Keeping opinions to yourself?

When you're chatting with other authors, and possibly readers, do you think it's better to speak your mind or keep your opinions to yourself? I'm on and off the WattPad forums, trying to get people interested in maybe checking out my stories, and every week or so we always get a new thread about "diversity." It's always the same, someone doesn't think we're representing whatever minority they've decided they represent, and that needs to change. Every single time, I weigh in with my opinion (the plot itself is more important than representing real world people, pushing political agendas can only hurt a story, etc) and it always turns out the same way: "You're racist!" "No I'm not, I just--" "You're homophobic too!" "Hater!" "White supremacist!"


So, yeah, is it worth it to speak your mind about things like this, or should I just stay out of it? At first I hoped that someone who has similar views to mine might decide to look at my stories, but more often I'm worried that I'm just scaring people off.


That's for you to figure out for yourself.


If you're wondering whether or not authors should voice their opinions in public, you can't follow many authors on Twitter XD


It's frustrating. Like, I'm not against diversity. I'm against people using fantasy as a way to push their political agendas-- or worse, telling other people they need to push their agenda for them. And that's all I ever say. Don't worry about making connections to real life, or representing people who feel left out. Just tell a good story. By the way they always react, you'd think I'd showed up wearing a freaking KKK hood. And yeah, I'm worried it'll have a negative effect on my readership. But at the same time, why shouldn't I be able to express my own opinion?


I'm against people using fantasy as a way to push their political agendas.


Yet that's very much what fantasy is about, and has been about for thousands of years. You'll never escape that.


No, that's NOT what fantasy is about. Fantasy is an escape from the real world. Sure you get some idiots who use it to try and preach to their readers, and very very rarely you might find someone who actually does it well, but "Guys I put a black guy in my book aren't I progressive?" Is not the right way to do it.


Welcome to the internet, where you can't say that water is wet without ten people immediately pouncing on you to point out every exception, and another twenty pounce on you to throw you under the bus as an example of everything wrong in society.


Diversity is something that's been part of the writing culture for a long time, and its currently the super-hot-top-topic at the moment, so its going to be pushed, especially by those who make it their mission in life to educate the masses anyway they think they can. And then you get the people who are just angry or trolling dipshits who will just call you anything to try and break you and make you their little lolcow. And whatever important message or discussion there ever was to be had (which has already been had ad nauseum, but people still have to have repeated) gets lost in the mire of filth.


People who try to bully creatives into pushing a message for them are not themselves creatives, but they know art has the power to influence society, and they think they can perform social engineering by manipulating art. Either that, or they really are upset and want someone to write more diversity, but they don't know how to go about making it themselves or funding someone who is willing to do it, and are lashing out in frustration.


I wouldn't worry to much about it. Say whatever you say, you are going to be shit on, regardless, by somebody. If someone just wants to scream "Nazi" at you because your main character isn't a black lesbian in a wheelchair, it is not your responsibility to cater to their needs, and they make themselves look like a brat more than anything.


If you feel your words are falling on deaf ears, if you think the reputation damage inflicted by disagreeing what what appears to be the masses will sink you, then maybe don't engage in that topic, and proceed to follow your vision. Otherwise, you're wasting your time on brick walls that will never hear you out, and will never be satisfied even if you follow their every demand.


@Sharkerbob, you wanna know what's funny? Whenever I enter into these arguments I always point out one thing: I actually have a pretty diverse cast. Amber Silverblood has three black characters and a strong female main character. The Slayer and the Sphinx has a black character, two Japanese characters, and an Arabian character. The Gray Ranger's (white) main character is married to a black woman who's also probably my strongest female character. Juryokine, admittedly, has an entirely white cast, but has probably my second strongest female character. And that's not even taking into account the literal dozens of nonhuman characters that are in all my books.


Their reactions when the "white supremacist" has a more diverse cast than they do is priceless, especially since I do it without telling everyone and their mother how progressive I must be.


The thing that I keep in mind regarding arguments on the internet is this:






@Adam - Oh, but I'm sure you're an exceptionally rare exception. :P


@Jim - I disagree! Fight me! :P


@Shakerbob: Heh.





Pick any author of fantastical or imaginative fiction over the years, from Ovid, Dante and Shakespeare through to Wells, Tolkien, Herbert...and you will find politics, subtext, allegory.


No work is apolitical: that is simply an illusion created when you consume works that conform to the status quo.


The idea that fantasy shouldn't be political and should instead just be about escapism is not just absurd, it's ignorant. And to hear such a statement mere days after the passing of Ursula le Guin, of all people!


Am of the mindset of chose your battle wisely.


That doesn't mean I stay silent but that means I come in saying the first thing that pops in my mind while being on an emotional high. You learn to spot people who have ears to listen and who doesn't. I don't suffer myself with fools within an echo chamber. It's hard to get differing opinions, views, and approaches and not where everyone is wearing the same a pair blinders and headphones.


Also, fantasy can serve more than one purpose. I find it disappointing that so many people believe that fantasy should always be about escaping the real world because that's its only purpose. That you cannot do anything with it other than having a bunch of character fighting some big bad in a heroic fashion. It's really very disappointing and just adds to how stale fantasy can be when you adhere so strictly to fantasy only being about escapism.


@Dary, I'm aware that an author's personal beliefs always bleed into their work. But there's a difference between "bleeding into" and "outright preaching." The second one is the one I have no patience for, because it brings the story (What everyone is here for) to a screeching halt so that the author can get up on a soapbox and shove their opinions down the readers throats.


The second one is the one I have no patience for, because it brings the story (What everyone is here for) to a screeching halt.


I mean, maybe try not to presume you know what every individual is interested in reading? You might read fantasy to escape the real world, but that doesn't go for everybody.


I don't think it's assuming too much to say that when somebody picks up a fantasy novel, or any kind of novel for that matter, that they want to be told a story...


@Dary

My heart broke finding out about Ursula le Guin's death :( Fantasy (and SciFi) has been my favorite place for societal discussion, and she was one of the best.


@AdamBolander

On Dary's point, I am much more fulfilled as a reader when a fantasy does a political allegory well. Of course, story has to come first, but just because an author uses fantasy as a playground for political or philosophical points does not automatically mean that the story is lacking. Fantasy CAN be used for escapism just as it CAN be used as allegory.

All the time I come across political allegory that is heavy handed or something I disagree with, just as all of the time I come across an escapist story that lacks drama or is too heavy in world building and little else. Both of those things are a sign of poor writing and is on the author, not an inherent flaw in the subtext or surface. If you don't like your stuff to be political, that's awesome, but allegory does not negate story.


On keeping your opinions to yourself:

I don't. I think that fiction should be more inclusive, but that is MY job as a writer, and I would not push that on another artist. If you want to write escapism and tell a story, power to you! We are all story tellers first, don't let anyone tell you what to write. I do not think there is anything wrong with what you want to write, and as an artist your only job is creating an experience for others.

I like allegory, I like my fantasy (and especially my SciFi) to explore philosophical ideas and to be inclusive. I live for it, but if I want to see more of it then I have to write it or find like minded people. I am not about to tell you that you need to do it, just as I hope you wouldn't tell me to not do it.


Weighing in at this point would largely involve just reiterating points already made, so I will simply say that I agree with RevFitz. I don't think literature has any hard and fasts, and attempting to impose them on the medium is to do it a disservice. You don't need to be making statements in your work, nor do you need to shy away from them.


With regard to the initial question, on the other hand, I agree with Jim Zoetwey. Arguing the point with a person, unless you are able to unequivocally prove to them that their point is wrong, is likely to just reinforce their prior views. Effort justification states that the more someone has to fight for what they hold, the more they will value it. Ergo, the more someone argues a particular mindset, the more justified they will feel in doing so. This is where argument differs from debate. Debate is where two or more people compare and contrast their views and attempt to attain a greater understanding. Arguing has less of a learning objective.


People use writing to talk about what they want to talk about. Sometimes, it's just telling a story. Sometimes, it's making a point.


Anyone who says "it must be just making a point" or "it must be just telling a story" is wrong, because they are enforcing their preference on something that is a communication medium. Their preference isn't wrong -- it's their preference, after all. The insistence that an entire genre conform to that preference is, at the end of it all, ludicrously wrong.


You'll need to figure out what your preferences are, and then do those things. And then accept that by having a preference, someone else will be really, really pissed off at you for not having that preference.


To speak more specifically:


In my view, using a genre to push a political or social agenda is a perfectly valid way to use the genre.

Also in my view, using a genre to just tell a freaking story is a perfectly valid way to use the genre.


These two are not incompatible. They are also not required to be used together. Storytelling is flexible. It's more flexible than a lot of people want it to be. The fact that there are writers who use storytelling in ways that we do not like, care for, or make us uncomfortable -- or, on the other end, do not use it to the extent that we would like, or push the boundaries that we would like, or stretch the envelopes that we would like -- will make people mad and resentful, because that's the way it goes.


Tell your stories, take your hits, and move on to the next stories. And take your next hits. Eventually you'll get punch drunk and make a fool of yourself on Twitter. I think you get a participation trophy when that happens, so that's nice.