Hills To Die On

Let me come right out and say this: I hate offending people. I really do. I’m a middle child. A peace-maker. A pacifist. A wimp. Call it what you will, I like for people to be in agreement.

When I write, it’s very tempting for me to delete anything that might rub someone the wrong way. Too racy? Cut it. Too violent? Cut it. Cut cut cut. If I let myself, I could cut the life right out of my manuscript this way. 

But I do stop myself. I don't want to take the me out of my stories. And if we only wrote stories about prudent characters who made safe choices, who never lashed out, or cursed, or crossed a line, then I think our stories would be very dull indeed. It would rob us of one of the very best parts of reading, which is to experience, in the safety of bound pages, that which we will never say, do or see in our regular lives.

How do I choose what to cut and what to keep? How do I decide if it's a hill I want to die on? I go through the same exercises as Donna, Katy and Talia. I think. I test it on others. I think some more. For me, content that is potentially controversial has to possess intrinsic and necessary story value. If I write an act of violence, I don’t do it to piss people off. (How do you feel about that phrase?) I do it because the story calls for it. Because it is the one and only consequence of a given circumstance.

I know some people will disagree with my choices. I respect their right to disagree. I don’t hope for harmony in our opinions. That will never happen. Show me two people, and I guarantee we could find a hundred things they see quite differently. What I hope for is that my right to speak is respected in turn. 


My poetry mentor once told me there is always a creative, more interesting alternative to using cursewords in poems. I've never forgotten this, whether writing poetry or fiction--because it really makes me wonder: Am I being true to the character (or speaker)? And that's when (like it or not) I probably find my hills (whether I know it or not).

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