Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Freedom of the Press and Freedom to Be Me, a Writer

Those of us who live in the U.S. and other free countries enjoy the liberty to express ourselves through the written word. Currently, the press in the States is under attack for alleged bias and failure to check facts; whether or not these allegations are true, they write on—because they can. The press is not stifled; it can speak freely.


Authors can also speak freely. Whether we write fiction, nonfiction, or fiction based on fact, we can say what we please with impunity as long as we avoid defaming another person in a way that causes them financial loss. While the publicity resulting from a libel suit might generate enough curiosity to sell some books, it might not be in our best interest in the long run. Thoughtlessly or viciously written words can follow us through a lifetime and impact our credibility as writers. Besides, we have other avenues in which to address almost any issue. Freedom of the press grants us carte blanche to say almost anything we like—within a well disguised fictional setting.

Most of us write what we know, what we like (or don't like), what inspires us. As a fiction writer, I observe people, watch the news (as much as I can tolerate, which some days is very little), listen to what those around me say—and what they don't say. I have my soapboxes, my pet peeves, my favorite things. Bottom line: These are all the building blocks needed to lay the foundation for a story.

Suppose we, someone we know, or someone we've read or heard about has suffered a severe trauma. Can we incorporate that experience in a story? Yes, of course, but we need to be discreet. Will our written words cause anyone pain? embarrassment? loss? To avoid those scenarios, we can change the location, the people involved, even sometimes the gender, and we can sufficiently alter the circumstances to protect those who should be protected. As Diana wrote in her July 6 post and as noted in this article, "with freedom comes responsibility."

The media climate today promotes name calling, slamming others, and violence when one does not get one's way. We are not required to be part of that mentality; in fact, we have a wonderful forum to show the possible consequences of such thinking and behavior. We can write.

On a personal note, my books address women's issues, relationships, various forms of abuse, and choices people make to continue in a negative lifestyle or rise above their circumstances. While they generally fall into the category of women's fiction, several of them contain strong male types. The stories are realistic, sometimes painfully so, and the three-dimensional characters step up from the pages to invite readers to take their hands and come along for the journey. Hopefully, the stories touch peoples' lives and hearts and perhaps show a positive path to some who may feel locked into a lifestyle that threatens their very existence.

What are your stories about? Do you use them to cite the wrongs in the world we live it? How do you pull readers into your words? What techniques do you use to make your characters live?

Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. You can contact her through her writing website, LSLaneBooks.com or her editing website, denvereditor.com 

12 comments :

  1. Freedom of speech and the exploration of dissenting views has never been more critical. The ability to cherry pick information to only support a worldview seems toxic to me. I am thankful we still have writers capable of cogent discussion.

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    1. Definitely. I appreciate that we can incorporate so much into a fiction story that we cannot necessarily say with impunity.

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  2. Boy am I venting in fiction today. :D

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  3. Re your statement in the first paragraph, "The press is not stifled; it can speak freely" ... Stephen Colbert will have MSNBC's Mika & Joe on his show tonight. I expect they'll have something to say about how representatives of the White House attempted to trample on their First Amendment rights. We all need to stay vigilant!

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    1. In 1839 English novelist/playright Edward Bulwer-Lytton penned these well-known words about the power of writing: The pen is mightier than the sword. Those words are as true today as they were more than 175 years ago. Vigilance, discretion, and wisdom still need to guide our "pens" as we create stories relevant to our time, but we are certainly free to speak out about the ills and dangers of the world we live in.

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  4. My work in progress has one storyline that parallels some of today's problems. It's hard not to inject personal opinions in stories. In fact, I want to do that. We, as writers not journalists, have only our stories to make a difference. Some have become advocates for or against social situations, and in doing so have brought attention to those situations. I applaud them.

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    1. The options we have to express opinions and concerns in fiction are almost endless. A great story can be a very effective soapbox.

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  5. Yes, with freedom comes great responsibility. Thanks for this post, Linda.

    I tend to write about the darker sides of life, but there's usually an uplifting message in there somewhere.

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    1. I, too, write realistically. Novels include a number of thorny issues, such as child and spousal abuse, crime, infidelity, narcissism, prejudice, suicide, and so forth -- not all in one book, of course. How characters handle these life-altering situations and grow beyond them create the foundation for the story, and the challenges they face often result from their own actions/decisions. Lots of positives are peppered throughout, the intent being that readers should never be left unsatisfied or depressed.

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  6. Since most stories do come from our life experiences, unless we are writing fantasy or sci-fi, it is hard not to have some of our personal agenda in them. I have been an advocate of "justice for all" so my books tend to deal with social issues of injustice and how my characters work through their take on certain issues.

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  7. Your approach is great because many of us may face similar social issues or injustices and therefore relate to stories in those arena. Over the years I have found different perspectives on issues in my own life that helped me consider options that had not previously been on the table.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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