I’ve written before that no writer is obligated to be socially responsible in his or her work. Writing fiction or non-fiction that is meant strictly for entertainment is not only a respectable way to employ your talent, but an honorable one.
In times of stress, many people seek escapism in various forms of media, mostly TV and movies and maybe music. Literature is not as common when it comes to seeking the relief of art, commercial or otherwise, but it’s still a viable option.
But often when people are feeling vulnerable, confused or even frightened by world events, they seek solidarity or guidance in the words of others.
This is where you, as a writer, assume some responsibility, if you choose to. The challenge is finding common ground with a diverse audience, so you’re neither appeasing nor alienating any particular faction.
You can do achieve this by focusing on what binds us as a species and a society. The many facets of human nature apply to each one of us in different ways and measures, but they’re all relatable or at least comprehensible on some level.
By targeting the center of the diverse and increasingly divided reading population, you’ll manage to possibly pull off one of the most elusive feats of all: actually brining people together. If not around common principals, then common experiences.
Everyone views the life and world via their own unique prism. To ascribe blanket characteristics to a monolithic block of demographics is to deny our individuality as people. And any reader will resent that.
By locating, designating, and then either celebrating or exploring the humanity of any character, however outwardly loathsome or offensive to certain sensibilities, you’re providing readers with an engaging point of discussion, not just a convenient target for their anger, sadness or even adulation.
The same goes with the story you’re telling, even if it’s a single-sided narrative, conveyed via one character’s point of view. If that character is complex enough, different readers will be able to identify with different shades of the character’s personality and situation. And if the situation itself is creatively complex and multi-dimensional, you will attract and appeal to an even wider audience, even if many of them disagree with the core morality of the people and the plot of your book.
If they don’t feel like you’re judging them, chances are they won’t judge you. Except as a storyteller, which is their right, and their role.
In fact, the revelations of a character’s or story’s “dark” of conflicted sides may even surprise and enlighten them, introducing them to parts of themselves – and their surroundings – that may have evaded them before, due to lack of introspection or awareness.
Readers connecting with a character that may be the complete opposite of them superifically can be one of the most mutually satisfying experiences a writer can share with the world.
Regardless of the protagonist's particular peccadilloes or personality quirks, if your point of view as an author offers a fresh perspective on matters that all of us must cope with at some point, then your readers will not only feel spiritually, mentally or emotionally awakened, but they will also be very appreciative. It’s hard to put a price on shared wisdom.
And if you can help readers simply forget reality with a well-told fantasy for a few hours, sans any social subtext, then you’ll be likewise rewarded.
This kind of gratitude can result in the sort of compensation you’ll appreciate, too.
Books are tools of learning as well as vessels of distraction, after all.
Peace and happy holidays.