I've been thinking about my best friend, who died last year from ovarian cancer, and about my mother, who was raped and murdered by a neighbor teenager on drugs in 1986. Over the last couple of decades since the latter, I've exchanged stories (and tears, and laughter, and anguish) with other family members of murder victims. Sometimes when I read a story in which killing someone is presented as praiseworthy, I want to scream at the author, "Do you have any idea what you're doing? Do you understand how much pain your characters are causing?" I want to sit down with the writers and make them listen to what it's like to lose someone you love and all the years you might have had together for no good reason. I'm feeling really angry about it right now. Hence the rant below.Read the whole thing. If you dig deep enough, I'm sure you can find something to quibble with in Ross' piece. For myself, I'm not so sure it's fair to compare accounts of soldiers fighting in wars with pulpy splatterfic that gleefully reduces antagonists to chunky bits. But that's beside the point. Writers love to preach artistic freedom; they get awful quiet, though, when the subject of artistic responsibility comes up. Ross understands this, and her post is a clarion call for creative types to understand fiction's power to affect others for good -- and for ill. "Good fiction has structure, tension, and resolution," she notes. "The Greek playwrights understood this. Shakespeare knew it. So should you. ... Go deep in your fiction. Go true. And go with compassion." Well said.
I admit that I cannot comprehend why anyone would think that deliberately ending someone's life is laudable. Yes, things happen by accident. People drive around in lethal weapons all the time. People get angry or frightened and lash out. But writing a story is not something that's over in a flash and can never be taken back. It's an act of deliberate creation and as such, calls on us to be mindful. Listen, folks. Life is all too brief, and incredibly precious. It's totally not okay with me to deliberately cut short a human life. For greed, for bigotry, for revenge, for patriotism. In fiction we often do kill off characters. If you do it, do it with full awareness of the cost.
(Picture: CC 2010 by paukrus; Hat Tip: My Little Corner)