'just a freaking story', because as I mentioned in the starting with characters thread, there's so much of who I am in my writing.
I like who I am = I like what I write.
This has been interesting and has helped out. I've just got to quit worrying about it. The goal as a writer is to be read, yeah? Critcs are readers.
Regansgame - you have hit on something I don't think we talk about here on Hatrack or elsewhere enough. Writing *is* putting it all out there (worthy of it's own topic now that I think of it). While that is liberating and exciting, I also find it incredibly exposing. Writing is so much a product of yourself, your imagination, your thought processes, your grasp of grammar and language and literature, etc. etc. I know of nothing else that feels this ... raw to me, although to be fair I'm not an artist skilled in many different mediums.
Anyway - writing *is* putting ourselves all out there. It's one reason I tend to shy away from writing in first person, it feels too close to me, too exposed. I can see how an article like this in your local small-town newspaper might make you feel like people are thinking about you differently or treating you differently. I think Miss Manners has some good general advice about this kind of situation which is to always act as though the person you are talking to holds you in high regard, and give them the sense that you hold them in high regard, as it would be exceedingly impolite to do anything else. Act as though everyone thinks you're a lovely person, and you may be surprised.
I guess my point is to not let your own fears about your writing/others' opinions about your writing/how much of yourself your writing reveals leak over into your dealings with people you see casually. Assume they think you're lovely, smile and thank them graciously for their interest in your writing career, laugh about how interesting it is to write the "good guys and the bad guys" and keep moving on.
If you haven't yet, I recommend On Writing, by Stephen King. In particular there's this amazing part in the end of the book when he's talking about that horrible accident a number of years ago when he was hit by a car while out for his daily walk. He describes how he comes to after the accident, sees the driver of the van that hit him, and thinks to himself "holy crap - I've been hit by a character from one of my books." He looked at his world of writing and his real world and saw the disconnect of a character from one of his books being in the real world - even while mostly unconscious from an accident. Funny. The whole book is really interesting. If you haven't encountered it, I highly recommend it.