Hello, bookish folks! In this particular case, writers folks! Today is time for a discussion. I think that, in terms of writing theories, is one of the most difficult I ever wrote.
It can lead to arguments and can even be defined controversial? To be honest, I do not think I’m going to let you read something incredibly blowminding, but sometimes, in the middle of all the discussion we get around, we may miss some important and interesting details.
The topic I’m going to discuss is pretty much… enormous? I can in every direction with that. I hope you all get is as a sort of ideas/speculation, since this can change from writer to writer and how they write. Also, since around there are so many bad takes *side eyes the romance discussion (yes, one day I’m gonna talk about it too)*, maybe I can allow myself to risk a bit with this topic.
The title of this post is pretty vague. What am I referring to? Well, everything. But with a focus on the writers’ believes and views on the world, how they behave and think. Because yes, as much as it’s the writer job to create even something “other” of themselves, a mark of some kind remain on the pages.
Such point also relate to the famous discussion of separating the art from the artist. While, again, this post won’t discuss directly such issue, I feel that is important to focus on how such statement heavily revolve around our own privilege and pleasure to consume something because we like and putting the problematic in a corner. But everything we consume is the product of people and therefore it doesn’t come out clean of good and bad ideas, views, influences, backgrounds… Same reasons why every choice we do, both as reader and writers, has consequences outside our own reading/writing space.
First of all, I want to start with the mini debunking of a phrase I always found terribly irritating: “An author/ a book with an agenda.” Everytime I read it, I feel my eyes rolling very hard, because many books out there have an agenda.
SOME WRITERS OUT THERE
Usually, with “having an agenda”, our mind goes to something dark and nasty. I must say that I’ve seen many and many times the phrase being used by white religious people who felt attacked by non-religious tones of the book.
I think it’s pretty clear that all around us, books seems to have a first motive: a story, characters, representation… Also, every book carry a moral, a theme, a topic. In a way or another the book end up having a little agenda. The novel can spread awareness, can highlight our society issue and much more. This may not be the first intent of the story, but totally end up being part of it.
Using phrases like those, imply that the book is doing something bad. In worst cases it’s used by bigot to do not confront what is written in a book. In others the ill meaning can make sense, since the author may use their work to express bigots, ignorance or any form of oppression they think to be legit.
No book comes empty to the reader. The concept can be got as it’s, added, removed, changed around and argued in a way to fit with what the reader agree or disagree
I always found fascinating that many people, despite following our world moral and law established rules, detain what we can definite as grey morality. Such people can be me (and I confirm I’m) or you, dear post’s readers. I do not agree on certain things we repute moral and right in my country. Sometimes this clash with my political view and with the feminist current I adhere the most (disclaimer: please do not make assumption about such topic. It’s mostly about how I do not share some views of the american feminism). But I’m aware of myself and I always ask questions about it, doing introspection over introspection.
Despite all, a part of this always slip out. In a way or another, our words, views and other things definitely show up in our every day life, in the way we read a book, watch a film, observe a form of art. And definitely we may do that with what we writes.
PROBABLY EVERY READER WHEN THE TOPIC GET TOO PERSONAL TO THE AUTHOR AND THAT’S VERY CLEAR
We can try to distance ourself from our own work, but very novel still have the mark of an author. It can be in the characters and the style but also in the message it propose. I hardly see a writer creating something completely opposite to their views, something they despise. Unless they’re doing it on purpose, while also finding balance in their works.
From what happens in a book, from what the characters say and do, we can understand many things about the creator. Even if they don’t say it out loud, such reference to their own views remain on the page.
I can make the example of a writer, Elizabeth May. During a Twitter discussion, she showed a piece of her novel in which it was all about a romance scene that involved the consent, expressed with characters’ dialogues. The author is always very passionate about consent and I deeply love her for that. So, while the theme of consent wasn’t treated… like in an essay? – it was definitely present on the page.
Another more consistent example verge on the conference I went to for seeing Laini Taylor. During the even, a girl asked an interesting question. Or, for being precise, she affirmed how a character could not being forgiven for what they had done. Taylor gave an answer that is probably present in her book too.
Now, I want you all to consider this as a speculation that I’m using just as an example. I did not read the book in question and I cannot express myself on such stance being true or not.
Anyway, part of Taylor’s answer reached to me in way that talked about how terrible people, became such or acted in cruel ways, duo of a traumatic past or a series of events that lead them to become such. Therefore, in a certain way, they may be victims too. A part of me also got this answer as a move towards a sort of forgiveness.
Do I personally agree? Not at all. But this is behind me, this is about what the author may have put in the pages. The girl question/affirmation and Laini Taylor’s answer, makes me think that in the book such idea and moral is perpetuated. Maybe with the plot, maybe with the characters’ voices, choices, paths.
At the same time, while as I said I’m definitely not the forgiving type, I know enough to understand that this does not mean that an author, whom may give a similar answer to a similar question, support a villain. Okay, I admit that for me forgiveness and supporting goes hand in hand, but this is about what happens in real life and where our choices have consequences and may turn our back to whom is a victim or in need of help. Fiction is another thing, because it give us the possibility to play and even betray a little what we usually believe in. Or even to change what we believe in.
So, seeing an author writing about something they really don’t believe, looks pretty hard. Does it mean that everything the author write is what they believe in? No, but is possible that when one character stand up to a point, another will stand up to something else. Maybe one of the two is related to the author thinking more than the other.
WHAT WE SHOULD ALWAYS KEEP IN MY MIND WHEN WE WRITE
I think such discourse can also lead to the topic of author that writes “fucked up things”, aware of such. For example, Sarah Porter’s last published book was really disturbing. Looks like her upcoming book is very disturbing too. To a question about if she was aware of the disturbing content of the book, she answered that “yes, she was”. Does that mean that she condone it? Personally speaking, I don’t think so.
The discussion can also bond with the interesting topic about how writing what we consider a problematic scene is not about closing on eye on such problematic. Sometimes a bad things just happen. What plays an important part is how such topic get handled: is that just a plot point? Or an over used trope? Or is straight up never called out? Does it have consequences?
It’s a slippery path because it can get an escape for writer that perpetrate problematic examples and stories. My bright side confide in people discernment.
Despite the fact that many authors are also vocal about the issue they write down, I feel like some darker side about such remain untouched. For example: how much the author is actually sympathizing with what is portrayed as bad? When it comes to matter such a justice, punishment, vengeance, moral choices, the question is particularly insidious and maybe it’s okay if we never get the answers.
And while some of us prefer to never dig deeper with the authors they read, I feel like it’s important, sometimes, to stop and ask ourself such question. Even if the result may not be what we would have like.