Kindness Versus the Truth: Which One Wins?

Just a little observation.

Angry woman screaming on the phone

Kindness versus the truth: Which one wins? It’s a simple enough question—though it may take a heated debate to smooth away all the various rough edges. Some will say you cannot have one without the other. I disagree.

The truth is often brutal in its honesty. If an individual on the receiving end isn’t prepared to hear the unvarnished facts, they will, no doubt, view the messenger as unkind—maybe even evil. This is a prevailing symptom of an all-too-common disease plaguing the world today. And just what is this new plague? It’s the idea that we can no longer offer opinions without some individual on social media becoming offended, hurt, or angered, as if by merely stating an opinion, you have personally attacked another by virtue of their having stumbled upon your tweet or blog or Facebook post.

Okay. Let me explain. On a recent Friday night, I came across a Tweet from an author asking a credible question:

Do you ever feel like the characters are writing the story for you?

Simple enough. And it’s a legitimate inquiry. Many authors tweeted their response. Most of them said, yes, they often feel their characters are writing their stories.

I weighed in with my own opinion. I tweeted:

I am the author, the creator. My characters do not exist without me. They do not have the ability to act independent of me. If they write for me, I am not the author. Those who claim the characters write for them are either short-changing themselves or they aren’t real writers.

Two angry men with crumpled paper

Again, this is simply my opinion in answering the question posed. Well, my opinion earned scorn and derision from a pair of writers who took my words as an attack on them personally. Offended, they were. How dare I “crap” all over another writer’s “process!” Well, no. Claiming your characters are the ones writing your story isn’t a “process.” I do understand the mindset. I get where these people are coming from. You get lost in the creative elements and it feels as if the story is unfolding on its own.

But it isn’t. You, as the writer, are constructing every character, every line of dialogue, building every scene. You did all the leg work in plotting and planning. We all do—regardless of whether we outline our story or write it by the seat of our pants. Even those so-called pantsers usually have some idea where the story will go before they set pen to paper—or tap those keys. When I hear somebody claim the characters are doing the writing, I get the feeling this person might be making it all up as they go along—not a clue as to where it’s going or how they’ll get there.

This brings me back to the title question: Kindness versus truth: Which one wins? You can express kindness in telling an athlete they lack the skills to play organized football, but it’s still going to hurt. You’ve just crushed a dream.

American-Idol-Simon-Cowell-Mary-Roach

Over the last two decades, I have watched many seasons of the television show American Idol. The program has been a springboard for some incredibly gifted singers and musicians. We’ve become familiar with their songs, their voices, their names. However, for every Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood, there are dozens of individuals who did not make it beyond the audition stage. I recall many alleged singers who were just plain awful. You can find some of those bad auditions on YouTube, should you need a reference point.

Anyway, when the judges dismissed these performers, telling them that they didn’t have what it takes to move on to the next round, many of the rejected contestants responded by hurling angry insults at those who have built successful careers in the music business.

“How dare you say I can’t sing! My mother says I’m as good as Lady Gaga.”

As writers, most of us have cultivated thick skins. We need it in this line of creativity. Our work is ultimately sent out into the world to be read, judged, criticized, and dissected. For all the positive reviews our work may garner, there will be those who view it in a negative light.

They didn’t connect with your protagonist.

They couldn’t follow the plot.

They just didn’t believe the dialogue rang true.

It happens to the best of us.

Now, to my point in this observation. If you’re a writer, don’t take the little things so personally. If a bad review comes your way, read it, search for those criticisms you might use, then move on. Don’t linger. Don’t replay the negative remarks over and over inside your head. The same goes for opinions—especially those shared in a tweet. They really shouldn’t matter to the writer. Opinions are often little more than the observations of others. If you believe your characters are writing your story, then so be it. Who am I to say otherwise? Just write, create, have fun, and the opinions of others be damned.

And work on that thick skin.

If you offer your work to the world, you’re going to need it.

 

22 thoughts on “Kindness Versus the Truth: Which One Wins?

  1. Gwen M. Plano

    Excellent post, Beem. I had a few chuckles over your examples and even the difference of opinion that spurred your post. If kindness and truth could partner and be accepted, we’d have a different world. What a wonderful thought!

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
  2. D.L. Finn, Author

    You make a valid point about being able to express our opinions without others thinking it is a personal attack if it differs from theirs. I believe the truth can be presented kindly, so it can be both at once. I am one who believes the characters take over when I write, but I’m also aware I become them in many ways as I write. I find creativity hard to define but I know when I tap into it. I do find it interesting how writing is approached by other writers but in the end the editing portion is all on the author 🙂 Good comparison to American Idol, they did produce many stars.

    Liked by 4 people

    Reply
    1. Beem Weeks Post author

      Thank you for your take on the subject, Denise. I agree with you 100%. Truth can, and often is, presented kindly. However, as kind as we may present it, we can’t control the reaction that truth may inspire. While I don’t subscribe to the notion that my characters take over writing my stories, I do know many incredibly talented writers who do. It works well for them. Creativity is indeed difficult to define. We are blessed when we can tap into it. I appreciate your intelligent take on the matter.

      Liked by 3 people

      Reply
  3. John W. Howell

    I enjoyed reading your post, Beem. Unfortunately, I have given up making comments on social media beyond thanking folks for being so kind as to mention me. There is no longer any tolerance in our society for dissident views on any subject. I think it is a sad situation but one that exists. In my declining years, I don’t see me finding it necessary to try and convince someone that their logic is thin and position more closely aligned with Karl Marx. No, I need to write my stories and let this place go to hell in a handbasket which seems to be the wishes of our so-called leadership in Washington. Well done.

    Liked by 4 people

    Reply
    1. Beem Weeks Post author

      I am with you there, John. Hell in a handbasket is indeed the destination for our nation. Social media is rife with thin-skinned cowards incapable of expressing original ideas or thoughts. Serious group think. I still engage on certain platforms, though not nearly as much as I once did. Thanks for adding your two cents.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
  4. Joan Hall

    It’s sad that we can’t express our opinions anymore without offending someone. I have to agree with John, this country is (sadly) going to hell in a handbasket.

    But back to writing. I’m one who has often said that my stories take on a life of their own. One character in particular “demanded” that I write him in a different light. But in reality, it was me having those thoughts and directing the way the stories went.

    Still, I’ll always be grateful to that character because I got a second book and a series because of his “insistence.” LOL

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. Beem Weeks Post author

      Thank you for a wonderful response, Joan. As writers, we create the characters and stories. But I fully understand where you are coming from. Emily Ann from Jazz Baby was a voice I could hear inside my head. She had a story that needed telling. I’m the one who needed to tell it. Of course, it was my idea all along. I mean, it would have worried me to think a teenaged girl dwells inside my mind.🤯

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
  5. Mae Clair

    What a thought-provoking post, Beem! It’s a shame a simple tweet generated such a heated response, but, sadly, not surprising. I rarely weigh in on any discussion on social media these days because someone is bound to take issue and react badly no matter what is said.

    Whenever delivering truth, I always try to wrap it in kindness and hope others will do the same with me. I’m a planster, and although I drive the story, when I’m in the mindset of particular character that mindset will often determine the direction of the plot. In the end, however, I’m the ultimate creator–having given those individual characters life, thus enabling them (in their various voices) to speak their mind about plot.

    Great post!

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. Beem Weeks Post author

      Thank you for sharing some of your creative process, Mae. I like that term “planster”. I outline my long stories with the bones of the plot. Then I add the flesh and blood as I write. Some of my short stories are seat-of-the-pants efforts. I’ll get an idea, sit down at the computer, and, a few hours later, I have a short story. But most are outlined in some form or other. As for weighing in on social media, I know what you mean. We live in a time where civility, to some, is just a relic from the previous generations. You can deliver the truth in kindness, but that doesn’t guarantee it will be received as such. Oh, well. Onward and upward.

      Liked by 3 people

      Reply
  6. harmonykentonline

    One of the biggest problems with social media is that it’s all typed out, and this often obscures the intention behind the words. Add to that the relative anonymity avatars offer, and we have the perfect storm. Face to face, folks wouldn’t have misunderstood the intent behind your comment quite so readily. Also, they would think twice before attacking you while looking you in the eye. How much has this led us to this dire society of intolerance?

    Great post on an important topic, Beem. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 💕🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Beem Weeks Post author

      You make some excellent points, Harmony. The anonymous keyboards and avatars bring out the worst sorts of behaviors. This is why we seem to be devolving as a civil society. Thank you for adding your thoughts to the conversation.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  7. Staci Troilo

    Remember when differences of opinion could be expressed kindly? When this topic comes up, I immediately think of Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. You couldn’t find two people more opposite from each other, yet they were the best of friends. Why? Basic respect for each other. I long for those days again.

    I believe Harmony pointed out the biggest problems. Social media gave us a way to talk to a lot more people, but we lost the benefit of tonal context clues to help us understand meanings. That problem was compounded by the relative anonymity we feel when protected by countless miles and an Internet connection. It allowed mean people to let their bully flags fly without fear of repercussion. And that antagonism drove many of us into silence. I know I find it easier to avoid engaging on social media than to wage wars there, possibly on multiple fronts.

    I love your take on writing. Whether your characters “speak” to you or not, you are the architect of the work. I think it’s great that you’re an advocate for us taking credit for our words. Great post, Beem.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Beem Weeks Post author

      You make some important points, Staci. Scalia and Ginsburg are perfect examples of what it means to be respectful and civil when in opposition. I miss those days. Thank you for making sense! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  8. coldhandboyack

    This is a great post, Beem. As an author, we have to be out there in various degrees, but to interact is a risky proposition. The world has gotten crazy, and most of my social media is designed to drive people to my blog these days. I know lawyers who fight like cats and dogs at work, then go to supper together after hours. I wonder what happened to that ability to disagree on a topic, debate it to a degree, then still remain friends.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Beem Weeks Post author

      I agree with you, Craig. Social media can be risky. And it doesn’t have to take a misunderstanding to stir up trouble. It seems like so many people are searching for something for which to be offended. Thanks for speaking up.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  9. Jan Sikes

    This is a really good post, Beem. Great question, too. As you say, often truth can be seen as ugly or negative. Truth has been called ‘stark’ or ‘raw.’ But truth is needed, especially in today’s crazy world. Thank you for sharing this wonderful insight!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Beem Weeks Post author

      Great points, Jan. Truth can indeed be seen as stark or raw. Society seems to be filled with those who would rather be lied to, deceived. No wonder we’re devolving. Thank you for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  10. Mar

    This is such a great post, Beem, and so relevant!! I’ll admit, I’m one that has said my characters tend to take over the writing, but the way you have explained your opinion makes complete sense to me. I for one love hearing other people’s opinions on things. All subjects even. That’s what makes us different and unique. It would be pretty boring otherwise. I agree entirely with you that it’s often hard to share our opinions because we live in such a strange society now. Individual opinions aren’t valued, instead their criticized with (ironically) other opinions. Maybe the kindness should play in from the person accepting the opinion.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Beem Weeks Post author

      Well said, Marlena. Opinions are simply the points of view of others. My point of view is that writers are the creative force behind every story, play, movie, or song. All of these may require a muse to complete the work. If that muse is a character, so be it. Thanks for dropping in and leaving a great comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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