Have a point of view. Yes, some people may hate you for it, but that’s better than being bland and not speaking your mind. Tell the truth, even when you’re lying through your face and your fiction. Why? Because (1) it’s honest, and (2) who will read bland? Some authors avoid controversy thinking they will keep a wider audience. Wrong. Wimps don’t get respect. Besides, you don’t want to act like a wimp because that’s not who you are. You are a writer. Publishing your book and putting yourself out there for critics to judge is an act of courage. The meek will not inherit the earth and, if they do, we’ll just take it from them.
Last night I read through a forum in which multiple contributors discussed and debated with author Scott Bakker. I am just on my second Bakker book (Neuropath) having just found out about him. I really enjoyed his novel, Disciple of the Dog. I have to say, the forum I read debating the merits of Bakker’s fiction was intriguing. It was not a lovefest for the author. Some criticized Bakker for being a misogynist in his fiction. Occasionally the author himself commented on the thread but the offended and the defenders kept their debate raging without him and Bakker popped in more for clarification and to make sure he wasn’t being misrepresented by others.
Personally, I have to admit I don’t understand the objections or their fervour. Just because a main character espouses some views, that doesn’t mean we are meant to emulate him or agree with him. The character is flawed. It’s fiction. From what I’ve read so far, Bakker isn’t preaching misogyny. He’s describing a character who is a misogynist. I grew up watching All in the Family’s Archie Bunker. I never had any doubt he was a racist and watching a TV show didn’t make me a racist. Characters that have complicated problems and conflicting motivations are interesting. I don’t want to read fiction that is diluted by one ideology that doesn’t acknowledge the world’s realities (and if you do, then go write that book and best of luck selling it.). In my case, I know my titles are a bit controversial and annoy some people, but I suspect they attract more people than they turn away. Those that give my books a try are in for surprises when their expectations are turned upside down, but I think that’s a good thing.
I don’t try to be controversial for the sake getting people in a rage. I call it as I see it because it’s honest and because if you don’t have something to say, something to stir in your reader, why bother writing? Writing that doesn’t stir feelings in readers makes wasted ink and useless pixels. Free speech allows self-expression but also guarantees that you’re going to be offended from time to time. If you’re offended by a piece of fiction or an argument, the answer is, “Too bad.” Don’t read it if you can’t handle it and respond like an adult to work that is meant for adults. You don’t have to read or listen to viewpoints you despise. Just stop reading and listening. (The funny thing is, the people who disagree will stay with something they hate longer than people who agree. People who say they loathe Howard Stern listen twice as long as people who describe themselves as fans. Humans are strange, aren’t they?)
On my latest podcast, in between a couple of jokes and Father’s Day stories, I tackle corporal punishment and explain why President Obama could lose the election in November if he tolerates nuance and fails to embrace dumb. I’m not worried about turning off potential readers. There are lots of readers out there and I’m not interested in catering to people who can’t tolerate free self-expression. They’d probably never buy my books, anyway.
In short, embrace the bad ass in you.
P.S. In the spirit of being bold, have you subscribed to the Self-help for Stoners podcast on iTunes or Stitcher yet? It’s free and strange and you don’t have to be a stoner to love it. Or hate it, come to think of it.
If you like it, please leave a happy review on iTunes. It helps. All the podcasts can be found at AllThatChazz.com.
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