How Far is Too Far?

I have opinions!

I have strong opinions. That must come as a complete shock to those who know me, but I do.

I also feel torn sometimes between what I believe and what I used to believe. We’re human and our opinions can change based on life experience. As we grow older, sometimes those thoughts mellow and soften or they harden us to other people’s views.

As writers, do you have characters with strong beliefs and opinions or do you end up deleting them so as not to offend half of your readership? And if you do that, are you being true to your characters? Shouldn’t they have views on religion and politics? Shouldn’t they have enough depth of character to feel things strongly?

I’m torn here. I write YA (Young Adult), and I hesitate sometimes to put in a comment about race, religion or politics. I hesitate because I don’t want to put my own views out there to be criticized. I don’t want people to think that I’m trying to brainwash teens. I don’t want to be censored.

Yet, isn’t that what I really want? Down deep? To make people think and feel? To make them question?

I went to a Christian high school that taught creation over evolution, and this made my grandfather furious. He talked to me about the history of the world and the age of fossils and bones that clearly proved evolution, but when I asked questions in class I was considered rebellious.

When I went to a Reformed Presbyterian college, I ended up flunking my papers in Bible class because I dared to oppose the teacher’s ideas on modern topics. The first F was on a paper about abortion where I argued against Operation Rescue.  But I had a friend who just had an abortion, and I couldn’t in good conscience approve calling her a murderer–or anyone else, for that matter. He didn’t much appreciate my stance on just about anything. And he didn’t particularly like calling on me in discussion group either. Go figure.

But, I was young and curious and shouldn’t we want that of everybody? Isn’t questioning how we learn?

I’m in a bit of a quandary with my latest manuscript. Religion and gay rights play powerful roles, but I think that’s part of my problem with writing this. I don’t want to offend anyone, but how can I not? How can I not write what I feel? How can I not be in support of allowing people to be who they are? Whether they are conservative or liberal or moderate? And why do we feel that need to label?

I’ve lived life from both views. I’ve gone to Pro-Life rallies as a teen before I barely kissed a boy, before I could identify with the topic in any form. I’ve worn the little baby feet on my shirt that shows the life of a baby at months old. I’ve also made the case that abortion was murder. Until I met people who have had them. My own mom, for one. Friends in college. And you soften. Your heart softens to other people who have led a different life than yours.

That’s what I want. For people to soften their hearts. To not stand in judgment. Let that be for God. For whatever God you choose. Or no God, if that’s also your choice.

I’ve decided to write my teenage characters and their parents as I believe they should be written, and if people don’t appreciate that, it’s fine. But I think that to do otherwise makes them cardboard characters with no depth. They wouldn’t be true, and wouldn’t that be just as bad? To not be true to the characters? When their voice is silenced, when we censor them before they even get on the page, are we being true to the story? To ourselves?  To our own voice?

What about you? What do you think? How far is too far?