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Monday, May 21, 2012

What My Job Is...

So... this was on Cassandra Clare's website:

When you’re writing books, it’s part of your job to write about things like rape, like sexual assault, like self-mutilation, like torture, like war crimes. Because it’s your job as a writer, even if you’re writing fantasy, to reflect reality.

And I'll preface the rest of this discussion by saying I agree with her 100% on everything else she says. But this, this struck me as wrong.

It is not my job as an author to be your moral compass. It isn't my job to introduce anyone to anything, or censor anything, or sugar coat anything. Unless I'm writing non-fiction my job is to tell a story.

I'm not even sure I can agree with Mz. Clare on reflecting reality. I'm not a satirist. I'm not trying to poke fun at the establishment. I'm writing a story. It's that simple and that complex. What a you get out of the story as a reader depends entirely on what you bring with you. It's the Lothlorien Truth, what you bring is what you find.

Are there authors that I personally feel go to far? There are. You've probably seen my rant against rape-as-romance once or twice on Twitter. I don't care for incest, non-consensual sex in any form, date-rape, or abuse either. Those things exist in the world and those things exist in books.

Do I choose to read those books? No.

Do I choose to write those books? No.

Is it my duty as a writer to write those kinds of books? No.

Is it my duty to censor those books and shield people from these things? No. It is my privilege as a mother to help my own children find age appropriate books. It's my right as a reader to not read a book because I don't care for the content. But I don't feel it's right for me to start burning books because I disagree with their content.

What do you think? Do writers have a duty to write certain books? Where do you stand on all of this?


  1. I think ultimately when you are writing, you should use the old guide: Write the story in a way that only YOU can write it.
    Sometimes that means an uncomfortable amount of research, work, and editing, but as far as CONTENT that should be up to the writer. There are entire franchises built around certain moral ideals that may be 'unrealistic' or 'idealistic' but that doesn't make them wrong. Harry Potter told a dark enough tale, and no one in those books needed to rape anyone.
    where I stand as a writer, I've gotten advice I've had to weigh against my writing style. Namely, in the category of gore for the sake of details. I like battle scenes, I like the slash of swords and the roar of gunfire... But I can do without a detailed description of a character getting sliced open. I don't need to know how the blood looked, and if bones or organs showed... I just want to know are they dead, or if they're an important character, is this a crippling injury or will they recover? Personally I don't LIKE seeing gore all over my TV, even if I enjoy the PLOT of action movies. So while I have certain readers who might want to see more guts and blood splatter, as a writer, I choose to say no, because that isn't me. That's not what I want to READ and it isn't what I want to WRITE, and I think the story will be just fine where it is.
    It isn't any less REAL because there is less graphic horrifying detail. It's just less messy.

  2. I feel the same way you do, there are some things I prefer not to read but I neither think those topics shouldn't exist nor do I try to convince others not to enjoy them in fiction. I can see Cassandra's point, she's defending her use of content in her novel and in that regard she's right, it's her duty to write the truth of her story the way she sees it, even if some people don't like the content. But, your truth can be different, so can mine.

    Some people won't like something I put in my books, sometimes I'll see it coming and other times I'll get surprised by their choice of offending content. I guess it's pretty wonderful that we're all so different :)

  3. If I want to write (or read) about the worst parts of reality, that's what newspapers and non-fiction books are for. And reading non-fiction, you just might get riled up enough to do something about the atrocities.

    Some people read fiction to escape the worst parts of life, or at least to visit a world where everything ends happily. They need writers to write the stories they want to read, even if they aren't "realistic."

    Fortunately, I'm pretty sure there is room for both kinds of writers in the world.

  4. I read to escape the real world and to visit other worlds. As long as the author understands how the reality of his/her world works then I don't need to know or understand it. The best authors are consistent with their reality anyway.

    There have been some stories I've read where a rape is essential to the story in some way. The authors didn't need to describe them because the stories dealt with the effects of the rapes on the main characters.

    As a writer, I ask myself if I am keeping the reality of my worlds consistent and what really needs to be told in detail and what needs to be dealt with after the fact. I'm telling a story not writing a manual on how the science of my world works or just how graphic I can write scenes of rape, torture, and other atrocities.

    Unfortunately for Ms. Clare, her statement made me decide to never become one of her readers.

    1. In defense of Mz. Clare, I did read Clockwork Angel and found it an enjoyable steampunk read. Not one I am likely to reread, but a good story. Dear Husband enjoyed the books a lot more.

    2. To be fair, I did read her article first and it was well written and makes some very good points. However, I have had enough trauma in my own life that I try not to read books containing it. I know I miss out on some good authors but I do read to escape.

      She makes the point in her article that she writes scenes like that to depict how horrible/cruel/evil the character doing the act is - not because she condones the actions. I applaud her courage in doing so. I also realize that this was in response to emails about her current series and may not reflect on her other novels.

      That being said, I admit I tend to read lighter stuff and avoid novels and movies with graphic material. For that reason, I most likely will never read one of Ms. Clare's novels unless someone who has read it can guarantee there are no scenes I would find disturbing in it.

  5. The news media covers all these issues. I would rather not read them in a book I am reading to escape the stress of living today.
    I do not read books like this and neither do I write books about this.
    I think my books should bring enjoyment, with a laugh here and there.
    Our world needs more laughter, smiles and a good story.