Touchy Subjects

A very good friend, who also happens to be a member of my family, is in the finishing stages of a book that has taken him five years to write.

Now, that doesn’t sound like any time to a lot of writers, but he’s done this living on the edge. The edge of poverty, the edge of sanity, the edge of grief – almost every edge you can imagine.

His motivation is the message he wants to spread. His muse is God.

It’s a very touchy, personal subject he’s writing about and the audience he’s targeting is narrow: abortion within the 19 – 25 year old age group. To top it off, it’s fiction.

He’ll never make the money he needs from this book if it’s ever published. Every agent and publisher he’s approached has turned him away. His subject material has made him a publishing pariah.

The author is sixty years old and has never had any experience in the subject matter. However, he says he feels led to preach, I mean write, about this hot ball of wax topic.

When he discusses his book with me, I keep my opinions to myself except when I can be constructive about the mechanics of his writing. The content is his own business.

He is a good example of writing outside the box. He is writing about issues he is only familiar with through research; he has no firsthand knowledge in the area.

Of course, how many writers have the very personal knowledge in the area they’re penning? In my case, I’ve never held an AK-47, I’ve never been to Austria, and I’ve never been a man in the military. Yet, my main character has all these attributes and more.

There is often a message, hidden or blatant, in good writing.  Without a lesson, the story will leave the reader feeling empty.

What leads you to the topics you read? What leads you to the topics you write? Do you write far from your personal field of experience or do you keep it closer to home?

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

5 Comments

Filed under books, fiction, life, writing

5 responses to “Touchy Subjects

  1. christinehusom

    There is a delicate balance writers are faced with in virtually anything they write. Your relative/friend is writing to a specific audience and hoping to appeal to a broader one.

    My mystery thrillers are targeted to people who read that genre, broadly speaking, but more specifically to people who like a fairly realistic view of being part of the investigations and lives of memers of a semi-rural Minnesota county sheriff’s department. They are “cozies”, nor are they hard-broiled. I keep language fairly clean and graphic violence to a minimum. People have good imaginations, so why spell out gory details, is my thought. I am not out to shock sensibilities, though the subject matter is shocking. Those are the decisions I made writing that series.

    Some of my characters share my same basic morals and ideals–others don’t.

    Though I had first hand experience working for a sheriff’s department, I still had to do a ton of research, i.e., the difference between a psychopath and sociopath, horse diseases, ritual abuse, decomposition of a body in different conditions, on and on. I like learning new things and writing about something I have little knowledge of gives me the push to research it.

  2. christinehusom

    Oops, “members”, not “memers” and they are “not cozies”

  3. David

    Suggestion: Invite him to go to Ignatius Press. They’ll at least listen, and are sympathetic with the subject matter.

  4. Some of the books that I classify as “airplane reads” have no message and provoke no thought. I don’t wonder about the character’s lives off the page, or what will happen to them afterward. Then again, when I pick up a mystery book or a fantasy or adventure novel I don’t really want the author to be pushing a personal agenda on me, even one I might agree with. There’s a boundary there and sometimes the author doesn’t know when to stop. Case in point, the Sword of Truth series where the constant drone of the author’s biases almost buried the rest. I think people who want to get their agenda across should stick to nonfiction unless they’re really, really, really skillful writers that can slip in their message seamlessly so the readers don’t feel they’re been hit on the head or conned into buying something they bought for entertainment but have to put down with disgust.
    I found False Positive and the other books had political aspects to them, but I never did figure out which ones the author actually endorses. The characters themselves changed their own point of view on things which I really liked. Made the story more believable because people do change their opinions with experience and seeing evidence. Unless of course they’re in that minority who keep on believing whatever they want regardless of the facts…

  5. I read a book recently where the author’s preface and introduction made it clear he had a political message. They kind of put me off the book, but when the characters talked in the novel it was no problem–and I did enjoy the read. I guess the author succeeded in hiding himself and his message in his writing, but maybe revealed too much in his intro.

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