Thursday, May 8, 2008

Our Responsibility to Readers

By Rebecca Talley

What is our responsibilty to our readers? Should we write profane, vulgar, sexual, or violent scenes if it rings true with our story and characters? Where do we draw the line?

An e-mail list to which I subscribe has recently had a discussion about this topic. Strong feelings exist on both sides.

For me, I can only write what I'm comfortable writing, which may be different for someone else. We can argue back and forth as long as we want, but it comes down to this: we must be true to ourselves in our art. We must be comfortable with what we create within the context of our own personal values and morals.

If I find something offensive in a movie or a book, I have the right to walk out or throw the book away. I do not have the right to dictate to others what they create. What is offensive to me may not be offensive to the next artist because art is so subjective.

At the end of the day, I have to feel that what I've produced doesn't conflict with my own personal values. That is my right and my responsibility.

What do you think?


Christine Thackeray said...


There are so many other wonderful things to talk about, I always wonder why people feel they need to go there to get an emotional response. I love real art but the drunken stream-of-conscience writing, diatribes of arcane selfishness and portrayals of real evil or vulgarity are often toted by the world as somehow ultra-literary and deep when in reality they are just the opposite.

Kimberly Jensen said...

I believe in writing only that which inspires, uplifts or makes us laugh so hard we cry! That is how I choose to write. And my measuring bar is my dad, would he be proud?

C. L. Beck said...

You've made an excellent point here! As writers, we need to be true to our own values, and yet we have no right to dictate what others can or can not create.

We do have the right (and moral obligation)to refuse to buy when something doesn't match our values. And if the whole world refused to buy trashy books or go to smutty movies, (or buy high priced gasoline :) publishers would stop publishing. Consumers really wield tremendous power.

Good blog.

Rebecca Talley said...


My measuring rod is my kids--am I undermining what I've worked so hard to teach them for so many years? And to a greater extent, if the prophet picked up my book would I feel embarrassed?

But, that's just me and others have different measuring rods.

Abel Keogh said...

I recommend reading a lecture Orson Scott Card gave on the subject titled “A Mormon Writer Looks at the Problem of Evil in Fiction."

You can read it here.