It’s Banned Books Week!
Today, we’re going to look at a few of the elements that go into the bestselling books that make it to the Banned/Frequently Challenged Book Lists. Given the success of all the books on these lists, I think there are a few tips to be found for writers seeking their fortunes.
- Write a book that is unsuited for the target age group – Don’t dumb down your content. Rather, write over the heads of your intended readers in order to make them grow. Show them what is really happening in the world. Craft it in a way that they can learn something by such exposures. (Example from 2013 – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins)
- Write a book that takes a political or social stand – Don’t be afraid to offend someone by saying what you think is right. You will probably sway a few people from the fence atop which they sit, but you will surely draw the ire of those in the opposite camp. (Example from 2013 – Bone by Jeff Smith)
- Write a book with profanity or adult language – Have your characters speak how real people speak. Don’t say “poop” if your character isn’t a stay-at-home pastor’s wife (though I know some pastor’s wives out there who can swear like a sailor). But don’t throw in vulgarity for shock value, either. Just write true and use the proper vernacular. (Example from 2011 – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)
- Write a book that acknowledges sex – Guess what! People have sex! Sometimes with people they love, sometimes with horrible people, sometimes for really bad reasons. But it happens. If it is relevent to your plot or your character development, don’t neuter your book in order to please a few puritans. (Example from 2010 – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley)
- Write a book worth reading – Don’t go off and write something inappropriately aimed with a strong social stance littered with profanity and sexual references and pretend that it is going to be a bestseller on those merits alone. Sure, it may happen. But if you don’t have a narrative voice worth listening to, no one is going to tune in. People tend to put garbage down quickly (though there are exceptions to this, even on the banned books list (Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey)). Don’t give readers an excuse to put your book down. Write strong. (Example from 2004 – Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck)
There you go. I hope to be reading about the visceral reactions caused by your book in the near future!