A writer’s responsibilities?

This is a post that has been sitting in the draft folder for a (long) while. Ever since a rejection for Border Line in April. I guess I should face it now. How much responsibility does the writer have towards the reader when dealing with tricky subject matter?

Border Line is essentially and upbeat novel, yet it has suicide at its core and touches on assisted dying. It is fiction, it is written as a ‘good read’, is upbeat and life affirming and is essentially a love story – but the eleven characters’ main intention is to quit life.

I’m not daft. Suicide is only ever the least worst option for the person who chooses to go. For the people who are left behind it is misery in varying degrees. That does not mean it is never the right choice. The crucial word in this is choice. If I publish this novel, perhaps more particularly, if I self-publish, and if it is read by anyone vulnerable, could I be said to be encouraging them to take that route out?

Some friends, pointing out the range and gruesome subject matter available in print, think my scruples are absurd. I could certainly thin the story out to a ‘will-they-won’t-they’ thriller by taking out all the personality and debate, and it would become a harmless guessing game – I think this is what one agent had in mind. But I am curious about real people, how they deal with internal guilt or the random acts of life. My previous books have tended to deal with real issues and that seems to be what interests the kind of readers who enjoy them.

Drafts of the MS have been requested several times, and revised after each rejection. When do I stop submitting to agents and use those spare ISBNs?

Not an amusing post, but I started this with the aim of using the space as a notepad for writing-related thoughts and dilemmas.

3 thoughts on “A writer’s responsibilities?

  1. I’ve learned to ignore rejections. At first I would revise to each editors specifications until even I didn’t recognize the story – so – to heck with them – stay with your own style.

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