Friday, September 17, 2010

Writing About Controversial and Emotionally-Charged Issues

As fiction writers, we often tackle issues that are controversial or emotionally-charged. Issues that demand a deeper level of sensitivity. We do a delicate dance in our writing to be honest, to tell a good story and, yet, to respect readers who may be struggling with the particular issue presented in our book.

My first Champagne Books release, Next Time I'm Gonna Dance, deals with the issue of breast cancer. We're approaching October which is designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A lot of women (and some of the men who love them) will be reading literature and fiction about breast cancer treatment and survival.

As I wrote this book, I was keenly aware of the need to provide information that was as accurate as possible, given current research and treatments. I was also very aware of the need to show sensitivity to those who have been affected by breast cancer. And I'm sure everyone's experience is different. I constantly questioned if I was being presumptuous to write this book, not being a breast cancer survivor myself. The last thing I wanted to do was to risk insulting the women who have battled this disease. I have friends who are breast cancer survivors and who graciously offered to read the manuscript and let me know if I hit or missed the target in terms of the emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual aspects of dealing with breast cancer. I was relieved to hear that I had hit the mark, based upon their experiences.

For those of you who are authors, how do you tackle controversial issues or subject matter that might be emotionally charged for your readers? And for those of you who are not authors, but readers, what do you find in a book that tells you the author did his or her homework when dealing with these kinds of intense issues?

Linda Rettstatt
Writing for women--stories of strength, love, humor, and hope.


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

I'm sure that interviewing the test market was your best choice. Those who are forthcoming have a better chance of survival, so you did a good thing.

In my works, I stay close to the issues around me. But then, I have so many isues.

Hope the book is flying off the shelves.


linda_rettstatt said...

Thanks for commenting, Julie. They (whoever they are) say, "Write what you know." I took a risk stepping outside the bounds with this one. We'll see how it goes.


Victoria Roder said...

I don't think you have to experience everything to help someone deal or heal from a difficult situation. You have a writing talent and perhaps the cancer survivor doesn't. You can tell their story for them. Your willingness to research and check with cancer survivors shows your compassion. The best to you,