There are certain phrases, when presented in certain contexts, and especially on certain days when things are generally running afoul, that really bother me. One such bit of offensive language is when someone makes the claim Oh, you could never imagine how it feels. After all, my job is just that, to imagine how it feels.
Last week I wrote about an undercurrent of opposition I've encountered when it comes to writers voicing themselves through a character of a different gender. Similarly, I often see authors attacked for stretching to write about a situation he or she may never have actually gone through. I can't help but think these critical readers confuse truth with authenticity.
Now, I'm not justifying someone who does a hack job on a potentially rich topic. If it sounds phony, the writer failed. But to say one can never fully imagine the thoughts and feelings an individual may go through in a given situation is not only insane, but also disturbing to me. What a horrible world it suggests, one where no one has any sense of genuine empathy.
Limiting authors to telling stories that only relate to their own lives is basically a call to the end of fictional writing. It's a plea for memoirs, which frankly, I can't abide. Memoirs are a place for people to talk about themselves and get the reader to feel for the individual. Novels are supposed to be a place where readers can share experiences with characters in order to gain a deeper understanding of others and the workings of the world.
A good author can very well imagine how it feels. You may not like what we imagine, but please never say we can't do it.