By the way, I ended up not liking that Gardner book. Just not my thing, is it too weird to say that it was too down? Even if we’re hearing about something terrible which wasn’t really the case with his book, I think that an author’s (uh-oh) voice influences us a lot. Margot Livesey’s The House on Fortune Street has disturbing things in the book but it is readable. If you’ve ever met her you would know that there is a certain sparkle in her eye that can always put you in a good mood. I imagine the author’s outlook on life probably has a lot to do with how they handle such topics. Choice of point of view is probably critical. If someone is committing a heinous crime and the story is told in first person, I don’t think I would be able to finish the book. Third person might provide the necessary distance to let us read about something very disturbing like child abuse without totally turning us off.
Quite a while ago, I went to a reading by some mystery authors at Johns Hopkins where one of the presenters had written a book with child abuse in it. Having children of my own, I couldn’t even begin to read his book after his talk. Not surprisingly, many “how-to” books discourage writing about such topics even if the actual acts appear off stage.
I guess that this little discussion is a reminder for my class notes that when you’re trying to talk about creative writing topics, it’s very hard to separate them. I usually do tell my little classes that everything works together, so feel free to go back and change your character, plot, whatever, when you see that it doesn’t all fit together. I’ve written a number of draft novels and I can tell you that when it becomes “whole” you can tell. That’s when I have been known to do my Dr. Frankenstein act!
More tomorrow when I talk about what I intended to talk about today – how to teach characterization.