Controversy: Should You Use It In Your Writing?

Controversy is surprisingly easy to find. If you want to, you could live your entire life in controversy with someone but why in the world would you want to? Whether it’s any good to have in life or not, controversy is useful, and possibly essential, in writing. However, this is only true when it’s used correctly. Some good examples can be found in the following (books are listed as I remember them, so in no particular order):

1. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson – Controversial subject: rape
2. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher – Controversial subject: suicide and bullying
3. The Color of Water by James McBride – Controversial subject: race and class struggles
4. Shine by Lauren Myracle – Controversial subject: homosexuality and hate crimes
5. Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen – Controversial subject: abuse and neglect of children
6. After by Amy Efaw – Controversial subject: teen pregnancy and infanticide
7. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult – Controversial subject: prenatal genetic modification
8. Room by Emma Donoghue – Controversial subject: kidnapping, assault, and survival

This list is by no means complete, but all of these books are sitting on the shelves of my closet right now, so I can vouch for them. All of these books approach very different subjects from very different angles, but they all have at least one thing in common: they take a serious, multi-prong look at a very serious subject that can, has, or will affect hundreds or thousands of people. As long as you don’t treat the subject lightly (I’m not saying you can’t make a serious subject funny; just look at the movie 50/50), you should be able to handle any subject in a way that will only offend about a third of the people who read it.

What brought this up? Recently George Takei posted a link on Facebook to an article about a pair of identical twin boys, one of whom, at the age of fourteen, is in the process of undergoing gender reassignment and has changed her name from Wyatt to Nicole.

There is so much drama, tension, and controversy inherent in this story (and you really should read the entire article no matter what side of the fence you’re on; it’s incredibly interesting and enlightening). I would not be surprised to find at least a handful of authors inspired by this story and now feverishly building a story around an idea similar to the story of Nicole and Jonas Maines.

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