Friday, October 03, 2008

One Writer's Controversial Opinion is Another's Inspiration

My blogosphere world seems to be filled with discussions on whether or not it is impolitic (yes, the pun is intentional) for professional writers to discuss politics and their opinions on the subject via blogs and other publications. The topic stems from a post by John Scalzi over on his Whatever blog. Too, SmartBitch Sarah has some good follow-up and discussion, and Jordan Summers extends the question to any controversial topic, not just politics, over on Romancing the Blog.

I personally agree with Scalzi and SB Sarah that writers have no obligation to keep their opinions to themselves simply because they might offend a reader or potential reader. If you are able to express your thoughts intelligently and thoughtfully and refrain from name-calling and hating on those who disagree with you, you are welcome to tell me what you think. And I hope, in turn, you are willing to listen to my thoughts even if you completely disagree with every word I say.

However, I wonder if writers who express strong opinions might actually be doing a favor to other writers via imparting an unintentional education. There are positive side effects to writing about what you believe and why above and beyond perhaps convincing those who disagree to possibly change their minds.

I have certain beliefs and opinions given that I'm part of the living, breathing human race. And when I sit down to create a character, thinking about what thoughts, beliefs and opinions that particular character might have, my knee-jerk tendency is to have them fall into my own party line. Is my character pro-gun control or an NRA poster child? Does he believe in pro-choice or right-to-life? Is she in favor of the death penalty, does she believe that it's a school responsibility to discuss safe-sex or something that should be kept in the home, does she believe the US should stay the course in Iraq indefinitely or pull the troops back home ASAP? With every question I consider as I form my newborn character, I want to answer in what seems the most logical way based on my own belief system.

Which means that every single one of my characters thinks just like me. What a completely boring imaginary world!

In reading well-expressed viewpoints that differ from my own, I can find a way to give my characters opinions that fall outside my personal comfort zone. While I can't for the life of me understand someone who thinks that it's okay to allow people who aren't professional soldiers or police officers to carry guns around our streets, perhaps I might have the chance to read an articulately expressed opposing viewpoint that allows me to give my character the opinion that it's his god-given right to defend himself in any way he sees fit. I can place those writer's words in my character's brain, add them to his psychological makeup.

So I thank those writers who take the time to express their opinions in thoughtful ways. If a writer can make me stop and consider another viewpoint, they have helped me in my craft by giving me a tool I can apply when I have to think outside my small box.

The only time a writer expressing an opinion on a controversial topic will ever offend me enough to stop buying his or her work is if he/she implies that I'm in any way inferior because I don't hold that same opinion. I respect everyone's right to think and believe as they will as well as their right to express those beliefs. It's one of the attributes that I think makes America...well, America. But I expect to respected in turn, and only those who are so egocentric as to believe otherwise will turn me away from anything having to do with them.

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