Are the only people who want to read a story in which one of the characters suffers from social anxiety those who have the disorder themselves?

 

Why did this come up now? Well, yesterday Nicola Morgan posted an excellent piece about why selling books, and not just publishing them, is important. In the comments, I agreed, mentioning that for me selling a lot of books would be a big step towards my goal of raising awareness of social anxiety. Nicola responded:

tbh, you will probably raise awareness more by your blogging and other work. After all, the book would be read mostly by people with the condition already.

One response to that, which I didn’t make clear in my comment, is this: I think that even if I sold a lot of books that had nothing to do with social anxiety, becoming known would help towards that goal.

But what if I did publish a story that involves social anxiety in some form? Would that be of interest only to people who have experienced it? Why?

There are novels about people with asperger’s, depression and other mental health issues. The people who read them haven’t necessarily experienced these things and don’t necessarily know someone who has. Why not social anxiety?

That voice in my head, the one who would like me to give up, says this: In real life, other people don’t want to know those with social anxiety. They see them as boring, stuck up, stupid, weird. So obviously they don’t want to read books about them.

But a story can show they’re not boring or stuck-up or stupid or weird. (Well, maybe they are weird.) A novel can look inside a character’s head at the thoughts locked inside. Couldn’t that be interesting to anyone? Does a reader need to know the sort of thoughts that might be there? Does a reader need to have encountered the sort of  incidents the character might experience in order to want to buy the book?

Do you need to have it to read it?

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And that, in a way, brings me to Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question, which I just read. But I’ll leave that for another post.

Edit: Do read Nicola’s clarifying comment.

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