Now that is a sensitive question…
If an author writes this intricate, meticulously-crafted piece of literature, that details the shocking life of, say, a murderer, or a deviant, or a sadist, would you judge them by what they wrote?
If the prose is beautiful, if the story compels you to think, if you love to hate the protagonist, would you think that the author has succeeded? Or would you think, “how on earth did they know such details?”
We all know an author doesn’t need to experience something before they write about it well. Yes, we know it helps, but not always. If an author was a victim of bullying, or prejudice, or abuse, you’d expect a much more accurate account of such incidents. The way emotions are conveyed would be horrifyingly detailed, and sometimes even more than what some readers could take.
But not always is such experience needed. You don’t need to be an alcoholic to describe an alcoholic protagonist. Well, that’s a good writer.
If an author writes a novel where the protagonist is a dangerous pervert. Then writes another. Then another. Would you think in your mind, “wow, what is wrong with them?” Would you think the author themselves are perverted? I know some readers would.
Wouldn’t that be unfair? I mean, if an actor/actress plays the role well in a movie, you wouldn’t accuse them of being so, right? Come on, how many times have you seen a madman played really well on screen, then you exclaimed, “this actor is mad!”
We don’t do so. I don’t. I think the actor/actress who plays something well is simply talented, and I would be on the lookout for their other works.
But writing is different, it seems. The amount of intimacy between an author and their readers is big, really big. Such intimacy makes the reader think that they — somehow — own some control over what their favorite writer should write. We see that a lot, when people start screaming their complaints because a character dies on a show. People get shocked when they see something eccentric coming out of the author’s head.
Let me know what you think.