Do Authors Have to Write Responsibly?

Hey everyone and Happy Sunday…

On Friday I was on the website quora.com and this guy was asking people what was the scariest book they had ever read. He said that for him it was a book by Stephen King called Rage, published in 1977 and that the reason it was so scary was not because of what happened in the book but what happened after it’s publication. This novel is about a school shooting that is from the viewpoint of the shooter. This novel has been associated with real-life school shootings that happened in the ’80s and ’90s. After hearing about this, I couldn’t help but wonder just how responsible do I and other writers like myself have to be when writing fictional content for the public?

Until now I had never really given it much thought but I should. I don’t know about the rest of you but I have always had very high standards when it comes to morality. And I have always been fascinated about what causes people to do the things they do, particularly when it comes to taking the lives of others.

When Stephen King heard about how his book may have played a part in these mass shootings due to the fact that the shooters had read the book before committing the crimes, he had the book pulled from store shelves. I find it odd that he did not use his real name as the author of this book. He used the name, Richard Bachman. Perhaps a part of him wanted to be associated with the book and a part of him did not. I don’t know, but I can only imagine how he must’ve felt after everything went down. Is it a writer’s responsibility to be mindful of the content we publish knowing that it can influence bad behavior? I feel that we do to a certain degree. It would be irresponsible to write a novel that glorifies things that are ongoing problems in today’s society. Since the book Rage was released and then removed, we have seen many more school shootings occur such as the Columbine and Sandy Hook shootings. I don’t know if the more recent shootings were inspired by past shootings or the book but I do know that people do tend to copy what they see others do.

Authors do not typically write stories hoping that the public will act on things that they read from them. There was a time when we wouldn’t have even had to have this conversation because such things were unheard of. But we live in a much scarier world now where mass shootings have become the norm. I feel that because of this we writers do need to be mindful of certain things such as making it appear that doing bad things is not only fun but will go unpunished. If we are to show the perpetrators committing crimes or any type of sinful behavior there should be a balance and the perpetrators should be shown having to face the consequences of their actions for this is the reality of all real-life situations.

I can easily write about a character that murders or rapes people but if I don’t write what can and will happen to him after committing such a crime, it would appear to a more sensitive reader that I am telling them that it’s okay to do these things. I would not want to be responsible for someone hurting another person because of something that I wrote. The amount of guilt that I would feel would take a long time to recover from.

It is amazing how a novel or a film can inspire others to do terrible things, sometimes even knowing the risk or the outcome. No one can predict or control how people will react to the things they read or see. And although it may be risky, writers have to be able to write freely and not succumb to censorship or it destroys the creative process. People will always read into things and get the wrong idea and we should always be mindful of that and write not only from the mind… but from the heart as well.

Until next time…

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