The Social Responsibility of a Writer

Every writer wants to write a novel that flies off the shelves like baked beans before Y2K. But no matter what we write it would be irresponsible not to consider the effect our novel will have on it’s reader.

Do all authors think about the social relevance of their MS? Many do. Many writers want to send a message to their readers, more so in the YA genre than any other. Not because kids are impressionable, and not because they cannot think for themselves, but because as with social interaction a literary work should have something relevant to say. It is why we learn to check our WIP to ensure our theme is consistent, and the goal of our MC is also consistent thorughout the piece.

Read any classic and there is a moral to the story. Isn’t it always a story within a story? Fable and legends, fairy tales and nursery rhymes all tell a story.
Why are paranormals and fantasy’s so popular with YA readers? Mostly because of their strong female characters. Their strength appeals to readers who want to bolster their own strength, who want to feel like they can be strong like their favorite characters. Don’t we all have those favourite characters we wish to become? Why? Because those characters are fulfilling a fantasy or a reality of our very own.

A recent editorial in our local newspaper headlinedΒ crime statistics whichΒ claim higher numbers of youth crime can be attributed to video games and movies. Because kids think it’s cool to be tough. As a kid I would always think its cool to be couragueous and strong, never that its cool to beat up on others or bully defenseless kids. I was known to mete out a few Hermione-esque smacks on the head though (only when required and deserved πŸ™‚ )
This led me to wonder, as a parent, to what level are parents guiding the reading matter of their kids?

How much influence do you have on your child’s reading matter? How much of an influence do you want to have? Personally I do think younger teens need guidance on what is appropriate to read, especially when specifics on subject. This guidance will lessen as the reader ages.
Older teens already understand their reading preferences, are net-savvy and tend to discuss the books they enjoy with others.
But, it is the parent and the family unit who will decide on how to approach reading matter. With movies and video games now containing rated subject matter do we need to address reading matter as well?

As a writer what messages are you sending to your readership?

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19 thoughts on “The Social Responsibility of a Writer

  1. This is a great post T πŸ™‚
    This is something I have been thinking of a lot this past month. This morning I was in a chatroom that was discussing what the premise of all all WIPs were? It really got me thinking. Was there an underlying theme that linked my stories? Yes. I realised my stories are about those that are viewed as vulnerable being tested by trials and tribulations and about surviving and finding the courage to survive against all odds. Indeed it is only through their suffering that my characters find their true path as survivors. I am always drawn to the darker subjects because life is not a bed of roses but a life lived without trials ensures a soul that has not been tested for its true strength. Trials and Tribulations are the diamond dust that polish a noble and pure soul into a shining gem that can survive the heat of any soul-fire. So I guess that would be the message I want to give any of my readers. That is also the message that I tell myself and that has life has taught me.
    Great food for thought.
    -Kim

    1. Hey Kim
      I think it common to have authors write with a recurring theme across all their novels even if they use different themes across a series. I also think we choose to write what is sometimes lacking in ourselves or lacking in others. Like telling someone who has been hurt that being hurt is no slight on them personally and that its more important how you deal with what life throws. Some people go through really tough times and often a book that is an escape which also provides you with unconscious encouragement and support is the best a writer can do for their readership. Ultimately our role is that of a storyteller, but behind the story lies tales of life lessons which as humans we are constantly in need of…. Even us writers hey?
      thanks – Tee –

  2. Great Post, Tee, I had a hold on what my daughter read… until she turned 16… She reads the books in school now, but I think I still have a little hold inside of her heart on what she shouldn’t read. I think a little of what I’ve preached found a little home inside of her.
    Good thing is, she’ll tell me what a book is about and if there are things in it that I wouldn’t like.
    I’d never write something in my own book that I wouldn’t want my kids to read. Never.

    My almost 22 year old reads a lot. I think what I’ve said through the years has found a nice, cozy home inside him too. He’s always loved fantasy and science fiction and still does. This son was bullied in school. He now sticks up for the underdog and wants to become a cop.

    My 14 year old reads mostly comics and graphic novels. I’ve tried with him, to no avail… until Harry Potter… this past month he’s read the whole Harry Potter series in 2 weeks… He was quite proud and we made sure to make quite a deal out of it, my daughters friends included in making him feel so proud. Now he knows he can tackle novels … He’s got a huge love of books, he just needed to find it in himself that he could do it. Now he gets to read all the delicious books I’ve bought for him through the years! This boy is a kind, soft hearted boy and after what his older brother went through looks after anyone who is bullied in school. Even though he’s quite short in school.. you’d think people would pick on him, but he’s loved in school. He’s a happy little fellow and tries to tell his friends the right path and gives them a hand on the shoulder even when they swear.. it’s the cutest thing πŸ™‚

    Ok, this went so long, Tee!
    Loved the post πŸ™‚
    Love,
    Denise

    Now, my almost 5 year old has started reading with the My Little Red Story Book, My Little Green, etc… from when I was little. My son before her learned to read with these books also… the only books he would pick up. She just read book 1 and 2 yesterday and was so proud!

    Reading is important in my home. I want my kids to always love reading and pass this love down to their own kids.

    1. Hey Denise- thanks for commenting and hey- the longer the better πŸ™‚
      You have managed to perfect the trick- getting your kids to talk to you about what they read. Its what I love about my two girls- they live and breathe books, so much that I hardly think I can afford to buy all the books they want to read – thankfully the library has a fairly large offering but what happens when they’ve read through the stacks? Oh well, guess I will cross that bridge when I come to it.
      I also think that reading encourages a certain sensitivity within the reader – whether it is to literature or life, books are filled with lessons….
      thanks heaps, xx Tee

  3. I always think about the messages I’m sending in my books. I may have some edgy characters and themes, but underlying all of that I try to say something about hope and taking control of your own life and changing the rotten into good. I’d like kids to know even when they’re dealt a bad hand, they can find a way to turn that hand into something better for themselves.

    1. Hi C.Lee
      This post has made me realise that so many authors share the conscious or unconscious intention off imparting a message to their readers. Not necessarily to teach or preach, but to support, encourage and confirm to the reader that they are not alone in their struggles.
      When I write I don’t necessarily go about writing it to ensure my message comes across- its more of an sub-conscious idea that filters through the book, starting with a kid who has issues and follows through their resolutions or their further struggles when no resolution is available.
      Thanks for posting πŸ™‚
      Tee

  4. This is a great post, Tee,

    I always talk to my kids about what they are reading too. Part of enjoying the reading experience is sharing what you read.

    When I was a teen there wasn’t much YA about so I was reading books by D H Lawrence, Somerset Maugham, Tolstoy etc. Not sure I’d want my kids reading some of those:)

    I agree that books need to be talked about. Apart from anything else, my kids have pretty good taste in books and sometimes put me onto great new authors.

    Reading can be about mental and emotional maturity too. Some kids can cope better with the adult world and have the ability to be philosophical about what they read in books.

    Dee:)

    1. Hi Dee
      I’m sure I replied to this comment but I think my Ipod ate it!! You know I so agree with hoping my kids don’t read some of the books I read as a teen. Teens these days have such a vast range of options in terms of reading material that I am often jealous- and here I am writing YA!!
      And I will always believe that an avid reader develops a fuller sense of the collective consciousness. I do think you develop a certain knowledge and awareness of the world too. I supposed I am biased – had my nose in a book permanently since I was five!
      Thanks for dropping by πŸ™‚
      Tee

  5. Hi Tee πŸ™‚

    Hey, wordpress messed up my comment lol I didn’t sign it in the middle of my post… but for some reason, wordpress put it there

    I have to buy a lot of books! I’m always working at whittling down my visa card lol I do love seeing them stuck in a book. The best sight for sure.

    love,
    Denise

  6. I think the writer’s first job is to entertain. That said, it makes sense to write about a subject that you care about. My novel, Refugees, was written to explore the conflict between East and West.

    1. HI Catherine
      I agree- we love to get lost in a book and it will be tedious if every book we read has deep hidden morals. Your novel does sound interesting – would love to read it!!
      Thanks for posting, πŸ™‚ Tee

    1. Hello Elizabeth,
      thank you for stopping by. I guess every writers message is intensely person in the way they get the message across. Are your books subtle in its message of kindness or is the thread woven thickly through the pages of your story? I do think its almost impossible to create a story without a message. Once you create a character you flesh out their personal wants and needs. And as humans we are deeply flawed with out needs and desires, our hurts and our tears?
      Thanks for your kind words
      πŸ™‚ Tee

  7. Interesting, I think many books have a moral, although whether the reader sees the same on the writer intended is another matter! I do think we look for them, perhaps, Maybe even unconsciously, we are shocked by the bad guy being evil and we cheer when the good guys win. Books can affect profoundly, they can inspire, they can shock and they can guide. In many ways they can be as dangerous as they are wonderful. Look at all the banned books, the controversy over them and the influence they are perceived to have. I think there is something much deeper in a book than, perhaps a film.

    1. Hi! Thanks for dropping by… I agree that sometimes reader and writer may see different morals to the story and I believe its the way our life and experiences shape us that we identify with the same aspects of a book in different ways. We take away different things from the experience of reading that book and I wouldn’t expect it to be any other way. It’s what makes us unique as readers and humans, I think πŸ™‚

  8. The “special-needs vampire” hook of my saga is the perfect way to attract the attention of those who would not read a book about a normal special-needs person.

    Or for those who think “Forrest Gump” needed less maudlin sentimentality, and more vampires, sex, violence and aliens… 😈

    Ironically, the best way of “humanizing” special-needs people to many readers might be to make them something other than an ordinary human.

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