When you write, do you imagine somebody reading the words over your shoulder? Or, do you imagine your words printed, on a magazine page or in your very own book, in the hands of housewives and students and commuters? Or, perhaps sadly, do you think only of your writing in the context of the electronic files, unread, on your computer?
I'd be lying if I said I didn't anticipate how a scene or character might come across to a reader. But, since most of what I write is, in fact, unread files on my computer, I also feel pretty free to write whatever I want. Really, even on my blog, which I tell people about, I write what I want. It's kind of the point. On my dog blog, I keep it pretty family friendly. I didn't make the conscious decision to do so, not at first, but after I realized that was the voice I'd taken, I figured I would maintain it. It just works that way.
I'd previously discussed (cribbing a Golden Earring song line) in Where Am I To Go Now That I've Gone Too Far? that one should write freely and honestly, and make things as dark (or not) as necessary, audience be damned. I'm willing to stand by that. Looking at the news, bad things happen every day. Horrible things, that if an entire book was comprised of them, the reader might get pretty depressed and put it down. Or read it out of a feeling of duty and guilt; I've actually stopped reading most fiction that pertains to the Holocaust, because I'm tired of being made to feel guilty about it. Not that the Holocaust can be construed as my fault in any way (or the fault of anybody in my family), and not that I think that Holocaust education should not occur, but because it is not my personal responsibility, and I prefer other storytelling. Does this mean I think all people who write "Holocaust fiction" are disingenuous button pushers? No, but I do think that it somewhat preys on peoples' feeling of social responsibility, that if they don't like it, it could be construed as shocking and disrespectful in some way.
That said, I also sometimes feel that people take offense far too easily. Fiction on a topic doesn't mean, necessarily, that the author is making light of a certain subject, be it murder, or stalkings, or rape. Fiction on a topic also doesn't mean that any of it happened to the author, or was acted out by the author. The psychology of why some stories are more compelling to some individuals than others is, I'm sure, very interesting, but I tend not to look too closely at it. Sometimes it's readily apparent, others not. Me, I have no idea why I'm interested in serial killer fiction, and serial killers in general. I actually kind of regret having read Helter Skelter, Victor Bugliosi's book on Charles Manson and the Manson "family"; that was some freaky shit.
There are times, when writing, my intellect gets in the way. I think "oh, I should do it like this, it'll be cool". Sometimes, that shuts the piece down for me. Whatever voice was speaking through me was interfered with too harshly, and stutters, and stops. If I'm lucky, I realize it pretty quickly, and can undo the damage. Sometimes you just need to stop thinking and just write, which sounds odd, but is entirely possible, I assure you. It can be surprising, the things that show up on the page when you reach that state, but rarely disappointing. You can add all that smart stuff later; to write well, and for it to be read well, it needs to be honest, and have heart.