Thursday, March 13, 2014

You Are Not What You Write

Last week, a couple of people on my facebook posted a well-intentioned article written as part of a campaign to end the "r-word." (For those of you who do not know what the r-word is, they are referring to the word "retarded" being used to compare someone who has done something stupid with someone who has a disability). I'm in agreement with the concept of the campaign. Although,this word is no longer used for diagnosis as far as I know.

But what I didn't like is that the author has "lost all respect" for actors who use it in lines, directors who allow it, and the people who write it." She goes on to say she doesn't care to hear about how your characters don't reflect you and your freedom of speech. And this is where she lost a reader. Because using the same logic, Gone With the Wind, Tom Sawyer, and To Kill A Mockingbird shouldn't be read. She doesn't want to hear about how your characters don't reflect your views, but she doesn't seem to grasp the concept either. You're not what you write. Your job is to create flawed human characters. (Humans are flawed by virtue of being human). To create a world so believable a reader is lost in it. If you "pick up a dictionary" as she suggests this won't happen. Using another word instead of the right word is never okay. You can create politically correct literature to your heart's content. But if I sense for a second you've made a choice out of an effort to not offend, you'll lose a reader. I don't care about your book being politically correct. I only care about it being real. And you are not your characters. You really aren't. 


  1. I completely agree with you, Beth, and this is a very well-written post. People who passionately defend or attack others' points of view always exasperate me. When you're a kid you can see things as only black or white, but when you grow up you should realize that nothing is that simple. Plus, people who put their political, religious, or other personal views on social media should've learned the lesson of Orson Scott Card. Keep your views off social media or lose fans. It's hard to get fans but so easy to lose them.

  2. Excellent post! My husband's brother is profoundly developmentally handicapped. I can tell you, from direct experience, what label a person uses has zero to do with what is in their hearts. We were at a carnival and the less than politically correct carny offered "the little retarded boy" a free ride. But then the very well educated among us who knew full well to never say that, wouldn't even eat at the same table with him.
    It's sad that in real life, we put so much emphasis on labels rather than deeds.
    And in our creative works...seriously, this is just too much. And it's ridiculous to think you will ever change what is in a person's heart by switching up their vernacular. It's naive and a total waste of time and energy.