Views From The Captain’s Chair! Episode Fifteen: The Writer’s Obligation?

Captains ChairBlog

Ahoy, Mateys!

So, I had a great email exchange with a reader this week. It was one of those exchanges that helped me explain a little about my process. I have been granted permission to post the exchange, so I will. Then I’ll talk a little more about what it all means to me. I hope you all join in the discussion in the comments section. Keep it real and civil. No haters, yo!

From reader:

“I finished reading your book Z Burbia. I enjoyed it and the humor in it. Bought your second book. I hope you will be open minded when I say using insults in your book such as “fat fuck”, “fat cow” continue to bring a perception that fat people are lazy, ugly, and worth less than others who are not fat. Just to put it out front, yes I am myself overweight. The cause doesn’t matter. Fat people are fighting a perception battle that impacts their lives and families. This perception negatively effects their relationships, jobs and how society treats them as a whole. You,  I’m sure wouldn’t use derogatory wording with ethnic groups or physically or mentally disabled but people feel free to insult fat people for the sole crime of being over weight. I hope you understand my intent and that this isn’t a personal assault on you or your character. As an author you have the ability to shape our society. Thank you for taking the time to read this email. May you have success in all of your endeavors.
Sincerely, REDACTED”

My response:

“Thank you for reaching out and for this thoughtful email.

As a man that has yo-yo’ed my entire life, I personally get where you are coming from 100%. At my largest I was 265 (I’m 6 feet). I have a body type where I have to pay attention to what I eat or it goes straight to my gut. I get it, trust me. However, I am not my characters. In other novels I have characters that actually do put down ethnic/cultural groups and mentally disabled folk by calling them “nigger”, “spic”, “wetback”, “redneck”, “retard” and “faggot”. Yet I would never, ever use those words myself and would probably smack the shit out of someone that said them in my presence. But, as an author, I let my characters say what they say. They are “people” and people are flawed. I can’t have every character be perfect and golden or they wouldn’t be real. I hope you understand. And, let’s face it, my novels have murder, rape, cannibalism, religious cults, totalitarian regimes, serial killers, and some seriously disturbing imagery. I’m never going for huggy-feely with my words.

With that said, I don’t want you to feel like I’m blowing you off because I’m not. I write YA and middle grade novels also (soon to be released by Permuted Platinum) and those novels do not have any of that in there. Well, one does, but as a learning lesson and the offender is chastised brutally by his peers. For kids, I set an example, for adults I let them handle life on their own. My wife and I are very aware of what we say to our children so they grow up with healthy ideas on body image. Where I shape society, and the future, is with my kids and how I act in real life.

Again, thank you for the email and please know that I am very aware of the impact every single word I use can have. Sometimes, I go for the negative impact because that’s where I want the gut punch to hit. And because I like to face my own personal demons head on!

Thank you for reading!”


The reader’s response to my response was very nice and we ended it on a great note.

I think some authors would get upset about this type of email. If it was a different subject, I may have also. But like I said in my response, I totally understand the weight thing. I get it. Took me a long time to come to turns with my own body image issues.


I don’t think authors should ever try to shape society with their writing. I just don’t. I think that compromises the work. Try too hard and it all sounds false.

But this is coming from a writer that currently specializes in pulp horror/scifi/adventure/thrillers. I’m here to entertain, not educate.

Ah, but if I offend, have I failed as an entertainer? That’s a question to ponder. If part of my audience doesn’t like something I’ve written because it hurts them on a personal level then am I doing my job?

Yes. Because you can’t please everyone all the time. It goes back to last week’s post. Read Rule 4 and 5. You’ll see what I’m getting at. As a writer, I have to know that some readers will not like my work, for whatever their reasons are. Dem’s da breaks.

One last thing I want to share is a quote from the reader’s response to my response. Here it goes: “I also thank you for changing how I will be reacting to fat remarks in books in the future.”

As readers, people have the power to change how they perceive novels and entertainment. Instead of getting all up in arms because their specific hangups/pet peeves/worries/phobias/fears/sacred cows have been mentioned/defamed/killed/cooked on the grill with a delicious vinegar based BBQ sauce, people should use these types of situations to start a dialogue and open discussions with others that don’t feel the same way.

That is how we change society, by taking our experiences and sharing them with others. If we are honest with ourselves then it is easier to be honest with others. And let’s face it folks, we could use a lot more honesty in this world, don’t ya think?

So sound off! Do you think authors have an obligation to reflect positive change in their novels? How about if the novel is more about the negatives of society and not the positives? Where does an author draw the line between appropriate and not appropriate?

If you have been reading my series of posts then you know I am not a fan of rules being imposed on writers. Or on anyone, for that matter. Not that I’m an anarchist, but, well…

Come on, folks! Tell me what gets to you. Tell me what you think writers are obligated to do. Or not.




Disclaimer: Views From The Captain’s Chair are just that: views. These are not laws. These are not set in stone. I could be totally wrong. I could be off my rocker (shut up). I could be full of S-H-I-T. I could change my mind next week. All of that is possible. Who knows? But if even just a little of this helps you then I’m happy with that. If it just makes you stop and think then I’ve done my job. Which I really need to get back to. Blogging don’t pay for the bourbon! Oh, and the whole Captain’s Chair thing? Yeah, I write in a captain’s chair. It’s true, Mateys! Got a question? Need some one on one? Shoot me an email, a DM, a PM (no BMs) or comment below.

Jake Bible lives in Asheville, NC with his wife and two kids.

Novelist, short story writer, independent screenwriter, podcaster, and inventor of the Drabble Novel, Jake is able to switch between or mash-up genres with ease to create new and exciting storyscapes that have captivated and built an audience of thousands.

He is the author of the bestselling Z-Burbia series for Severed Press as well as the Apex Trilogy (DEAD MECH, The Americans, Metal and Ash), Bethany and the Zombie Jesus, Stark- An Illustrated Novella, and the forthcoming YA zombie novel Little Dead Man, and Teen horror novel Intentional Haunting (both by Permuted Press).

Posted on April 16, 2014, in Views From The Captain's Chair! and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great article. Generally, I think authors should bear their audiences sensibilities in mind. However, this shouldn’t be sacrificed for authenticity.

    • This is where I disagree. If ten thousand people read my books, how can I possibly take into account all of their sensibilities? I can’t. No one can. I write what I write and readers can like it or not. Just like some people like tomatoes or don’t like tomatoes. Is that the farmers’ fault? Should farmers switch crops every time they find out someone doesn’t like a specific vegetable? Nope. That would be crazy. I write horror/scifi/action. All of those genres have been known to have offensive material in them. Whether it’s blood, guts, violence, language, sex, whatever, there will more than likely be something in one of my novels that offends someone’s sensibilities. If I left all of those components out then there wouldn’t be a novel, just chapter headings and “The End”. Which, I’m sure someone would find fault with.😉

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