As a sociology major in college there were certain ideas that we discussed either in detail or in passing that pulled me deeper and farther into the subject. One of those, suicide, is a topic that I’ve recently come back to as a writer as well as an amateur sociologist.
I have had an idea running around loosely in my head for close to a year about doing a short story where the main focal point is suicide. In an attempt to organize my thoughts for this story I’ve found a copy of Emile Durkheim’s Suicide. (I had a copy somewhere in my house – yes I’m a nerd – but seem to have misplaced it.) I recently made a post on Facebook asking for others two-cents to see if using suicide as a topic for a story was something that would be too touchy for most people to allow themselves to read it. The consensus was that it would depend on how the story turned out. That says to me that most people find it an issue they don’t want to talk about. I would put it in the category of homosexuality or race relations. It is real, but it’s safer to avoid the conversation if at all possible.
At this point in my evolution as a writer I’m giving all my ideas an opportunity to simmer in my subconscious to see if they will gain form and become a whole idea with a sense of purpose and direction or they continue to just wander around like “the Blob.” This idea about using suicide as a starting and ending focal point for my newest story was one such story that recently has gained form and purpose.
While I do indeed understand that it is a subject that some may not be able to read due to reasons all their own, I have come to the conclusion that if I don’t at least make an attempt to organize these thoughts and plot points into a cohesive story then I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I was always under the impression that part of what a fiction writer is meant to do is to take subjects that may be taboo and talk about them in a way that gives people another perspective on that subject. If you can think of a socially deviant behavior there is likely a book broaching the subject.
It was a hot topic a few weeks ago when it was announced that a version of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn would be published with “offensive” terms replaced with those of a more politically correct nature. I don’t see this as re-writing history, unless it becomes commonplace and therefore more common than the proper version of the book, I see this as a missed opportunity for those reading those stories to take a look at the social taboo that currently exists about some words in society and see how they can relate history to their own life today.
I’m not saying that when I finish this story and if it were to be published it would hold the same social significance as Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn, but I would be remiss not to follow in the paths of past writers and touch upon those taboo subjects in the hope of helping someone see another side of such an issue.
Dozens of idea float around in my head for different stories at all times of the day or night. Many of them touch upon those socially deviant topics that aren’t talked about very frequently but are issues that people may find intriguing while uncomfortable to talk about. With some luck and a lot of hard work I hope someday to be able to publish novels that while popular in the mainstream of society assist in touching upon those subjects while informing and teaching.