Writing Dangerously

One of my social media groups was discussing an interesting topic the other day. One that I have an opinion about, as a matter of fact. Here’s the question that started the thread (I’ve paraphrased it):

Due to my trepidation about being attacked by members of another group for asking about this, I’ve come here to ask: How important is message in stories? There is a general relationship between message and theme, but I’d like to know how much of your personal or social values do you put in your writing?

I read through the thread and concluded that in general, the consensus was it’s okay to put your values in your stories as long as you don’t preach and actively shove them in the reader’s face. The responses were thoughtful and not hysterical. (You can see why I favor that particular group.)

Here’s my personal opinion on the question:

You cannot help but instill at least part of your own values in a story since your values are both a result and a cause of how you view the world and your worldview informs your imagination.

I’m not saying it cannot be done, but I think it shouldn’t. Trying to suppress who you are while writing is tantamount to lying to your readers. I think they will, at some level, realize that and feel your story is inauthentic. That may be enough to steer them away from your work in the future. That is a result an author should strive to avoid.

On the other hand, I think you shouldn’t proselytize. That quickly gets boring for most readers and at least some of today’s readers have become sensitized by both cultural trends and education to the point that they find something to offend them in any opinion or story that varies from what they’ve been taught.

Styles of writing change and evolve, however. Modern fiction is mostly intended to entertain, but in the past, novels focused on particular values and often dropped them with all of the subtlety of hitting the reader on the head with a hod of bricks. Mark Twain used this analogy in one of his essays wherein he writes of a man who was killed by a bricklayer’s apprentice accidentally dropping his load from the roof. Twain wrote that humans were susceptible to such events, but dogs were not. That is because, as he observed, a dog would know enough to look up and would then get out of the way.

I would suggest that same foresight on the part of overly sensitive individuals would forestall a lot of the criticism directed at authors who don’t follow popular guidelines. In other words, if the book offends you, just put it down, but at least have the grace to allow others to make up their own minds about the value therein. Screaming for help and working to assemble a group attack on the author is the act of a cultural barbarian. If humans always condemned creative or different ideas, we would be sitting in a cave watching a fire and scratching flea bites.

I would argue that communicating cultural values is the main point of telling stories. Authors write stories because they love to entertain others (and would like to make money at it). They usually don’t set out to create morality plays, except in the case of some factions. There are specific groups who are actively writing science fiction and fantasy (I speak of the genre in which I write since I don’t read much else) who find it necessary to slam the reader in the face with their ideas about inclusiveness and diversity. Generally speaking, I find that such tales quickly become tedious and are often unreadable. However, I will defend the author’s right to write what they want. Let them proceed and let the market sort out the winning stories from the losers.

Let’s approach the issue from another angle. It is possible to gradually move your readers’ worldview, provided you tell a compelling story. That’s why I opt for positive character arcs that allow the protagonist to develop more self-responsibility. I firmly believe that is the first step in taking control of your life–stop being a victim of circumstances and others. Victims languish and complain. Those who have a modicum of self-responsibility will take action to change their results in life. There is no honor or glory in allowing oneself to be a victim since we always have a choice.

I firmly believe that a great author will always intend that some good come to the reader from the story. I realize that this is subject to challenge, but, overall, I think it is true. It’s just that “good” can be defined in so many different ways. Readers of horror stories find some value for which they seek, just as do readers of inspirational literature.

This viewpoint has gotten me in trouble with some ideological readers who are intolerant of any challenges to their worldview. (Fair warning: My stories are based on my love of self-responsibility, liberty, and the belief that reality is what it is and cannot be denied.) That bothered me at first because I naturally want to please everyone. Then I decided that my primary position is that if they opt to be offended, it’s their choice, not mine. I’ve found that anything in life that you cannot handle — anything that upsets you — will continue to present itself until you learn to deal with it with equanimity. As a result of my decision, I sometimes describe myself as a “dangerous” writer in the hopes that sensitive types will be warned.

As an object lesson, consider that cats always try to sit on the lap of the person in a group who most dislikes them. They’re brilliant that way and will go to great effort to help humans cope with their biases. Some dogs do the same, but with less regularity and forcefulness. Basically, the correct response here is to accept the cat’s attention and pet them. They will consider that their job is done and get on with other catness-related activities.

Ignoring them can work, but they can become importunate. In that case, you can always leave.

This last strategy also applies to critics. The general rule that all writers should understand is basically the same one that should be used with trolls in comment threads. That is to say, don’t engage with anyone who gives a hateful review. It only serves to validate their feeling of self-righteousness and stimulate them to further attacks. Of course, ignoring them may incite them also, but you don’t have to suffer their insults that way.

A person actively decides to be insulted or to ignore perceived slights. One can be offended by an entirely innocent remark directed at someone else, but that is a choice, not a mandatory requirement. Many people don’t understand that self-responsibility is a requirement for personal growth, civil discourse, and progress.

Here’s the takeaway point: if this post makes you angry … you (it’s not my responsibility) have to work on some issues:-)

Namaste!

 

Some observations on Reader Feedback

It’s funny how many people read my books and yet fail to leave a review or even rate them. Amazon seems to run on ratings and I have very few. I keep searching for ways to get more, but nothing seems to work very well.

I read every reader’s comments, good and not so good, even the ones from would-be readers who are horribly offended by something I wrote. I’m sorry about that, but I’m not a ‘safe’ writer. I deal with reality as I see it and few topics are out of bounds as long as I’m enjoying the story I’m telling. Most readers seem to expect a riveting tale and various types of mayhem mixed with a little sex doesn’t offend them. I don’t pull punches, although I haven’t “killed the dog” yet (advice that is often offered to writers: Don’t kill the dog.” That’s probably because dogs don’t like that – neither do people. I don’t kill cats either, just in case you were wondering.) I just keep trying to become a better writer and tell compelling stories.

I’ve come to the conclusion that a reader shouldn’t have to leave a review – it’s an imposition to ask for some of someone’s time in this busy world. I opt out of Internet surveys from vendors when I can, so I can sympathize with my readers.

My only request is, if you like my stories, then please recommend them to your friends. I spend months creating the best story I can for my novels and then spend a lot on cover art and editing, because I’m dedicated to providing you with the best reading experience possible.

I still love feedback, though:-)

Namaste
Eric
—————————-
Here’s a review of my most recent novel: Cyber-Witch. The first cover didn’t work and I got very few sales. I’ve now changed the cover to one more representative of the cyber-punk genre andCyber Witch thumbnai newl I’m currently working on a sequel to this tale, since the characters weren’t content with where I left them.

***** 4.0 out of 5 stars
A thrilling cyberpunk tale
February 18, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition
In the not-too-distant future, Sophie, a young woman with a debilitating addiction to opiates, finds a new chance at life in a good Samaritan who takes her in and helps her battle her addiction. Cal, a hacker, also teaches Sophie how to code, and she soon becomes a decent hacker as well. But their cyber-adventures lead them to cross the wrong people… which leads to devastating consequences. Determined to get revenge, Sophie infiltrates the powerful company behind the attack — and learns that there’s more at stake than she bargained for.

Cyber Witch is a thrilling cyberpunk tale full of twists and turns. Sophie is an unlikely and sympathetic heroine — one who must battle personal demons as well as the external forces she stumbles upon. I don’t want to say too much about what happens because a great part of the thrill lies in the unexpected twists, but suffice it to say that this story didn’t go the way I thought it would… in a good way.

 ————————-

Review from Amazon UK for All the Moments in Forever

chapter-7-illustration-cadeyrin

Cadeyrin

Thanks to LewLew for caring enough to spend the time to write a comprehensive review of All the Moments in Forever without (many) spoilers.

The criticism in the last part is accepted, but, although one would wish to change human nature, violence is all too common. I try to make my stories as realistic as I can (within the lack of confines allowed by science fiction), so guns are common. From Kathleen’s viewpoint, a firearm provides much needed security. She’s good, but she’s not strong enough to physically fight off men and fierce animals.

As to the question of paleontologists finding a fossil with bullet holes, I suspect the holes would simply be ascribed to tooth marks by a heretofore unknown predator. Dinosaur bones have been found with holes made by predator bites, so why not a high power rifle? The brass and bullet fragments? Maybe a problem, but what scientist doesn’t like a good mystery?

Oh, btw, I immediately addressed the name issue. I was inexcusably sloppy on that one.

Thanks again,

Eric

Here’s the review:

5.0 out of 5 stars
Great! Heart of Fire Time of Ice, blended with Paradox: On the Sharp Edge of the Blade3 September 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
|
Verified Purchase

Ack… I missed finding this third book in the Kathleen Whitby/Logan Walker series.

The author needs to be sure to use the same name when publishing/uploading, eg he added his middle initial S and so it did not show when I searched! Also, I wish there was an Amazon based author alert system when an author you follow publishes a new book, but I do try to join mailing lists.

Anywhoo….All the Moments ticked the boxes for me. Kathleen’s time jumping talents grow, incurring the wrath of rogue US govt politicians and their minions. They are more aggressive than ever in wanting her formula. Having gotten a hold of Logan Walker’s Prof Wolf’s work, (Paradox: On the Sharp Edge of the Blade… you need to read it!) , they have been experimenting and sent an well-trained soldier back in recent time to test out the idea of causing a ‘timeline’ changing event to their advantage in the guise of the greater common good. Yeah..right. Kathleen has no interest and tells them so, but when they kidnap Caderyn after they had to return to modern times to treat serious wounds from an attack by unknown early hominids in their American idyllic time, all hell breaks loose.

New characters are introduced and Kathleen’s circle of trusted friends, and unusual ‘family’ members grows and fills her life with a lot of action, adventure, danger, but ultimately love and loyalty. This was a very good device as I wondered how they’d live without problems… just the two of them, at the end of Heart of Fire Time of Ice (first book). I am so glad that the author has left the door open for a fourth book… hopefully as the group thrives in the Sangamon (a mild and relatively safe time in prehistoric America), new challenges will arise. It can’t stay peaceful for ever now, can it LOL!

My only criticism is the casual appearance and sheer amount of fire-power that is common place in America that anyone seems to be able to get a hold of. I have not lived in the US since the late 1990s, but the gun culture is a bit over-whelming for a UK reader. I have never touched a weapon even though my later brother was a veteran police officer in America. With the author’s background in martial arts, I hope for a bit more of that in the future, along with inventing some traps, etc. Guns seem to solve their problems too easily. I wonder that the regular use of modern weapons cannot but help to have an effect on the timeline. What happens someday when a prehistoric fossil is found with bullet holes and casings!

No matter… write on, and on, and on please!! 🙂 🙂

Kathleen cameo ready

Kathleen