A while ago a well-known author published a book about a rich, handsome man who pretty much had anything anyone could wish for becoming paralyzed in an accident. He and the woman hired to care for him then fell in love, but at the end he chose to commit suicide rather than carry on. This caused quite a few disabled people to be deeply offended, and this was pretty obvious in the reviews. Several suggested that she hadn’t done her research properly, or she would have realized that it was very insulting to those in similar circumstances in that it suggested that living in that way was so unbearable that death was preferable. Most of those real, live people strive for the best lives that they can. They don’t generally give up, and I’m sure that they have just as much joy during the course of their lives as anyone else, even though they have such huge challenges. I can see why they wouldn’t want to be seen as so broken that there was no point in being alive anymore. The book was a bestseller anyway, and most of the reviewers loved it.
The thing with fiction is that within reasonable boundaries almost anything is possible, and writers shouldn’t have to write while worrying about being politically correct. Without purposely being insulting to any particular group, our characters should be allowed to be as good or as bad as we want them to be. They can be weak. So weak that they get up nostrils. Or strong, crazy, opinionated, nasty, murderous, or prone to poetry. Our characters should be what we decide they will be. That’s what being a writer is all about.
So, considering all the things we already have to take into account when we’re creating our worlds and the people in them, I don’t think that we should be attacked for our character’s behaviour. One of the books that I’ll be publishing next year has a matricide at its centre. Already published books of mine have racists and pot smoking pensioners in them. I don’t see any point in writing at all if I’m going to have to sugar coat my plots and have all my characters be “normal”. If you’re going to read fiction you have to expect the unexpected. Look at Stephen King’s characters. I’m pretty sure that quite a few of them could be construed as insulting to all sorts of people. His “country folk” for instance.
I suggest, within reason, throwing the political correctness right out of the window when you’re writing, and make your characters just as weird, whacky, or whiny as you want them to be, or you’ll just end up stifling your own creativity.
Image Courtesy Pixabay