Is the writer's only responsibility to tell a good story?
Yesterday, a man shot and killed two of his former co-workers near Roanoke, Virginia.
Today, crime fiction writers will get up early (or late) and write stories about people shooting and killing each other. The protagonist of the story may be a criminal and may get into a shoot-out with law enforcement. The hero of another story may be an FBI agent tracking down bad people.
Today, across notebook pages and Scrivener screens, the crime fiction writers of the world will toil away on guns. They'll research how much a pistol weighs. They'll Google the distance a bullet can fly. They'll search for images of gun powder residue on the back of a hand.
My friend Chris F. Holm, author of the amazing and upcoming The Killing Kind, writes about guns. He also writes about writing your legislator about guns.
I write violent stories about violent people doing violent things, and for that I don't apologize. The world is a scary place, and my fiction reflects that. And while I hope that, first and foremost, my books are entertaining, I'd like to think they also handle violence thoughtfully, and with due heft. I'm not writing this post due to some crisis of conscience. I don't believe crime fiction leads to increased crime any more than I believe heavy metal leads to Satanism—and even if I'm wrong, I'm not widely enough read to move the needle.You can read his email at his blog. You can steal his email and use it yourself. Or you can do something else or nothing at all.
But personally, I'm saddened that we're greeted almost daily with story after story of mass shootings, yet we—I—do nothing. So today, I wrote my senators and congresswoman an email >>
My friend Lauren Winters writes about guns. She writes about how guns kill people. She writes about how guns killed her friends, her co-workers.
On July 1, 1993, an asshole with guns came to my office building at 101 California Street and killed the eight innocent people >>I grew up with guns. I hunted. I killed things. Birds. Squirrels. A chicken hawk. You can read about the chicken hawk killing in that book I wrote that time.
You can have the "guns don't kill people" fight if you want. You can argue about freedom if you want. The Constitution. I don't know that social media shares or, quite honestly, blog posts do a damn bit of good. But I do know that we as writers deal with guns all the time. I read stories with guns. I read stories about shootings. I write those stories.
Maybe writers do have a responsibility to show the effects of gun violence. Maybe they don't.
And maybe the question isn't about our responsibility as writers.
Or maybe we do have a responsibility to others. Maybe that responsibility has something to do with those who can't speak for themselves. Alison Parker. Adam Ward. Countless others. And that's not hyperbole. Honestly. Countless others.
Maybe we have a responsibility, not just as writers and readers, but as people.
Maybe the question isn't what to do as those who write about guns, as those who read about violence.
Maybe that isn't the question at all.
Maybe we need to ask ourselves what to do as those who are still alive.