Should We Write About Difficult Topics?

© Copyright 2020 Arabella K. Federico All Rights Reserved

Should we write about difficult topics

Should we write about difficult topics?

Is it our responsibility to write about the darkest natures of our fellow man? Do we have an obligation to dare speak of all the things that are meant never to be uttered? Where is the line drawn between our own experiences as people and writers and those who’ve suffered such terrible acts? I think it’s time we take a long hard look.

The darkness is where they live and thrive

To begin, the most horrible things that happen to us as humans are often shrouded in a thick, black veil of darkness and shame. These things survive because nobody talks about them; it’s simply too disturbing to go into graphic detail about these horrible events. Contrarily, speaking up about these topics does something that disinfects it slightly. Light is the most potent disinfectant, and when you, as an author, speak of these horrible things in your writing, you are apart of that disinfecting. You’re saying: “I’m shining a light in this dark place.” Because of your voice and your reach, people’s eyes are now focused on those things typically left forgotten about. Giving your character an arch-like the ones I talk about in my Protagonist series Part1 and Part2, you will have an epic arc in your book because of it. Because it’s all real. 

But this is the world we live in...

Firstly, we live in a world of polarity, meaning there’s good and bad. There are so many issues and trauma and events and circumstances that no one person could make much of a dent in ending them. That’s not the point. We get this beautiful gift through fiction to put a random person in someone else’s point of view, and concerning writing, that can be incredibly vivid. What that does is give that single person a small hint at what really goes on within the harsh topic you decide to write about. Whether that’s rape, a murder of a loved one, being hit by a drunk driver, being abducted, etc., now this reader has empathy from being immersed in this foreign point of view, whereas they would never have otherwise. Giving the collective that gift of empathy does us all a favor.
Lost In My World

If you could help just ONE person...

Additionally, my last defense of writing about these difficult topics is that these things happen to people. They happen to little boys and girls and adult men and women. It’s sad, and I wish people didn’t have to suffer these things. But they do. When you’re writing your novels and stories, understand that you will have readers who will, sadly, relate to these events. They’ll know that others see them, that their pain is valid and heard. Pain is universal and common, and it’s relatable. Reliability is HUGE when it comes to a successful novel. Suffering is inevitable; share it in a way your readers can relate to it.
Lost Soul


Secondly, when you’re talking in the realm of serious, difficult topics, it could land you in a controversial author category. Now, personally, I don’t think controversial is a bad word. Contrarily, I believe that if people are talking about you for doing something you feel in your heart was a good and positive thing; then it’s a great word. However, some writers out there do not want all the noise and the crap that comes when people disagree with how you’ve done things. Both are equally valid and fine; what you’ve got to think about as a writer is which one you want to be? Writing these topics often brings out a lot of emotion in people due to said topics’ sensitive nature. Beware of the fiery passions of others and their interpretation of what you write about.

Don't forget about real-world victims

Thirdly, you cannot forget about the real world, real life impact these traumas have on the people who’ve survived them. There’s two ways people who’ve lived the exact types of traumas your writing about will react. They’ll either react with appreciation, love, and gratitude for you bringing this topic to the world, or they could be triggered by it. This could really mess with them, depending on the level or trauma your writing about. A trigger warning may be needed in some cases and scenarios. Be considerate of what you’re writing about and who will be reading it.

it ALL depends

Let’s Segway from the point above, about paying attention to the people you’re writing for. When topics like rape, murder, incest, child crimes, kidnapping, sex trafficking…these topics sometimes may only be for a certain audience. This is where genre, category, and publishing pathway all matter—a lot. You may have a plan for your writing career where you want to be writing YA or be traditionally published by a “Big 5”. All that’s fine, but if you want to write these intense topics, you’ve got to understand that you may be highly restricted based on the age category you want to write in. Or, who’s going to publish your book? What would they say about you weaving these topics in? This all needs to be thought out ahead of time.

In closing

Personally, I believe that these harsh topics should be talked about in our fiction. They should be brought to the light and we need to, as a community, support authors who risk a little more by doing so. Collectively, we have a responsibility to support our fellow writers who want to bring awareness to the darkness of our world, regardless if they’re personally affected or not. I’ve seen situations where others claim authors are “profiting off other’s pain”. But I call bullshit on that. No, we’re not. We’re standing up to the darkness, and telling it to rightly fuck off.

Leave a Reply