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Sunday, 21 October 2012

Sitting on the Fence

I wonder whether I’ve sat on the fence too long. I have tried to write books with reasoned arguments, with characters displaying passionate arguments for their point of view then fighting it out to the death to see who’s right. Yes it wouldn’t take long for the reader to work out where the author’s sympathies lay even though every character gets a chance to offer a reasoned defence.

That’s all well and good, I guess the book is called A Hierarchy of Reason and what’s that title worth if it is not exploring reasoned arguments for the things we do. My question is more specific than that. I look at some of the bloggers and political activists that litter the news and wonder whether I’m actually being soft. Like supporting your football team. Are you a shirt wearing, no-holds barred, fan who is convinced beyond doubt that your team is the absolute best and every other team is not worthy to be who they are. Or, as I’ve always been, liked my team but rather enjoyed watching certain others, retaining any denegration purely for current rivals. For instance I always hated Arsenal when I thought they could get the Title off Man Utd, but now I know they are unlikely to in the near future, I can appreciate watching them.

So it has become clear that I’m not a heart of my sleeve type of person. I like exploring viewpoints but won’t nail my colours to the mast. So what am I scared off? To return to the football analogy it’s because I was scared of getting a bloody nose, especially living on the wrong side of the Pennines these days for my football origins. I also think I’ve been scared of upsetting people. That goes to right to the depths of it. In writing terms it would suggest maximising your audience, something for everyone kind of thing, but am I failing myself by doing this.

The great writers were known for their ability to write with passion about a subject. They had a sense of their own righteousness and flogged it to the rest of the world whether they wanted to hear it or not. By reasoning your theoretical enemies perhaps you give them more credit than they deserve. If you think something is wrong, it’s wrong! You can listen to mitigation but you don’t have to be an independent judge. You’re a writer, the only opinion in your story that counts is your own. Of course this is high risk. A proportion of your audience will not appreciate it, but maybe you will be more respected in the literary world for your passion and defiance in your writing. The worst example for me of this was a strong catholic enjoying A Very English Revolution, my first book. The truth is, it was meant to be uncomfortable reading for a Catholic, not to be enjoyed but endured (maybe there was a little Christian kindness/politeness being offered in her response). By allowing my Catholic bad guy a forum for his individuality and separating him from his brethren I had let the enemy of the hook.
So it really is time to get off the fence.
Passion requires a clarity of viewpoint… but then isn’t it good to listen and learn. Make your mind up….

1 comment:

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