Many of us when choosing to write will have an axe to grind, whether something that brews in the moment or is a long held belief. I wondered when writing my novel and throughout my other work who I would choose to offend and whether it was right that I offended them. Who therefore is a legitimate target?
This may seem like a simple discussion but I don’t think it is. For a start if you seek to maximise your audience you better be careful you don’t upset your reader. On the other hand we are encouraged to brave and fearless and write what we like, write about what vexes us. Oh the freedom. Say what you want to. Easy to say, less easy to do and be prepared that your honesty may not be rewarded. For as many people who might agree with you, there are many that will turn away from it.
Personally I think there is a middle ground where you can still be brave but avoid all out attacks on individuals. I have tried to do this by challenging myself to sit on the other side of the fence for a moment. Easy to express an opinion about somebody or something. Have a rant…story over.
What about writing from the opposite point of view? Put yourself in the shoes of those who trouble you and see why they do the things they do. Balance your argument against theirs. You can still be the winner but at least you challenged yourself and maybe you challenged the person on the other side. Your argument will be so much stronger with the reader because you explored the controversy and came to a conclusion that was fair.
So where do my bad guys fall? Well I definitely put them on the opposite side of the fence, but sometimes you can put them on your side. They may share your argument but they seek to exploit the argument for their own gains. Politicians and rich exploitative business men are easy targets for this as we struggle to understand apparent greed. Naturally that is another argument to explore.
The outcome of this ramble is that as a writer, perhaps it’s more fun for you and your readers to jump over the other side and see what the view looks like. It can be quite therapeutic and lead to a powerful story.