Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Writing Tip #34 – Don’t expose your offensive prejudices

I just finished a novel by a new author. I enjoyed the first thirty or forty pages, but then I noticed a pattern developing. All female characters were shown as strong, intelligent, and resourceful. However, all (and I do mean ALL) the men were either lying cheating bastards, spineless buffoons, or drug addicts who couldn’t tie their shoelaces without some woman there to show them how.

It became clear to me, that this woman writer had huge emotional issues with men—the kind of woman typically called a “man-hater”.

I found her treatment of women vs. men characters sexist and offensive. It colored the rest of the story, making it impossible for me to enjoy the book, or to take her seriously as a writer. I did finish the story, but only because I had agreed to review it, and I can state I will never bother with another of her books.

I have no issue with someone writing a story geared for women. Neither do I take issue with flawed characters, male or female. In fact, flawed characters tend to be the most interesting. But I do resent authors who blatantly attack a group of people by portraying them all as flawed, with little or no redeeming qualities.

After my first novel, Island Song, was published, I read through the story and realized I had presented a Christian preacher as totally flawed, a very unsavory character. I was more than a little mortified to realize I had let my resentment of the Church so blatantly color my story.  In my second novel, which also had a clergyman, I went out of my way to make that person a sympathetic character.

The writers I’m most impressed with try to show a fine balance of empathetic qualities and flawed qualities in each and every character, for their heroes and villains alike.  I think it’s one of the key traits of good storytelling.

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