When it comes to authors and characters, people often get confused. Sure most everyone knows that Dumbledore is a character (and therefore fake) and J.K. Rowling is a real person, but somehow the fact that Dumbledore is gay becomes a stance on J.K Rowling's personal feelings on sexual orientation. Now, I'm fairly certain that J.K. Rowling doesn't have any sort of problem with gay people. But I'm also certain she does have a problem with say...murderers. But we're ok with her writing murderers, but not ok with her writing about a gay character. (I use the term "we" very broadly here, to mean people in general, sort of like the French "on" which means "we" but doesn't mean necessarily you and me. If that makes sense. I am completely ok with people of different sexual orientations.)
Now, you might say, that's a completely different scenario! It's very clear that J.K. doesn't support murder. It's her bad guy who does the murdering after all. So that's a very clear line. An author supports things the good guys does and doesn't support things the bad guy does.
Except that's not necessarily true.
I don't think Brandon Sanderson supports thieving, but the main characters of Mistborn are thieves. I think half of the fantasy writers out there would be very upset if they lived in a fuedal system, yet half of their characters are the very princes who rule one--and those princes are rarely handing out rights to the people they are subjugating. Authors build worlds. They create characters to live and explore those worlds. But the characters (most of the time) are not the author. Which means they can do things that the author would never want to do or approve of doing.
But in this day in age, readers and even critics often forget that. If you write a misogynist character--and that character is your main character--suddenly you're a misogynist. If you write a weak female character, suddenly you're saying all females are weak. But that's not true. Maybe the story calls for a girl who grew up sheltered and always told she was worse than men, and that she needed a man, and maybe that's why she latches on to the first guy who comes along...and you know what, maybe that guy is a good guy. A legitimately nice guy and this isn't a story about showing how terrible it can be for women with that mindset. Maybe it's a story where the main girl character just happens to be like that. We can hope that over the course of the story she learns otherwise...but so what if she doesn't? Maybe that's not the point of the story. But maybe it's necessary to the plot for some strange reason for her to be that way. I don't know. I'm making stuff up here. Anyway, if you write a character like that, suddenly the author is being slandered and labeled as a crazy anti-feminist. (Not always that extreme, but sometimes it is).
So when I see things like this, as an author, it sort of scares me. Because my characters, my good characters, do stuff I don't believe in. They have premarital (non-described completely off screen) sex. They drink alcohol (which I don't at all). Heck, they might smoke. That doesn't mean I support those things. That doesn't mean I think you should do them. It means in that situation, it makes sense for this character, who is not me, to do these things.
Take my current dilemna. I do not curse. At least, not anything the modern world would gasp at. I say "crap". I occasionally say "hell", and I really struggle with taking the Lord's name in vain as in "Oh my god and "oh god" and the like. But in the story I'm currently working on, The Descent of Chris Chappell, there is a scenario where I need one of my characters to curse. And not like s*** or d***, but the f word.
Nothing else makes sense with his background and the situation. This is probably the most moral character in the story, the most straight-laced (but not straight actually) who is always encouraging everyone else to do the right thing. He has a very strong sense of right and wrong. But there is one situation, one argument/fight, where he is pushed to an extreme where the only response that can express the level of digust he is feeling with his friend is "F*** you." And sure I could say "Eff you," but that's not what he would say. That's not right. He needs to say it.
And I don't know if I can write it. I don't support that kind of langauge in any context. I would never say it. I'm actually struggling wtih the idea of typing it and then it having to be there on the page. Staring at me. But that's the only correct response for him, if I'm true to the character.
In this modern world where author and character get confused, what's a girl to do? i don't want anyone to think I condone that kind of language, but my character isn't me.
So where is the line?
So where is the line?