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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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now the word true has no meaning for me
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
It's rare I'd rec a meta on the sheer beauty of the language, but even if I disagreed with this, and I don't, I'd still rec it for the sheer density of the prose. I admit it, I put out for someone who can use words with this kind of richness and formality in a very informal way.

On the Responsibilities of Writers by wemyss

I can't hope to reach those heights of literary eloquence, but my views on writing are more complex than WRITER RESPONSIBLE or WRITER LAISSEZ FAIRE. And I think my contention that writers only have a duty to the story they tell, which I believe and practice, is confused with the idea that all stories that end up being written are equal no matter how horrific their baseline philosophy may be.

Sometimes? Writers write shitty stories with a shitty philosophical background. Even well-written, thoughtful stories can be horrific in the service of some people's misguided morality. And I avoid like the plague when a work offends my sensibilities, beliefs, or the existence of human rights and good taste.

The writer is responsible for the story, for writing it as true as they can. My responsibility, as a reader, is to either read it and enjoy it, run far, far away, or meta my ass off on everything I feel is wrong about it. Or possibly, to say, I think the story is wrong.

I'll get back to that.

It's not that I'm particularly uncomfortable with making universal judgments, because I do that every day in what I choose to read and not, who I choose to interact with, and who recently I moved to a no-read filter so I can cool down after someone says something I find offensive. No writer, in herself (or himself, I suppose), is obligated or responsible to anyone else to write the way or with the philosophy of any or all readers.

A story doesn't have to reflect current thought on sexuality, racism, sexism, etc. It doesn't have to be politically correct, whatever the fuckall that means. The story has to be true to itself. And if being true to itself means bilge that would make most of us nauseated just looking at the cover, there it is. And I think where we all stop short is that arguing this comes into the realm of saying "I respect this" when fuck no, it does not.

It means, literally, you can totally write your glorified misogynist racist piece of shit and be as true to it as you feel you must be, because that's the story you wrote, that's the one that was true, that's what your vision/muse/secondary personality demanded. You have no responsibility to me or to anyone else to reflect anything but what your story demands.

You created this. You worked on this. You spent nights slaving over it. You invested yourself in it. You loved it and named it and posted it/published it/sent it into the wilds with your fingerprints all over it, and it may be true, but that doesn't mean it's not wrong, and it doesn't, of all things, mean that you don't have to answer for it.

So be prepared for someone to ask why you thought the story was true.


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So in short, write the story that comes to you, but put on your asbestos bloomers and deal with the fallout like a grown up if someone points out that you've offended? Sounds good to me.

...it seems obvious, doesn't it.

One would think so. But it seems to come under the concept of common sense, which damned few people seem to have.

The interesting thing is that I think what you're saying above is pretty close to what *both* wemyss and stellaluna are saying; they're just coming at it from completely different angles. I think Stellaluna's post is being taken out of context in wemyss's reaction to it, because the original post is very much focused on "I" statements (I, as a writer, feel that I must do this) and on the rights of the reader to react to written work; it's not a didactic, "you all must do this", which is what the reaction post seems to be reacting against. And even if it were taken as didactic, all she's really saying is that one should write with self-awareness, which is just what you're saying above *and* what wemyss is saying. I don't really see the viewpoints as polar opposites at all.

I think the word responsibility is heavily loaded with the concept of obligation. I'm a *lot* closer to wemyss--off the top of my head, I don't disagree with anything he said (and my, the way he said it. The command of language there is deeply hot).

I'm a lot less--patient--with the idea that the writer has any obligation to anything but the story, since that, to me, opens them up to writing with a level of self-consciousness that can ruin a story, and for that matter, make it less story than social or political manifesto. It's not I'm against either of these things, but writing for a purpose (political, ideological, etc) is kind of against the entirety of what I believe the purpose of writing *is*, to tell the damn story.

Hmm. I think that the area of disagreement here, then, is that I don't feel like my obligation to the story trumps my obligations as a human being, if that makes any sense.

I don't mean to make that sound as absolutist as it does -- I don't think anyone else ought to be bound by my own moral imperatives. I think you're absolutely, 100% right that the only thing the writer "need" to do is to be willing to man up and say, "Yes, I stand behind this" if they're called on it.

And I definitely agree with you that writing for a social and political purpose very often produces egregiously awful moral screeds in lieu of stories (see: nearly every episode of an otherwise escapist TV show that tried to shoehorn in a "moral message").

But at the same time, I recognize that everything I write is laced through with my own beliefs and prejudices, and I want to be in control of that, as much as possible. I certainly don't think anything I write is going to have a direct effect on my audience one way or another, but I'd rather not contribute to the background smog of racism/homophobia/etc any more than I have to, let alone completely by accident. It's not so much writing for a political purpose as it is trying to avoid kicking my readers in the crotch unless I meant to do that. It's not an easy, either-or thing -- it's a constant, ongoing, ever-shifting equation, and there are times when I feel that perpetuating a stereotype or writing something I may have to answer for later is worth it to the story, or to me, or to my desire to reflect the real world accurately. But there are also times when my urge to tell a particular story is trumped by my (self-appointed) responsibility as a human being to not run the risk of offending or hurting readers (or friends) who belong to some given group, especially if it's for something non-integral to the story that I can easily excise or revise.

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*blows out breath* I hope so. It's my own fault for going ot read meta, really.

Agree, 100%. A writer is responsible for what they put out there. Sure, it can pertain to pacing, characterization, etc., but it also pertains to the philosophy or core behind a piece (even a PWP has some sort of core). And if you put it up on the intranets, please be prepared to defend whatever you're "selling," because you've decided to make this public, emphasis on the "you." Naturally, I don't endorse vicious flaming or obnoxious behavior, but if you make a statement, which is what writing is, please be prepared for the kudos or the brickbats. It's the chance you take when you go "live."

It makes me think of John Ringo, in a way. (Oh, John Ringo, No, for anyone who hasn't seen it.)

Ringo -- unlike many people who write this kind of thing -- acknowledges: yes, this is TERRIBLE tripe from a TERRIBLE place in my brain. It is fucked up. I own that. And he put his permission & support behind the tshirts.

John Ringo: owner of Big Girl Panties, unlike some people I could name....

I love John Ringo for acknowledging that. Seriously so. His panties are *asbestos*.

Whereas I... really disliked that essay; I felt as if the writer were bashing me over the head with condescension + overly thick diction, in the service of basically making yet another tiresome cultural-conservative argument against that favoritest of pointless hobbyhorses, "political correctness".

Granted, though, I didn't read the post he was responding to, so maybe something's gained in context.

What you wrote above, however, I agree with completely. Well put, or should I say, rem acu tetigisti.

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