Mean What You Say and Say What You Mean: How I View Ethics in Writing

Jun 07, 2024 by S. R. Watts

If there is one thing I despise above all others, it is when people use shady tactics and the art of manipulation to get others to act in ways that they might not otherwise do if they knew the con artist’s true motives. Having grown up with autism spectrum disorder, I had a hard time telling when someone was honest or not, which made it easy for others to trick me into saying or doing things that were exploitative using false promises of free toys or candy or an opportunity to play with the group. Knowing how hurtful such tactics were and the damage they could inflict on another person’s self-esteem, I vowed I would never say or do anything that could be perceived as manipulative, always opting for behaviors that showed that I cared for the well-being of those I came into contact with.

This attitude of not causing harm has also extended into my work as a writer, whether it's a blog post for my website or the latest novel for the fantasy series I’ve been working on for years. I aim for my work to inspire and empower readers, providing them with knowledge that helps them lead more vibrant, resilient lives. While many novels tend to offer little more than fluff and content that only caters to one’s addiction to stories primarily created for profit, I strive to write stories of substance that are both entertaining and enlightening. Epic tales fulfill readers' craving for adventure while equipping them with the tools they need to lead a life filled with a greater sense of purpose. It’s like me offering them a substantial, delectable steak, while other, less ethical writers are content with serving up low-quality fast-food burgers.

Now, that’s not to say that all other authors are unethical in this regard. Some of the best writers in history have written great novels that have helped people through some dark periods in their lives, and they were some of the most ethical people I’ve ever heard about. Yet, when you know that the most profitable genre in the book industry happens to be Romance—a genre that often depicts cheesy love stories that devolve into graphic sex scenes that are designed to feed one’s desire for/addiction to erotic content—then you know that some authors are only in it for the money and don’t care who they hurt as long as they can make a fortune. 

The sad truth is that the book industry is primarily out to make money, and that leads many within major publishing houses to make exploitative decisions to make that happen. And while every business needs to make money to survive, such unethical behavior in an industry where so many good and decent authors are working hard to break into makes the whole situation all the more disheartening to me. I want to be numbered among the authors whose books made a difference in the world and to be denied access to an industry full of opportunities that would allow my books to make such a difference simply because it was not exploitative enough makes me think that there is little hope to save the soul of the institution of book writing. An art form that was designed to expand the minds of readers, giving them a window into another world where they can learn and grow, becoming more enlightened as their understanding of the universe is expanded.

Yet, hope is not lost. Thanks to the advent of social media and other forms of digital marketing, I have other avenues through which I can reach an audience once I figure out the right strategy for marketing my books. Again, my tactics can’t be construed as exploitative or manipulative in any way. Readers have to know that I care about them as fans and that I only want to inspire the world. In time, I hope to figure out how to perform such a feat. For now, I will take comfort in the fact that I have never once compromised my ethics or values simply to enrich myself. What is it worth to me if I gain the whole world and lose my soul in the process?