Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swimming up stream

Literature today is full of sex, violence, drugs and swearing. Sometimes trying to write an interesting and clean book can feel like swimming upstream. There's pressure out there to make your writing "gritty" or portray reality.

I was recently reading a book that I was enjoying very much. It's a story of a young girl who was genetically engineered and conceived as a donor for her sister who had cancer. I was really into it until about half way through the book when the author introduced several side character's stories and things they had done in their past. The writing became extremely vulgar. I was saddened an annoyed for two reasons. First because I felt the additions were 100% unnecessary and probably just added to make the book "gritty" and second because I knew I would never be able to recommend the book to a friend.

My favorite books are usually clean (Jane Austen, Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings). I think there's a kind of depth and creativity in them that is lacking in stories that have to resort to gratuitous sex and violence to get people interested. I'm not trying to say that writers should refrain from writing about difficult topics (the afore mentioned books confront evil head on). But I think it can be done in a way that doesn't sensationalize or glamorize bad things. My own personal rule of thumb is to ask myself if something I'm writing would entice anyone to do anything wrong. I also often ask myself why I'm including something. Is it necessary for the story or am I hoping it will sell books. Not that selling books is a bad thing, just that I don't want to compromise and put something in a book that would be a negative influence because I think it might sell more books. What to include in a book is a very personal decision, and only the author can decide what they are comfortable writing about. And sometimes making that decision can be daunting.

I thought this was a funny video about going along with the crowd. Hopefully we're like the first man. :) He doesn't seem to be bothered by the group at all.


  1. Ha! That video was hilarious! Truth is, I'd probably run with the crowd in that situation. I'm easily spooked. :)

    This is a great post, Candice. I think that as a writers the temptation to sell ourselves out to what's "hot" in the market can be huge. We all want success so badly. But, I totally agree that all we can do is hold strong in what we know is right. Victory under any other circumstances wouldn't be as sweet.

  2. Great post. There's nothing worse than that disappointing feeling of having to put a *previously* good book down because it turned vulgar. Ick.

  3. It's a natural instinct to want to follow the crowd. In many cases it is a survival technique that has done the human race good. But with many instincts that are for good, they can be used for evil as well. We must fight that natural instinct to want to be "normal" and follow the crowd. As we see on a daily basis the crowds instincts have decayed to a more base animalistic instinct. That is why we are blessed with modern day revelation. For the betterment of mankind and ourselves we must fight the good fight and continue on creating "good things". It is now become a fresh new concept to read a good, clean book. Look how well Twilight and The Goose Girl have done. So in this case swim upstream but if you see a crowd running away from something..please..I think it is best to follow in that case.

  4. I LOVE that video! It's hilarious! :D Great post Candice!

  5. HAHAHAHHAHA! That video was horribly funny. Holy cow! I feel for those people! LOL! Well, except the first guy he was just awesome about it. There is nothing I hate more than finding myself within the pages of an awesome book that suddenly goes awry. Grrr... It frustrates me so much that usually I just rip the book in half and toss it. Jenni

  6. Jenni, you rip the book in half? Really? Wow, that takes a great amount of muscles. We need to arm wrestle next time I see you. :)

    That was a hilarious video, Candi. Loved it. I felt really bad for that man they surrounded and started throwing into the air. Poor guy probably peed his pants, I know I would've.

    As far as your message, it is so true. Thanks for the thoughts.

  7. That's a great post! I am always disappointed when I get half way through a good book and it turns vulgar and disgusting. It good for just enough time for you to become hooked and it makes it that much more difficult to put down.

    I was actually thinking of reading the book you were talking about in your post. I saw the preview for the movie that is coming out about it and thought it looked good. I guess I'll just be avoiding that one all together.

    I couldn't watch the video though, something is wrong with this computer, I'll try again later!

  8. LOVE THE VIDEO!! So funny! My favorite was when everyone ducked to the ground including the poor innocent person. I am with Mary though, that it's a survival technique in the video, but not in writing. If we kid ourselves that we need to put vulgarity in our books to survive in the market then we are cheating ourselves and the many readers out there that feel the same way we do. But I think writing good stuff alone is not enough. We need to be consumers of good wholesome books, music, and movies. The more people who buy the good stuff the more of a market there will be.

  9. Actually, Jenni I have also just tossed books that have disappointed me. And Candice, I know which book you are talking about and which part you are talking about. And I stopped there, too.



Related Posts with Thumbnails