First of all, it’s been a chaotic few days. I’ve hardly even had the time to sit down and write, let alone write a blog post. So, to make up for that lovely blank space I’m sure you’ve been staring at, wondering whether or not a blog post will ever materialize in it, I have an essay.
I’ve been reading American Psycho. This is, of course, not the point of this post but it has everything to do with its conception. As with most things I tend to fixate on for any given period of time, I went a little further than simply reading the novel (although I admit, that part was gruelling at times. Not quite as gruelling as reading an excerpt from Twilight, and not quite in the same way, but nonetheless, I haven’t had to struggle with reading a book for a long time). This is where I start commenting on how the Internet really is a wonderful tool, and the amount of book reviews I found. Not necessarily read through, but found.
Something that stayed with me after reading one review in particular, was a comment the author made about how Bret Easton Ellis was clearly writing for himself. I’m still not sure if this is a fair evaluation, as it then throws Easton Ellis’ sanity into question, but of course, it wasn’t quite so black and white.
I like to think that I write for myself. It is rare that I have a target audience in mind when I first start plotting through an idea, or even when I start writing those first few words on the page. I could hazard a guess at the demographic most likely to pick up something I have written and read it (and there it is, self indulgence at its finest. I’m not so presumptuous as to assume my work is even readable to begin with), but there is never any set target age or audience. Similarly, I am almost always aware of the fact that there are elements, maybe more than I would be willing to admit, that would most likely be distasteful to some, or that others would never agree with.
But then, isn’t this a part of being a writer in itself? Isn’t this a part of creating, in general? With the exception of some fields, there is always going to be someone who doesn’t get, or disagrees with the message you are trying to send, which ultimately ends in several scenarios; the two I have picked out are being labelled as mentally unstable by anyone from readers to publishers and anyone in between, and somehow becoming an atheist, racist, sexist, satanist, or anything in between in the public eye. I don’t have time to list all of the possible outcomes. Someone is always going to be critical of your work, and someone is always going to tear it to shreds, no matter how heavily you have considered your 12 – 17-year-old female demographic through every chapter, on every page, every line, every damn letter. No matter how frivolous you have been in including content that might otherwise not make it past censors, because first and foremost, you were writing for yourself.
The thing is, regardless of how you consider your manuscript that first time through, it is still yours and it is still possible to enjoy that first outing regardless of content, grammar, spelling, capital letters and punctuation. For all intents and purposes right now, I am focusing solely on content. So what if your antagonist cannibalizes the protagonist’s girlfriend in the first chapter? It fits with the rest of the narrative, doesn’t it?
I find it a complete put-off to get bogged down in censorship details the first time around; what will come will come. Censoring too early on can completely ruin the flow of the story, even if I do take out the serial killer’s perspective later on down the line (I’m not a fan of changing perspectives too regularly anyway. Not any longer, at least), it was still there to begin with. Arguably, a lengthy, detailed, character sheet can be a surefire way to get to the bottom of his psyche, but what about knowing the exact way in which the murder took place? Won’t that help your hard-boiled detective along his way, so you can gradually drop clues into the narrative to find the solution that you, of course, knew all along. Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about, but this is most certainly the way in which I prefer to look at it.
I am well aware that the only form of ‘explicit content’ included in this post at present are a couple of mentioned of serial killers and a little cannibalism. This is not limited to just violence, of course, although it does seem to be the thing that people get particularly up in arms about, though graphic sexual scenarios come a close second. I’ll save some time and not go on about how, perhaps, these are only construed as wrong in most cases because of the correlation between sex and porn, and skip straight ahead.
The bottom line is, first time out, I will write how I want to write, but I do question the safety of allowing this to continue through the second, third, fourth drafts, and beyond. I write for pleasure, and so why shouldn’t it be pleasurable to write? However, somewhere along the line, and I am not going to lie, audience plays a part. If you market a book towards 30-year-old males, then chances are it’s not going to be a romance, or at the very least, not a gushy one. A high-octane thriller is less likely to appeal to middle-aged women (although I like to think that I’ll still have a similar taste in literature when I’m in my 40s!) than the aforementioned gushy romance. This is, of course, a very stereotypical way to go about things; I want to believe the lines are being blurred more and more.
I don’t think Easton Ellis was unstable for putting American Psycho out there, because of reasons that have been stated time and time again in some of the other reviews I have read. It is not a book that can be censored, in all fairness … he wasn’t entirely writing for himself, though, either. Contrary to opinion, I believe that he was indeed writing for the masses; enough about that, though, I will repeat that this is not a review or analytic look at American Psycho in any way, shape, or form.
I think, more than anything, I have digressed from my original point; whether or not I write for myself. Instead, it has become something of a sad comment on how we are still too quick to judge, maybe. Or how intense, graphic imagery somehow becomes wrong, somewhere along the line; and this is not to say that it is always right to include it. Just that it can be used to great effect … it depends entirely on whether or not it is done correctly.