As fiction writers we sometimes write about the dark and ugly side of our fellow men. Our stories have killers, rapists, pedophiles, and just plain nasty people. And that’s part of reality, unfortunately.
I’m sitting here, in Colorado, watching the news this morning about a man who walked into a local theater and gunned down complete strangers. At least twelve people are dead. A lot more physically injured and far more than that psychologically injured.
And it makes me pause. (In more ways than one, but this is a blog about writing, so for this post, it makes me, as a writer, pause.)
It’s early days and no one seems to know why this man did what he did, but one of the notions is that he was somehow inspired by the Batman movies. The idea being that perhaps he wanted to sow chaos in real life like the villains in the movies do.
As someone who portrays evil in my stories, that makes me stop for a moment. The people I write for are not the ones who will read about an awful person and identify with them. I write for the people who will see the evil in that character and maybe, just maybe, realize it when they see it in real life.
My novel has a secondary character who is a sexual manipulator. He’s a character who uses his power to push women into doing things they would never do otherwise. And part of the reason I wrote the character was because I think too few people see it when they’re being manipulated like that.
It’s not a big part of the book or even central to the story, but it’s there. I pause today, because I’m not sure what I’d do if someone like that character were to read that chapter and find enjoyment in what I’d written rather than horror or discomfort. I’m not sure how I’d feel to know that I’d fed into the twisted nature of someone’s soul.
Once we write our words and release them into the world, we can’t control what someone does with them. If someone does find that chapter appealing, that’s on them. But at the same time, it gives me pause.
Words are incredibly powerful tools and they can sometimes unlock in a person things you’d never imagine. That’s the beauty of writing, but it’s also the danger of writing.
Even knowing that someone will twist and misuse what I’ve written, it won’t keep me from writing those words or telling that story. I don’t think the answer is silence. But it still gives me pause.
It should give all of us pause. What we say matters. How we say it matters. In every conversation, in every correspondence, in every interaction with one another. It matters.
My condolences to all the families affected by this terrible tragedy today.