Power & Privilege
Writing with passion & purpose
Writing with Passion and Purpose
“Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable.”
In this follow-up report for fellow writers, readers and friends on the Bouchercon-2022 conference in Minneapolis and my continuing year of re-engaging with the real world, I wanted to elaborate on a memorable quote by Rick Mofina, an internationally acclaimed bestselling author and fellow member of Crime Writers of Canada.
Among the many inspiring panels, Rick Mofina was on a panel discussing Power & Privilege when he said his guiding principle in both journalism and crime novels was to, “Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable,”.
Rick is very generous with his time and willing to share his experience with other authors, especially some of the gripping stories that were part of his own experience as a crime reporter and journalist before writing fiction. He’s had an impressive career given the humble admission that his high school English teacher gave him a reluctant B+ and suggested he should not expect to maker a living from writing. That story was a reminder of my high school experience affecting my own plans for a writing career. I was very good in English and considered following that path until I was thrown out of journalism class with the explanation, “Chatterson, this is a vocational course and you’re in the University Program!” So I took the teacher’s geography course instead and went on to university for a degree in engineering and then an MBA followed by a long boring career in business. None of the exciting opportunities for crime, mystery, or suspense that Rick Mofina had as a journalist working with the RCMP, the FBI, and Interpol and interviewing terrorists and murderers. He collected much better material than me for his future thrilling crime fiction novels.
The advice from Rick Mofina and other writers is to mine your experience for good stories then add your own creativity and work at improving your skills in the writing craft to make the stories more interesting and entertaining. Keep writing until it’s good enough to be shared.
However, it was on the subject of a journalist’s and writer’s shared purpose that I found his comments most inspiring. Especially for the approach to social commentary in both journalism and commercial fiction on current social justice and political issues related to power and privilege. Rick stated that he has always been guided in both his journalism and crime fiction by the intent to “Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable,” a quote which he subsequently explained comes from the Chicago humorist Finley Peter Dunne, who in the early 1900s wrote a popular syndicated column featuring the distinctive voice of Mr. Dooley in which he spoke of the purpose of journalism.
It’s a guideline worth remembering when the editor asks the author to remove commentary that may offend some potential readers. If that was the intent, then you’ve hit the mark. Don’t forget the purpose of the writing may be to do more than inform or entertain. The author may disguise the message or keep it subliminal and the reader may not even notice it, but the ability to attract and hold an audience should not be entirely wasted on brainless entertainment. Some thought-provoking ideas may be worth sharing and will add value for both the reader and the writer without spoiling the fun.
Enjoy your reading and writing!