Archive for February, 2023

For the first time in my career, I am considering putting one of my stories in the drawer.

The drawer is a metaphor writers use to describe where they put unfinished manuscripts, incomplete stories, and abandoned books. It is where you put the works you have given up on. Works go stale in the drawer, if they ever see the light again.

I love the novel I have on the chopping block. However, I am concerned that my intentions will not come across properly and that will undo the book. In my mind, the story works, but my faith on whether it will do the same in the world is shaky.

The intention of the book, what I think the story is about is exploitation. The many levels and layers of exploitation. Female exploitation to include suppression and forced prostitution. Racial exploitation like colonization and slavery. Family exploitation like abuse.

I did not feel I had the knowledge or license to tackle historical fiction or even fiction about these issues set in the real world. I definitely do not know enough to capture the experience, and I lack the generational experience. It’s not mine.

However, large parts of my story are influenced by these things. I have reactions to them, and I have things to say about them. So I created a fantasy world very similar to our own, where I wasn’t trying to capture how people felt in real world events but instead having them react to events I concocted. I wanted to be in control so I wasn’t trying to walk in the skin of real people. But what I created does mirror the real world–and not subtly.

My protagonists aren’t “white” because I didn’t want a white savior story. The core of the story is two young girls, socially invisible and powerless in a corrupt place.

However, colonization and slavery are in my narrative in hopes of paining how evil and perverse the exploiters are. The same with how they treat the girls and anyone unlike themselves. I won’t bother to deny that the people and situations are modeled after the real world, a real past I did not live.

Such is fiction.

I have struggled with which details to lift and how to personify these people. I didn’t want to make them purple or some true fantasy color. I didn’t want to invert the skin color of our world, as if to say it would be the same if the shoe was on the other foot. I also didn’t want to avoid racial differences as if I was shying away.

I have thought about all these things, debated all these things in my mind. I just don’t know how I want to approach them while still expressing my story. It took root in my mind for a reason, and I don’t want to lose it in an attempt to tread softly.

My doubt is that the text and its interpretation will not match my intentions. I fear it will come across as appropriating. My definition of appropriation is taking experiences or cultures for your own benefit. Trying to get published and sell books definitely would be to my benefit.

But if topics become off limits, how far away is that from censorship? Can parts of fiction belong to people? Can we always infer the writer’s social commentary? I know what my statement is, but it can never read that way to everyone. Where is the balance?

Of course, I have the deep seeded desire to be told I’m a good white person, that I’m different that all the bad ones. But I know I’m not owed that, that no one is obligated to pat me on the head and pacify me. This internal debate here is not me asking permission; this is me trying to process things “aloud”.

Between being a woman and often working in sectors still dominated by men and trying to explain racial inequity to my mixed children, this idea was born. With no intentions or agendas. Yet in this stage of revisions, I have to evaluate the novel from other points of view.

Christina Bergling

Like my writing? Check out my books!

  • Followers – You never know who is on the other side of the screen. Followers is a mystery and thriller that blends women’s fiction with horror.
  • The Rest Will Come – Online dating would drive anyone to murder, especially Emma.
  • Savages – Two survivors search the ruins for the last strain of humanity. Until the discovery of a baby changes everything.
  • The Waning – Locked in a cage, Beatrix must survive to escape or be broken completely.
  • Screechers – Mutant monsters and humans collide in the apocalyptic fallout of a burned world. Co-authored with Kevin J. Kennedy.
  • Horror Anthologies