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Intentional Fiction: The Writer's Responsibility - Is it okay to ignore the consequences of fiction?

I recently came upon a certain horror writer’s website. He shall remain nameless, suffice it to say, he is very successful. His site is appropriate to his genre and expertly designed. He also has a library that is longer than my own (No, I don’t know how long he’s been writing – though it is clear he is prolific.).

My first thought was he probably doesn’t have kids (or if he does, he’s not the primary caregiver).

That’s how I came to my second thought: because I’m the primary caregiver, I should celebrate how many books I publish in any given year.

I looked around his site, wondering what systems or strategies he used, as most indie writers do when they come upon anyone claiming bestseller status.

And then I looked at his bio and I got angry. Maybe it wasn’t anger, but disappointment.

It wasn’t because of the typo I found in his bio. That is totally forgivable from one indie writer to another. No this was much more significant than a missing word.

He was talking about his writing – how he wanted readers to feel scared. He went on to talk at length about the horrible feelings he wanted his readers to feel as his stated goal in writing fiction.


This, dear ones, is a waste of power and a disservice to humanity.

Why? Isn’t that being a little overdramatic? Why would I say this about someone who obviously has written books that appeal to people? After all, a lot of people pay money to read this guy’s books!

But that is exactly my point.

Words have incredible power.

By changing words, we completely change the nature of a story. Is the glass half-full? Is it half-empty? Or is this a moot point and it is refillable? I can call a woman assertive or I can call her a bitch. They imply very different things, framing the conversation completely differently and setting off different emotions and associations.

A 30 second Super Bowl commercial spot is a coveted thing. Why? Because people are affected by the media they consume. They are influenced by these things. Why else would so many people be so angry about the way blacks are discussed in the media? Or politicians? Or rape cases? Or police officers? Or [insert whatever thing pisses you off in the media]?

Words have tremendous power. Every short story, article, and blog post sends ripples across space and time, affecting anyone who comes into contact with these things. And books? BOOKS HAVE AT LEAST 100x THE WORDS! AND they use one of the most powerful mnemonic devices in the history of humanity – the narrative. This is why religious teachers and philosophers used story to teach – because their students were more likely to remember the lessons.

Do you see what I’m saying? This writer’s stated purpose is to make people feel bad! He is using all this power and influence to increase negativity in the world!

I know. You’re thinking, “Alexis, he’s a horror writer. Give the guy a break! Horror is supposed to disturb people!”

No! No genre is immune to this criticism. Horror is an important genre – and an excellent one for getting readers to engage social issues. This is why I appreciated Penny Dreadful. This show is horror, and it does have negative emotions, but they are intentionally used to help viewers engage a variety of social and psychological issues.

I know many people write simply to entertain. I know this. And I would say this is a disservice to society. Someone who writes or creates without intention, without careful consideration of impact, is irresponsible. What kind of values are they putting into the world? What kind of messages are they sending to people? This is like getting behind the steering wheel of a supercar and then not worrying about the rules of the road. Someone will get hurt.

Intentional Writing is IMPORTANT!

Writers have the ability to write their ideal world into being through their stories. When they do not write intentionally, there are negative consequences for society. Words are the front line of ideological development. It is the responsibility of every writer to wield this power with care.

If this resonates with you, or you’re wondering where to go from here, check out the full list of interviews by Intentional Writers on this site here. Also be sure to join my Facebook group for writers and readers with purpose, the Intentional Writers here.

If you want to spread more good stuff through direct action, be sure to join my Love the Unloveable Challenge (which is all about changing the story we tell ourselves and others!). Click here to join!

Intentional Fiction: The Writer's Responsibility
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