I’ve been thinking a lot about whether or not a writer should write in such a way that risks offending some of their readers. I know I’ve watched movies or read books where it seemed like the political or moral points were painfully transparent. People often say they are too preachy, trying to shove their ideals down their throats. But the secret is, almost every movie and book out there has an opinion; fiction, non-fiction, whatever – Some writers are just more skillful at disguising it with metaphor and plot than others.
Hearing opinions challenges people; forces people to think – to face things they have never faced before – to look in the mirror and finally admit “That’s me”. It’s my contention that people need to hear opinions. It is both healthy and necessary for humans to explore their opinions, state them, and try to understand why somebody else’s might differ, without losing their temper. It takes practice.
I used say I was apolitical, mainly because I didn’t enjoy debating. The truth is, I still don’t. But I have always enjoyed listening to the point of view of others, trying to learn what I could. When I sit down to write, there isn’t somebody else there spouting opinions for me to sit back and listen to. It’s just me and the computer screen or paper, my fear of offending others, and my opinions laced within every sentence.
I have many opinions. Everybody has them, and there are fanatics out there that will vehemently defend theirs. Touting a strong opinion can be a potentially deadly game; the more controversial it is, the less likely you will want to just come out and state it (unless your only goal is to anger people). It might be better to gradually bring it to light, taking care that you explain your thought process along the way.
I’m not trying to say that you should try to write for everyone. Writing a meaningful story automatically means you will be alienating people – getting on some people’s bad sides. There’s no way around it.
And even if there was a way, I’m not sure I would take it. Conflict is perhaps the one thing that makes life worth living and writing worth doing.
Some opinions are right to some people and just plain wrong to others, no matter what you say or do. But you won’t be writing for those people. Cut your losses. By definition, opinions are always correct … as defined by the lives and experiences of the opinion-holder. Even radically different opinions.
I think of it this way: The worst song you’ve ever heard is someone else’s favorite.
Since, by nature, opinions can’t be wrong, but many people hate hearing opinions and feel offended, can you write a book without offending anyone?
I say ‘yes’, but the book will end up feeling stale! If the writer doesn’t stand up for some ideal and inundate their writing with it, the outcomes for the characters become boring, and the drive for them to continue is gone. If one side isn’t ‘right’ and another side isn’t ‘wrong’, if a character doesn’t have convictions to do what is ‘right’ in the face of some kind of ‘evil’, what reason does a fiction reader have to keep reading? Readers tend to think they can identify and side with ‘good’.
Just like with real life, your characters will face problems in their books and be challenged … and be forced to take sides. And it’s up to the writer to be certain they pick a side and defend it. Just try not to be too transparent :)