Your Characters are NOT Your Friends: A Public Service Announcement for Writers

I’ve seen several Instagram posts that say things like “is it sad that my characters are my best friends?” or “I have more conversations with my characters than I do with real people. Is that bad?”

Yes. Yes, it is.

Not because you’re a wallflower with friends that exist only in your mind. That’s perfectly normal*.

It’s sad because this means one of two possibilities: One, you are a horrible friend, or two, you are way, way, way too nice to your characters.

It’s natural to form an attachment to people that you’ve created. People have been doing this for centuries. The problem is when you care too much about someone, you want to nurture them, perhaps even protect them from impending doom.

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You cannot do this with your characters.

If you want a good story, you must put your characters through hell. Kill their families, have their lovers break-up with them, have owls eat their dogs. Nothing is allowed to go their way, or at least not for very long.

Loving your character too much might encourage you to go easy on them, to pull punches. Don’t do this. The best characters are forged in fire.

Another problem you can run into is making your characters too perfect. You want the audience to love your characters as much as you do, so you will have them always put their best foot forward. Problem is no one actually wants to read about perfect characters. Real people aren’t perfect so reading about someone who is takes the reader out of the story, constantly reminding them that what they are seeing is an illusion. And not even an entertaining one at that.

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Lastly– and I hate to break this to you– if your characters were magically able to obtain a physical form and interact with you they would probably hate you.

I’m not saying you’re a bad person it’s just that….

Let’s face it, you are responsible for every bad thing that has ever happened to them. Every illness, every death, every catastrophe that has every entered their lives is on you. You could literally make all their problems go away with the scratch of a pen. And yet, you sit there, drinking your coffee like a psycho.

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I’m not saying you shouldn’t care about your characters at all, if you don’t care then the audience probably won’t be persuaded to either. Just keep in mind that in order for them to reach their full potential, you must keep an emotional barrier between yourself and your creations.

A mother hawk may love her babies, but she’ll still push them out of the nest so they can fly.

Some of them may die, but it’s a risk you’re going to have to take.

*I have been informed that this actually isn’t normal and that most people have friends that exist in the real world. I was so shocked I couldn’t even find a gif that appropriately conveys my emotions. 

Unpopular Opinion: Censorship and “Offensive”Bookstagram Pictures

I don’t consider myself a controversial person, nor do I try to stir the pot when I see a problem brewing. However, it’s becoming progressively more difficult to stay quiet on certain issues, particularly issues involving censorship.

Today I was exploring Bookstagram when I came across a picture from one of the content creators I follow. In this photo advertising the book “Carve The Mark” the photographer painted her arm twilight blue and golden slash marks on her forearm.

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Wow. That’s a lot of dedication, I thought.

I proceeded to scroll on.

Later, I discovered the same photograph covered in white text reading “TRIGGER WARNING TRIGGER WARNING TRIGGER WARNING.” Curious, I investigated to find a crap storm of biblical proportions.

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Apparently many people were complaining that this photograph promoted self-harm and that the photographer should take it down immediately or else they would file a formal complaint. The content creator explained that it was just art and she hadn’t meant any harm by it (she suffers from depression herself). Nevertheless, commentators were not appeased and continued to espouse PC rhetoric about how this could trigger someone or that this was somehow romanticizing cutting.

I’m not in the business of offending people, but I am in the business of creating and defending others that choose the arts as their vocation.

As such I have to say I’m getting tired of this cultural elitism that demands artists change their message or content because someone somewhere might be offended by it. Art has many interpretations and just because you interpreted something a certain way doesn’t give you the right to say something needs to be taken down. What gets me is most of the people that rushed to their keyboards don’t even have depression. They are becoming offended on another person’s behalf.

“What if someone with depression saw this and it triggered them?!”

“What if someone who self-harms saw this?!” 

I don’t know. What if aliens saw Keeping Up With The Kardashians and decided they didn’t want to make first contact anymore? Are we really going to crucify someone based on a hypothetical?

In their quest to come to depressed peoples’ aid they verbally attacked a person with actual depression for posting a picture they didn’t like.

Don’t misunderstand. I am not dissuading criticism. I think critique is perfectly fine. The problem occurs when someone tries to shut a person up or hurl vulgar abuse at them rather than have an intelligent discussion on the subject.

My problem, first and foremost, is with censorship. People being offended by everything is a close second, but censorship is by far the most important issue.

Anyone with any creative background should support another person’s right to make art. It’s as simple as that.

If you don’t like someone’s work, don’t follow that person. Don’t give them your money. Don’t give them your time.

You are not the definitive voice on what is and is not offensive. You don’t have the right to try to de-platform someone just because you don’t agree with their views or what they have created.