I took a speech class once—you wouldn’t know it by the way I talk or don’t talk, but my topic was a smart one—Academic Freedom.
The subject sent the professor into a rant, the class became involved, discussion ensued and soon my dumb speech was lost in the fervor.
This morning I read Steven King On Writing which spurred the memory of that ancient speech class. I wondered about the writing equivalent of my speech topic.
King said: “There are lots or would-be censors out there, and although they may have different agendas, they all want basically the same thing: for you to see the world they see…or to at least shut up about what you do see that’s different. They are agents of the status quo. Not necessarily bad guys, but dangerous guys if you happen to believe in intellectual freedom.
The other day a girl friend said she wanted to know how I thought, felt, and how I saw the world. I was stymied by the question—I had my hand on the door handle, about to leave, and so was saved for the day, but I will think on it, and we will meet again, and I am thrilled to have a friend with such an inquiring mind.
Have we been taught to think for ourselves—given data of course, or have we been taught to sit down, shut up and memorize what it says here in the course curriculum?
Some people want to know, others don’t. Most people defend their belief systems as though the spinning of the earth depends on it.
Steven was encouraging writers to use an authentic voice. He said that not a week goes by that he doesn’t get a pissed-off letter from a reader accusing him of being a bigot, foul-mouthed, homophobic, murderous, frivolous or downright psychopathic. What are they responding to? His dialogue. These are the voices of his fictional characters. He is trying to show who THEY are.
Steven quotes his mother as saying, “Yes, profanity is the language of the ignorant,” but even the most staid—Christian or heathen alike--says an occasional ”Fuck,” when they hit their thumb with a hammer or the dog barfs on their shag carpet.
I wonder why those critics are reading Steven King.
“Talk, whether ugly or beautiful, is an index of character; it can also be a breath of cool, refreshing air in a room some people would prefer to keep shut up. In the end, the important question has nothing to do with whether the talk of you story is sacred or profane; the only question is how it rings on the page and in the ear.”