Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Tip O'Day #372 - How Much Is Too Much?

Guest blogger Ben Drake asks “How far can we go with an idea and still be able to come back?”

I’m a constant meddler in my wife’s novels. She brought up the subject of drunk driving a while ago. She made the character out to be some asshole for doing it. I tried to make her see that it might not be a very good idea to demonize everyone who has ever made a mistake in that situation, telling her, “You might be alienating certain members of your audience.”

It is easy to make our characters have all the answers to all the problems that they face, but what about when the actual author doesn’t have the answers to a situation? Examples could be Middle East turmoil, teen pregnancy and spouse abuse, just to name a few. These are all situations that might be easier to fix in reality, as opposed to in our writing and in-depth character development, that people seem to love. That is, if we have done our job properly.

In one of my stories, I dove into the criminal mind of a psychopath, and in making him a whole character I angered quite a few people.

Dixon says: I don’t mean to get embroiled in a domestic dispute, but your wife is right (in my humble opinion). One of the worst mistakes anybody can make is trying to please everyone. For authors, I don’t think we should embrace controversy simply for the sake of being controversial, but neither should we run screaming from the slightest hint of strong opinion. Where would Fifty Shades of Grey be without controversy? Just this week, its UK sales surpassed those of Harry Potter.


  1. Dixon, you definitely can't please everyone, so like Rick Nelson sang you gotta please yourself. And in the process hopefully you please enough people to build an audience of loyal readers.

    1. Thanks, Paul (Alias Cafe Noir). I also think part of an author's success comes from the approach taken on "touchy" subjects. For example, abortion in Cider House Rules. And has any book tackled cannibalism is quite the same way as Fried Green Tomatoes?