OK, you’re probably wondering why I’m bringing this up; writing is an art form and so does not adhere to the limitations of basic responsibilities…right? Well the answer to that lies squarely on your shoulders as the writer. Everyone will have an opinion on this – but it really is a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. As a writer you have ethics or you don’t. I’m not saying that those who think morals is just a Spanish resort are evil or deserve banishment from the realms of polite society – but what I am saying is that ignorance is not an excuse and when you are a writer you need to choose that ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and stick to it. When your work is sent out into the world, make sure it accurately represents you as an author and a person. I write for both adults and young adults and in doing so I endeavour to include some morality in what I write.
I’m going to give the most obvious example here, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ love it or hate it – it’s the Marmite of the literary world but you can’t argue that the author has made some serious money off the back of it. In my opinion it’s ill written, lacks theme and sports some mind numbingly clumsy prose. It glorifies relationship abuse and sends out the message that, ‘even though he beats me, I can change him’. Now I’m no prude and I’ve written some over 18 material myself, however these scenes in a book/film should be there for a reason – they show a façade of the characters, they move the relationship on etc. – what shouldn’t happen is that they are just liberally sprinkled into a manuscript, like porn dust, just for effect. There is a place for books like these, and it is not stacked high at the doors of our local supermarkets or flaunted in the window of high street book shops. Now to be fair, the author really isn’t to blame for most of this. The media machine surrounding the books has spun out of control – however as the author she had the right to say ‘no -I do not want my book in easy reach of children’ and perhaps to write in come character/ story consequences somewhere along the way, perhaps a similar relationship to that of the main characters, one that didn’t end well. Maybe even give some of her fortune to a few charities that support victims of relationship abuse?
Now let’s talk about someone who does put in some ethics, yet still earns a pretty penny. Jeff Lindsay writes the Dexter books which, in my opinion, are brilliant (although I’d like to talk to Jeff about the last one!) He writes first person from Dexter’s point of view; Dexter is a serial killer. However as a serial killer he has ethics and standards. He only kills other killers and is effectively using his ‘dark passenger’ to help keep innocent people safe. Without this crucial ethical twist the Dexter books would have been borderline sick and no where near as interesting. Although the subjects of the Dexter books range from deranged surgeon to cannibalism, they still have that noble ideal running through them, they are well written with a dry sense of humour with gore that has a reason to be there.
So now that I’ve had my rant I’d like you to take out a bit of time and look at your own work – make that ethical decision and change/ ignore accordingly. I’m not dictating what you should do, but like most things in life, it’s better to know your options and think ahead with a clear plan in mind.
Planning is one of those life skills that some people have in spades and others shrug off preferring to fly by the seat of their pants. When it comes to writing the latter really does you no favours – so my next blog will be everything I’ve learned about planning your writing and meeting crucial deadlines.