Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Can She Even Do That?

I recently participated in a tour for the release of a self-published YA book (I won't mention the title here), but recently got an email from the author, via the publicist, saying this:
So I've been giving it a lot of thought and I've actually decided to change the "Ryan punch[ing Jill]" [scene] in my book. I didn't write it with the intent to offend anyone, but 3 reviewers so far have said how much it affected their reading experience ... I'm going to post on all three of the reviewers that the punch offended and tell them that the book has now been changed ... If there's any way you can send the following statement below to the reviewers that have not yet posted their reviews that would be great ... I had no idea it would offend so many people when I wrote it. I was thinking it was the future and everyone considers everyone an equal. (Kind of like when Apollo punches Starbuck on Battlestar.) Needless to say, now instead of Ryan punching Jill, Nancy pushes Jill aside so they can get into the limo. I changed it because it wasn't an important part of the book and I didn't want it to be a continuing focus. The important part is the three characters get into the limo. I'm sorry to anyone that was offended by the "punch."
Basically, the author is changing a plot detail because readers didn't receive it well. Seriously?

I do not in any way condone domestic violence, if that's what readers are taking this as, but the author had good reason to put this punching scene into the story. She even explains it herself: I was thinking it was the future and everyone considers everyone an equal. (Kind of like when Apollo punches Starbuck on Battlestar.). I even cheered Ryan on, because frankly, Jill was being a nasty bitch, repetitively taking blows at the female protagonist, Chelsan, and delaying her mission. She was threatening to kill Chelsan. I would have punched Jill too. No one would have complained.

But because a man, a big brawny boy makes the punch, suddenly readers find it offensive? What the fuck. To the three reviewers who gasped and raised their hands to their hearts when Jill was punched: a fictional story is not going to be up to par with your hypersensitive morals and beliefs, but you're going to have to accept it as it is. It's not like you don't appreciate physical violence; I'm sure if Chelsan, rather than Ryan, had punched Jill, you would have been fine. Jill isn't a weak helpless female and Ryan isn't an abusive pig — quite the opposite actually — because in context, Jill was being emotionally abusive towards Chelsan, and Ryan, her boyfriend, put an end to it because Chelsan was the weak defenseless one who couldn't do it on her own. He was protecting her! So your "male should never hit a female" policy doesn't even matter, okay? Call me a feminist, but I assure you, this is nothing to get your panties in a knot over. A punch is a punch and a person is a person. There have been bigger offenses in English literature (murder, rape, ACTUAL domestic violence). If you give the book a bad rating because it still left a bad taste in your mouth, fine. There will be a few straggly reviewers like you when it comes to any work of art. But bear in mind, if you're offended by such nature of human actions, you seriously need to reconsider your role as a book reviewer. You cannot hate on books just because you are offended. Maybe as a reader, yes, but as a reviewer, you need to be a little more open-minded. You need to distinguish what to judge a book upon. Content quality matters, content detail, given it furthers the plot, doesn't.

What I find even more absurd though, is that out of fear of negative reviews, the author goes and CHANGES it. To the author of the book in question: I'm sorry, but what happened to staying true to the story, to yourself? You cannot please every single reader, and cannot tweak your book for everyone's needs. If you had a good reason to add in a detail like that in the first place, keep it, don't be fickle and change it just because some people were offended by it. As an author, if you offending people, you're just doing your job.

Changing a scene based off others' wants will only deteriorate your original style. As a reader, I would lose respect for any writer who only wrote to quell an audience, who wasn't original and only lived to please the people. That isn't what fiction is about. It's a shame there are a few anal people took the punch the wrong way, but I'm saying it was fine, and that you shouldn't influence your writing off your readers.

It's about the story, not about the people reading it. I only pray other authors fully understand this rule of thumb.