Thursday, July 11, 2013

Writing Controversial Material

I finished the short story I started last week, came in around 16K words, and I like it. One of my critique partners asked me why I was writing it, instead of working on the story I should be working on.
I gave her all the reasons I had, but mainly it was because I wanted to write it. It got a hold of me and wouldn't let go, so instead of pushing it off until later, I wrote it now to get it out of the way. (Therefore allowing me to concentrate on the story I will be working on -- instead of feeling guilty I didn't write it first.)

Anyway, this short WHEN WE WERE IN HEAVEN is a weird little thing, involving angels and God, serendipity, deja vu, cotton candy, memories, dream analysis, personal goals, temptation, and a plane crash. Yeah, as I said before, a hot mess.

It's not my usual contemporary romance. For one there's a lot of God in it. Okay, maybe not so much God, but religion, or better yet, faith. How Sarah has it, loses it, and then finds it again. For two, I do not curse in it. Weird, I know, for a sailor/truck driver like myself. Not even a damn. (Which is pretty controversial for me.) And for three, you have to read it while pretty much suspending your belief.

Meaning, as a reader, you have to put everything you know on the back burner and just read the story. Other genres do this all the time -- Science Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal, etc. et al.

Now I was taught never discuss in polite company -- sex, politics, religion, ethnic background, and money. And on the blogs I pretty much stay away from all that. In my writing, I've touched on some of these themes from time to time, but never in a "in your face" kind of way. I don't spout my personal views, only those of the characters.

But in this story, faith, religion, God and angels play a prominent role. Why? Because they can. Because I wrote it that way. I like this story. I'm glad I wrote it. I'll stand behind it 100%.

Funny thing is, if you're a constant reader of this blog, you may have noticed (or not) that I took my WHO ARE YOU - A Collection of Very Short Stories off my page. I also unpublished it from Amazon. Why, you may ask? Because after reading it (again) I found it was too controversial.

If you looked inside the sneak peek on Amazon, I dropped the F-bomb three times on the first page. Not only that, I had a voyeur watching a sex act. Yeah, I know, shame on me. But it was what I was writing at the time.

Do I stand behind those short stories -- you bet. I like those stories. They mean something to me. However, with the release of WHEN WE WERE IN HEAVEN, it just wouldn't look right. You know, God and angels competing with F-bombs and contemporary love stories with sex and fights and drama included.

I wouldn't want my 90 year old Aunt Elsie reading WHEN WE WERE IN HEAVEN and then reading WHO ARE YOU. She'd have a heart attack. As a writer, doing business, I don't want to lose readers. It's how I make my money. I have to look at my demographic. My business is writing and publishing books. I have to look at my audience.

As Henry David Thoreau once said, "God and I have never quarreled." I feel the same way. But, perhaps that's why WHO ARE YOU only sold 3 copies in six months. I'm allowed to write what I want, but maybe God decided it's just too controversial for someone like me, therefore didn't allow it to move. Divine Intervention? Algorithms? F-bombs?  Maybe. Who knows.

All I know is that my short stories are controversial in one way or another. But in the self-publishing market, I do with them what I will. Edit, unpublish, republish, whatever. It's my call.

What about you? Do you write controversial material or do you stick with what you know?

Robynne Rand (c) 2013

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