What is Our Responsibility?

by Elizabeth Engstrom

People read our words. Those of us who have the compulsion—the calling—to write have a message, whether we can articulate it or not. We have something to say that goes beyond plot and characters and conflict. But what we do with fiction is cloak our message in the nouns and verbs that dramatize a sliver of our message. Taken collectively, an author’s message becomes clearer in his/her entire body of work.

This is a responsibility that every published writer ought to consider. We’ve all heard about the influence a piece of writing or a body of work has on those who do great damage. We’ve also heard about—and likely experienced—the positive effects of the written word.

It is worth a moment of pause for every one of us to consider what it is that we put from our shady imaginations out into the world. We can write violence and destruction, if the message is hope and salvation. We can write heartbreak and sorrow if the message is healing. We can write fear and loathing if the message is calm and acceptance.

We must not confuse the plot with the message. The message is contained in the hearts of the characters and how they deal with the conflict or tragedy that has befallen them. This is not only the heart of the story; it is the heart of the writer. Let us not forget that it affects the heart of the reader. And that is a responsibility.

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