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Idiots and Fiction

Posted by Charles Gray on May 31, 2013

“There is a technical term for someone who confuses the opinions of a character in a book with those of the author. That term is idiot.”
S.M. Stirling


If you write fiction, and especially if you try to write fiction that is more complex than G.I. Joe, you will have to deal with this.  Because realistic fiction isn’t going to have every bad guy get his just rewards.  You will sometimes have witty, charming and utterly evil characters who win.


Just look at Game of Thrones (which also gives us an example of a non-witty and non-charming utterly evil character who is,  at least right now in the TV series, winning: Joffrey).


The problem is, of course that some people seem to feel that every character written by an author is obviously a mouthpiece for that author’s beliefs and desires.  Note, given how many different types of characters most authors write about that generally makes your average author a raving case of multiple-personality disorder, but then, this sort of criticism isn’t high on logic.  Unless the entire book is a screed, where not simply characters, but authorial set up work to promote a position (Atlas Shrugged is one example of this), then it is safe to assume that the author’s characters are just that– characters.


For that matter, especially in science fiction, we explore other worlds and cultures and sometimes those aren’t nice places– after all, the bad guys in both 1984 and Brave New World won. Yet few people argue that either author was cheering the winners.


So what do you do when you get the frothing letter, or are banned from a forum, or have people proclaim that you are an enemy of all that is right and good?  Well, first of all, congratulate yourself– it’s far better to be hated for a story than to have that story just drift into oblivion.  Secondly, understand that arguing with these people, in the vast majority of cases, is like teaching a horse to sing– it annoys the horse and wastes a writer’s most precious commodity– the time that he or she could be spending writing.


One Response to “Idiots and Fiction”

  1. Julian Horsesinger said

    Well, that was a waste of time to read. It was a (relatively) long lead-up to a single sentence’s worth of actual advice, which could actually have been summed up in two words: ignore them.

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