We all have a dark side, that mischievous and rather evil counterpart that usually leads us in the wrong direction. But is it bad to embrace that dark side when it comes to your writing?
The reason I bring this up is because last weekend I came across the articles regarding the “sensitivity reader.” Basically, publishers and authors are hiring readers to point out issues in a story that will offend and hurt people’s feelings. It’s being passed off as “making sure the story isn’t biased” and “getting a culture/racial group right.” Call it what you want, but its writers and publishers being afraid of offending readers because readers will take to social media and dig them an early social grave. Fine. Go overprotect your work because Gwyneth from Santa Barbara thought you portrayed the female Asian warriors in your sci-fi novel unrealistically which they interpreted as you spitting in the eye of the Asian community who probably gave no fucks in the first place or had never heard of the novel….but whatever. Movies get shit wrong all the time, and you don’t see them changing their ways. In fact, their making sequels off of them.
Anyway, here’s the thing that a lot of these publishers and writers have either forgotten or failed to realize: anyone can be offended by anything. The implications of a sensitivity reader – and the fear of a backlash – will eventually ruin the entire spectrum of creativity. If everyone is so afraid to venture outside the box, then eventually all the books will end up being the same. We’re going to end up with cookie-cutter story lines, people! Not now and not all at once, but that will be the end result if we keep trying to censor everything. That, or a complete lack of story-telling. There are already authors who aren’t publishing their works for fear that it might offend someone. Apparently, its not being taken into consideration that some of these readers might be biased themselves, calling a story offensive which might not be true. How many stories aren’t going to be told because it’s creator was too scared to tell them, or had taken bad advice?
People seem to forget that writing is an ART. Art is not always supposed to be comfortable and nice and cute and rainbows and pixie dust. Art is supposed to make you think, to touch you, to open your eyes, to make you feel something. Does that mean you should go out and mock someones culture or be completely racist or sexist? Of course not! Go do some research and make some new friends like the rest of us had to. But don’t be afraid to tell your story! Don’t be afraid if someone dislikes it. You can’t please everyone.
Well, as I read these articles, I couldn’t help wonder how they could affect my own writing journey. That’s when I realized that given the fact that my stories alone are dark and twisted – harboring themes like torture, death, and war – means that in the end I’m going to be a sensitivity reader’s worst nightmare, all because of that little dark side I mentioned in the beginning of this post. You see, friends, I am what you could call a happy person with a dark soul. These fairy skeleton gifs are basically me. 🙂 And the thing about us fairy skeletons is that we don’t care who you are; we will mess all of you up in our stories! We are happy people who are dead inside, harboring stories that will make you uncomfortable. Whether you like it or not, this world is unfair, unjust, and unforgiving. And we’ll tell you all about. 😉
But don’t get me wrong; fairy skeleton writers have a method to their madness. With my own stories, I purposely put dark themes in them so that I can bring out the strength of my characters, a strength that I want my readers to take away and hopefully use in their own lives. My books contain quite a bit of torture and heartache, but its so that people out there who are dealing with serious issues can relate to those feelings the characters are experiencing and not feel so alone. Besides, maybe instead of promoting sensitivity, we should promote how to be emotionally strong. Why isn’t that concept being practiced more?
So whether you’re for sensitivity readers or not, all this comes down to is the confidence of the author. If you aren’t confident enough to follow a story through, then it just wasn’t meant to be shared. That’s on you. But for the fellow readers out there who are gathering together with their pitchforks and torches, claiming that today’s literature needs to abide by a set of feel-good standards, here’s something to think about: if you don’t like a book, then DON’T READ IT. Move on. Find a different genre to terrorize.
And as for me, I’ll be over here prancing away in all my fairy skeleton glory, wreaking havoc on both my characters and sensitivity readers’ nerves. 😉
If you want to read more about sensitivity readers, here are a few of those articles:
- ‘Sensitivity’ or Self-Censorship
- Publishers Hire ‘Sensitivity Readers’ to Screen Manuscripts for Offensive Content
- ‘Sensitivity Readers’ Sound an Aweful Lot Like Censorship
- Overcoming Bias: Authors and Editors Discuss Sensitivity Readers
- Sensitivity Readers are a New Front Line in Helping Authors with Their Craft
- Debut Author Lessons: Sensitivity Readers and Why I Pulled a Project