Do You Judge Writers?

 

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by Christopher Slater

Whenever a person reads what someone else has written, there is always an expected level of judgment. The reader is going to judge whether the topic of the writing is something that they are interested in. They will judge the writer’s ability to express themselves or to describe a situation, act, person, or object. The reader will ultimately judge whether the writer’s work brought them any satisfaction.

All of this is expected and probably required if writing is to have any meaning. However, do you ever judge the writer as a person based on the content or style of their writing?

I’ve never been the type of person that likes sacrificing realism for the sake of self-censorship. I oftentimes feel that such self-censorship robs the reader of a more insightful, fulfilling experience. That having been said, I have self-censored myself many times out of concern as to whether people will judge me based on what I write. In my case, it isn’t as much of a concern about people liking me as it is a concern for my career. In my profession, certain images are expected to be maintained.

This is not a construct of my imagination. I have seen a colleague receive a complaint because a family saw them at a local restaurant drinking a beer. Witnessing this left a lasting impression on me, and I have always been extremely careful of both content and topics in my writing.

This begs the question as to whether it is appropriate or accurate to judge a writer’s character based upon their writing. I used to enjoy the writing of one particular author, but as time went past, the books being published by that author revealed a definite political leaning. While I didn’t agree with that particular point of view, I still tried reading the books because of the joy I had gotten from reading their previous books.

Eventually, the constant political diatribes became too much and I stopped reading the newer books. I tried not to judge the author because of this, though. I thought that they might just be writing to a particular audience. When I found that author on social media, I happily followed them. It turned out that they were just as outspoken in person. So perhaps we should make certain inferences based on a writer’s work.

On the flip side of that, I can look at my own writing and know that it would be a incorrect for someone to judge me based on some of my characters or topics. In Pup: A Novel of Accidental Heroism I have some characters that aren’t very hospitable or friendly. Some  enjoy bullying the main character.

That is certainly not something that I support or think is necessary. Some characters in my writing can be foul-mouthed and crude. That isn’t what you would see from me in public. Still, I worry that some people might  get an image of me based on those characters, so I sometimes self-censor.

Do you judge writers based on their works? Have you ever read a story or novel and thought “I really don’t want to ever meet that person”? Perhaps for some, separating art and life isn’t easy. Some of those people are readers. Some of those people are writers. I guess, like so many other things in life, we can only decide with each individual situation.

 

 

 

Guest post contributed by Christopher Slater. Christopher is a Middle School History teacher in Tennessee. He’s also a husband, father, and author.

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30 thoughts on “Do You Judge Writers?”

  1. I’m not always fond of characters or parts of a story but I try to appreciate the art of storytelling. Not every character is going to be lovable and sometimes scenarios aren’t presented well. I like to call is constructive criticism. I personally don’t mind feedback of any kind. It’s how I learn

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  2. I try not to judge a writer based on what they’ve written unless I know they’re writing in their own voice. With fiction, there are any number of lenses between the reader’s interpretation of the words on the page and the opinions of the author. A talented author can write from the perspective of a terrible villain and make the reader sympathize with the character. That doesn’t mean the author agrees with the things they wrote.

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  3. I don’t see how it can be avoided to write from a certain slant. Movies, books, even the news has a slant to them. Have I toned things down to make them “less offensive” to people who don’t agree with my slant? Yes. You don’t want to alienate the majority of readers. Can I avoid ever upsetting every single person? No. It’s a fine balance.

    After a few books, I think writers can get a good idea of who their audience is and why they buy their books. When I write, I write with my audience in mind. You can’t please everyone, but it is possible to please those who are your biggest fans.

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  4. I censor myself based on how I receive other like writings.. I cuss. My characters do very rarely and only if the dialogue is in such a place where emotions are running high. My characters will never casually drop an F bomb simply because I find it distracting. My nonfiction content is somewhat censored in part to certain family and co-workers having access to my writing.

    In short, I fully expect to be judged as a person based on my writing. In turn, I develop mental images of authors based on the way their brain conveys their stories. Unless you personally know someone it is a natural process. This might sound silly, but in a third person POV that is not otherwise specified, I imagine the author telling the story including whatever bias might be conveyed in the writing.

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  5. I agree with your sentiments..I think judgement is inevitable in society when you express your opinion/art (it has always been so) – and it hurts to be on the receiving end of bad judgement/critique…hence the internal dialogue each of us has when creating art – as to how your work will be perceived/judged. The ones that break through the judgement trap, are the ones that suspend/rebel/disregard judgement (George Orwell/Van Gogh/Picasso). Bravery is key. Personally, I’m still fighting the judgement monster!

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  6. I do not judge, only I revel in the delights revealed within the text. I know the author,
    In some way accepts that what they write is always apart of them, they accept that, that is not to say they always celebrate that part of themselves either. Now, characters can be dismissed quite easily as being necessary to plot. However, characteristics will always say more about the mind of the writer.
    I do not censor, not yet anyway

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  7. I think I was very concerned I would be judged personally based on my writing when I first started out, but now having been part of several writing communities over the years and coming to know so many authors outside of their work, I tend not to think too much on it anymore. But I have had that experience of enjoying an author’s books, but getting a little weighed down by a perspective that I think has become too heavy handed. I suppose I do make an effort to avoid that in my own work, and I try to get past it when it shows up in the works of others.

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  8. I am guilty of judging people for how they write. I don’t know why I do it. I don’t want to be like that, but I suppose that is just how humans are. We perceive things in different ways and express them in different ways also.

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  9. I don’t judge authors based on the content of their stories at all. I do judge if the story is well-written and engaging. As for my own writing, I used to worry about offending certain people, but I’ve mostly gotten over that. We’re gonna offend someone no matter what so I suggest writing what works best for the story.

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  10. Now that I think about it, I’ve never judged an author or made a decision about their character based on what they wrote. I’ve judged how they built the story. How they crafted the character. But I’ve never thought to weigh the plot against the person who wrote it. I guess I keep up this divide between who the person is and what they’re producing. Because we can often be wrong when we judge. And how can we truly know a person’s motives without actually spending time with them?

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  11. Interesting blog. I believe we all, writers more so than others, judge a person’s writing. Both stylistically and content.
    As a writer, I’m acutely aware of style and gravitate to writers who challenge me intellectually.
    Thanks for your post!

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  12. I prefer to think about this subject the other way around. I often read something and wish I could meet the writer. I usually only continue to read what I like so my reading experience is more positive. If I don’t like what I read, I don’t have to read it. And yes, my slant probably comes out in my writing. How could it not?

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  13. I hate to say I have, but I have. I am a member of scribophile, an online critique group that I strongly recommend. I posted a scene on the critique board for review and received a shocking response. One of the people that critiqued my work was very rude to say the least. She pointed out that my word was boring and so bad she had to quit before she could finish the critique. I couldn’t believe it. My other critiques were positive and encouraging. I even have followers on the site that look for my work. At any rate, I went to this particular persons page out of curiosity. I write Inspirational romance and turns out she writes soft porn. It turns out I am a bad fit for her but I caught myself questioning her moral values.

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  14. A great post for all writers to contemplate. While I believe our characters always reflect some aspect of ourselves, unless it is a memoir, equating the writer with the character is unfair. Having said that, I do think there is a difference between incorporating aspects of ourselves into characters and using the story as a platform or soapbox to express a certain political position. I read to be entertained, not to be lectured or feel as if the author is on a mission to persuade me. Political thrillers are one of my favorite genres and while positions of a character can be revealed through the story, making it the focus will cause me to stop reading. Excellent post.
    @sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles

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  15. You will always perceive people the way you perceive people.
    Like you said, you stopped reading an author because of their political lean, hence it’s fair for you to feel people will stop reading you if you do something similar.

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  16. Insightful and interesting post. I don’t see how people can avoid judging an author, no matter what or how they write. It’s human nature to assess and judge, but at the same time, I would like to think authors would get more than one book to be judged by and that people fight the instinct to pass instant judgment based on differing opinions. Then there are the times a book starts and ends with typos and grammatical errors galore. I know I will judge an author in such a situation.

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