Controversial topics

Question: In this novel I'm writing many of the subjects and characters deal with harsh and rather controversial topics. I don't know, an example is a homeless guy who constantly getting beaten by teens, other topics handled in the novel include abortion, rape, racism. and other things. Would I be taking it a step too far? I honestly don't agree with sugar coating books. And an inspiration for my book is the song dollhouse, I was just wondering if this is a good idea, I would just like to get someone else's opinion on this.


Answer: All aspects of the human experience are fair game in literature, provided you approach them honestly and authentically, in a way that encourages empathy. In fact, one of the greatest benefits of books is that they provide a forum where issues can be explored in a personal and subjective way, rather than an objective, philosophical way. It makes issues seem more real when they are placed in authentic situations where they affect authentic characters.

However, you do have to consider who your readers are. You would probably approach a subject like rape differently if you were writing adventure stories for young teens versus writing literary fiction for adults. You want to connect with your readers, not turn them off.

Abortion is a topic that many teens would be interested in, since, like teenage pregnancy, it is a subject that can be a part of their lives and the lives of their friends. However, you may run into the "morality police" in certain jurisdictions who censor what teens can read or who insist the topic be addressed only from one particular point of view. Hence, you might not get your book into libraries and schools as easily.

On the other hand, many of the greatest books (including ones written for teens) have addressed controversial topics. Some examples include To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn, The Hunger Games, the perks of being a wallflower, and The Catcher in the Rye.

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