So here is the revelation of the worst kept secret: all of Charles Young Writing is authored by me, Tom More. Now of course, most of you knew this. Most of you knew this because I told you directly. There may be a few of you as well who saw through the thin veil of the disguise, but the truth is, if you could see through the pseudonym, you were one of the ones who was always supposed to know it was me.
So why the ruse and why quit it? I was actually never convinced it was a good idea. I’m newish to the world of writing so I haven’t had a great deal of guides. I reached out to some experienced bloggers, no response. I asked a few new blogging friends, “sure that sounds swell”. Not a lot of critical feedback.
The reason I originally decided not to use my name was to insulate myself. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write. I still don’t. When people ask what my blog is “about”, I have little answer. Short stories and… something else… ramblings. Some of the stories were violent, some of them were just human observation. Some of the ramblings were a little complain-y. My biggest concern, if I’m being honest, was my ability to be honest and be myself considering who might be clicking. I’m Facebook friends with a high up in my denomination and I constantly worry if my content is Christian enough. How did it reflect on me and my faith?
Well, I still have those concerns. As you’ll see in next week’s release, I’m an “expect the worst” kind of guy. I have a feeling that at some point this will land back on me and I’m not looking forward to that. So why do it? I’ve been very happy with the number of people reading the blog, but here is what has been bothering me.
“What’s that thing you keep putting on your Facebook?”
Or worse, when I say to someone, “Hey, would you want to check out some of my writing? Here’s the website.”
I get a lot of, “No, that’s not your site. That’s Charles Young.” When I unveil myself, every single person has said to me, “If I had known it was you, I would have read it. I just didn’t want to read your buddy’s stuff.”
I want my stuff to be read by those who want to read it. If I have people who, just because of their relationship to me would be willing to give a read, I want to give them that chance, and the pseudonym wasn’t allowing for that. I was also aware of how silly the pretense of promoting “Chuck’s” stuff every week was. So now I’m “out”. For you, for my family, for my bosses.
I’d like to give you an object lesson about why I was worried. This week, at the same time I release this, I am releasing a story. This is my favourite short story that I have put on the blog so far. I’m excited for you to read it. Here is the problem: at one point in the story, one of the characters uses the word “retarded” (spoiler alert) and he uses it as a slur. Double whammy.
So why do this? Here is what I believe about writing: in fiction, you cannot have characters that only reflect your moral inclination. When you do this, your characters are either flat, or only caricatures. They don’t resemble what the big wide world actually looks like. When you write characters – I won’t tell you what to do – when I write characters, I need to write what I recognize, not just in humanity, but in actual individuals. In fact, beyond just recognizing, in order to be compelled by even my own characters, I need to be able to empathize with them. I need to see where they are coming from.
This means that when a character uses spicy language or offensive language or even commits a heinous act, I not only need to understand why, I need to get it at some level. Because of the way I wrote this character, their morals, their upbringing, their demeanor, I get why they would do this – this makes sense to me. Some of you will be able to see why this is a problem.
If you are an empathetic person yourself, or someone well acquainted with fiction, this likely won’t be an issue for you. But of course you are not who I am worried about. I know that if well written, most of you will “get it”. There is, however, a percentage of people who never will. You are not comfortable with the construct of fiction, you are triggered by a certain item, or you just don’t care for my thoughts on a matter. You are not compelled and you are mad. I don’t want you to get mad, I don’t want to get nasty comments from you, I don’t want to hear from my boss’s boss about it.
But here is the other thing I believe about writing: you ought to try to tell the truth. This means not portraying the world as you would like to see (I suppose that is its own genre), but writing about what really exists. I’m even careful about not being dishonest when I write about what could exist.
For instance, in this next story, I’m speculating about a world that is overly PC (politically correct) – maybe 40 or 50 years down the line from us. I could say: here is why being overly PC is bad, or here is why using a word like this is bad. Instead, I try to say, in a world where PC-ness has taken over, this is how people would try to leverage that for their own gain. Here is how people would try to ruin that or undo that or be undone by it.
I’m trying to tell the truth. If this happened, then given what I see around me, this is how people would behave. How would a hypocritical politician try to take advantage? Well read the next story and try to find out. Having to explain it, like anything else, usually ruins it. Needless to say, he uses the “R-word”. You might not like that, but that’s what I think he would do, not what I want him to do, not what I would do myself.
You see, the reason why it’s important to tell the truth, even when constructing characters, is because that is how social criticism functions in that medium. Here is a man, here is what he wants, here is how he goes about it, here is his character, here is his gimmick. I don’t like what he said there, you shouldn’t say that. Maybe he’s a bad man. Maybe using that kind of language is bad, maybe being a hypocrite is worse. Who’s not a hypocrite in this situation? What is the greater evil? What is it about politics that causes people to behave incongruously? Who would I rather vote for in this situation? Do honest politicians always get pushed out? Is there any such thing as an honest politician on account of this very dilemma? I hope neither or these maniacs get in. Why do we have a two-party system anyway? And then hopefully, I care what happens to these imaginary people.
Do you see how it ruins it if I have to explain how fiction works? You read it, you feel something, you think something, you change your mind or you dig into your position. That is the goal. A few people will never get that far. They will read, not understand, and get offended. And that’s totally fair. Not everyone is on my wavelength, and more importantly, the writing is not always good enough to get people there anyway.
The point is, I hope you get it, I hope you like it, I hope you are not mad. I hope it provokes some thought. Either way, that’s why I wrote it and that’s why he uses that word. That’s why many more characters will do things even more egregious. That’s why I didn’t want to put my name on this for the first few months, and it’s why I’m choosing to out myself now. The only difference is, you’ll never have to put up with me explaining myself again. Get it or don’t. Like it or hate. Yell or cheer. My name is Tom More.