by Katie Hines
Have you ever given much thought as to how your personal beliefs infuse your writing? Yep, this can be a touchy subject, but it doesn’t have to be.
Who you are as a person has a direct bearing on the types of characters you create, the genre you write in, dialogue, story arc, and on and on and on. As a person, we are more than experiences; rather, our experiences help frame who we become. Yes, I know, this is the whole nature vs. nurture controversy. If you’re not familiar with that, there are two prevailing theories of what sort of things determine who we are as people: nature, or that with which we were born; or nurture, the sum of our experiences. I personally think it is a combination of the two.
But what does that have to do with who we are as writers, and about what we write? It has absolutely everything to do with it! Case in point: News channels. CNN tends to be very liberal, and its stories are slanted in that direction. It will report stories which are favorable to liberal causes. And although it will show both sides of a story, their slant and bias is obviously toward the left. On the other hand, FoxNews tends to be conservative, and their stories are slanted in that direction. The news anchors and reporters reveal their bias in their questions and the people they interview. Both news agencies, I dare say, will declare they are bias free, but one can hardly watch either station without knowing in very short order what their leanings are.
Our writing is the same. If we have a personal faith, it will come through in our writings. If we base our life on certain values we learned as we grew up, those values will come through in our writing. Even such things as to whether you use profanity as part of your daily conversation will come through in our writing. I know that I can pretty well pinpoint an author’s view point on religious, political and other sensitive subjects just through the slant their character’s give in the story. Same thing with gender bias or leanings.
If we want to explore human sexuality, our personal beliefs will come through in not only the characters we create, but in their actions and dialogue. I know of one author whose son came out of the closet only within the past couple of years; before this happened, she did not use any gay characters or relationships in her books. Since then, not only does she include gay characters, but also those who are in love with each other and explores certain details of their relationships. There is another author who very obviously does not like those of the Christian persuasion, and his main characters tend to be liberal and to look down their noses at Christians. There is yet another author whose main characters are Christian politicians and these characters deal with issues in relationship to their personal, conservative views and the clashes they have with the liberals.
Here’s another example: A person who had experiences with drugs and homelessness in their younger years, will write eloquently of those experiences through their characters. They may choose to write about the issues of drug abuse and homelessness, whereas another writer who has not had these experiences may avoid the subjects altogether. And either of these author’s uses or non-use of character’s with these sorts of background may be a subconscious thing, rather than otherwise.
Of course, there are always writers who can write eloquently of just about anything, from any slant or persuasion. But, still, I bet if you closely scrutinize their works, you can discover what their personal beliefs are as well.
If we are really self-aware and realize our characters are an extension of ourselves and our experiences, we will be able to create characters that lean to the left or to the right. We will be able to create characters who are straight or gay, Christian or non-Christian, pro-life versus pro-choice. And yet, even in all that and no matter how hard we may try to show no bias, our personal beliefs will shine through and permeate all of our writing.
And, although I have tried very hard not to reveal my personal leanings, I bet you can peg me, too, right?
Katie Hines is the author of Guardian, a middle grade urban fantasy published by 4RV Publishing. She is also an editor for MuseItUp Publishing.