I get it. Writing, in many ways, is an extension of ourselves. And sometimes we don’t want to take ourselves through writing to places that would make us uncomfortable. But good writing goes beyond the self to embody something else entirely.
Whether it is poetry or prose, characters are present. Just like the rest of us, characters are flawed. The extent of their flaws is what makes them interesting. What’s more interesting? A mail man, or a mail man who delivers mail from an ambulance that he stole? Although stealing an ambulance is not necessarily cringe-worthy, there are certain topics that are and, depending on your target audience, those are the topics that you want to flesh out in morbid detail.
This is where it gets tricky. If you have any remnant left of a conscience, it physically hurts to write about certain things and describe them in full. It almost feels like you are creating suffering on some small level. And then there’s the matter of your readers. What will they say? Will they think that I’m crazy? Will people stop talking to me after they are done reading this? If you have ever written anything for anyone, then you have had those thoughts. But when your pieces are read by a larger audience, mind games and restriction can play a factor in holding back your writing.
A piece can be so much more powerful when you deliver the final blow, that one sentence that makes the reader squirm in their seats. Censoring your writing is not only detrimental to the story, but to your writing process in general. If you have to pause and think about every little politically incorrect phrase in a poem or fiction piece, then you won’t be able to create real characters.
If you are worried about insulting others, don’t be. The speaker of a poem or the character in fiction does not represent the author. If you created a good character, they will decide their actions for themselves and your hand will not even be involved. If the piece is good, the reader may forget about the author entirely because they are so engrossed in the story.
No author was ever punished for their characters’ actions. Ummm…I mean very few authors…Uhh…Very few authors in the past seventy years have been punished for their characters actions. (I’m sorry Arthur Miller, we can’t all win.)
If your character is lonely, then there will be masturbation. If your character is a soldier then there will be blood. If your character is a pedophile, then I’m sorry to be terribly blunt but there will be molestation. You can’t hide from the scum of the world, these things happen regardless if you write about them or not. So you for you timid writers, take a risk, write from a perspective other than your own. For those of you with a conscience, get off your high horse when writing, there is no place to hang your saddle here. Write without restricting your story or your characters. Only then can you fully describe the world that we leave in.
P.S. Even if your target audience is children, read some good old fashioned German fairy tales and then try telling me they censored their work. That stuff’s creepy.