Social pandering has gone over and beyond ridiculous. We must be careful what we say and to whom, and even the most benign thing shared can cause outrage. Why is that? Words are hurtful, there is no doubt about that, but why must we walk on the proverbial eggshells anymore?
Bullies exist, they always have and always will. It is a toxic part of humanity and a reality most people face sometime in their lives. However, that doesn’t seem to be why people are so hurt by words lately. It appears that large masses of people have thin skin and have an axe to grind against anyone who shares a different viewpoint or vocabulary.
Below is a screenshot of a reaction someone had to a tweet. Keep in mind my wife runs my Twitter account and was the one that posted this, not me, which is massively ironic. The not-too-subtle accusation of sexism. The point isn’t to vent because I’m offended. It is to point out just how thin-skinned, so many people of our culture are. Why is something so innocent as my wife and I celebrating our teamwork in need of criticism?
Our culture is growing ever more sensitive to the point where it finds problems where there are none. No matter how benign a statement, social media post, or thought is, someone is bound to get offended, but not just offended, that person may feel the need to “educate” you and put you in your place. Offended people now are the social bullies. Attempting to silence any voice that is different from their own in the name of “good.” How do we fight this? Call it out for what it is, bullying. Us writers need to keep writing our thoughts and what’s on our mind. Not cater or pander to anyone, no matter how loud and obnoxious their voice may be. The irony is that it is typically those who speak of tolerance and acceptance that are guilty of the very things they claim to hate. Perhaps this is a window into everyone’s psyche, we are often guilty of the things we hate the most. Therefore, before getting sanctimonious over silly things on social media, let us examine ourselves and see if we live up to our own standards. We all need this. Certainly, there is a time and place to speak up, and that is where wisdom and discernment comes in, both qualities though seem to be sorely lacking in our society.
Previously I wrote how I feel that people often do not want the level of honesty they ask for. Often our friends and family claim they want absolute honesty from us, but if we give it, despite being gentle, it backfires. I recognize this isn’t always the case, but it is something that appears to happen quite frequently. For us writers, feedback is essential to our business. We need to know if our stories and characters are relatable to our audience. Honesty of people also plays a role in characterization. Characters are believable based on their interactions with each other and the world around them in the story.
It is difficult when you spend months or years crafting a tale and making it available to the public. Will readers enjoy it? Will your audience connect to the characters as well as you have? Just as we ask for honesty in our relationships, us writers should not only ask for, but accept honest feedback when it comes. When we put so much of ourselves into a book, we must fight our urge to get defensive when someone doesn’t react the way we would like. A book an author has written is like his child, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss any criticism.
Sometimes though readers simply miss the point or bring their own presuppositions to your novel and that taints their experience. Sometimes there are things us authors can do to remedy that, but usually not. For my first short story I got feedback that it needed more to the story, but that was at a time when both sequels were published and “more” was already available. Some of my feedback, especially with the first book, was a little disappointing but incredibly valuable. Everyone will form an opinion on your works, that is inevitable, and like all opinions, discernment must be utilized.
In order for authors to create well-rounded characters they must be familiar with real people and themselves. Honesty, and how people react to it is a key component to crafting characters. How well will the cast within the story respond to honesty? Do some prefer lies? No? Why not? There are many people in the real world that do. These are things that we must ponder. Not only though how a character responds to honesty, but why do they react in a certain way? This is where my observations on honesty in the last post ties together with my writing. I hope that as I continue to learn about others and myself I am able to better hone my writing skills.