I think there's a difference though between writers who want to be the next Dickens or Twain and those who just want to write an inoffensive, commercially appealing story to make income. Both approaches are valid, but you have to ask yourself who your audience is and what you're trying to accomplish with your work. Some people are Mark Twain and some people are James Patterson.baldricko said:This!
No, I am perhaps more well read of that period of time then most (specialist scholars aside). As one post already states above, Mark Twain wrote satire. The books are kids stories only on the surface. They are much deeper than that.
Charles Dickens indulged in naturalism in his writing, and that indeed was 'of the time'. He has been accused of all manner of sins, chauvanism and an apologist for British imperialism, and racist descriptions of some characters (which he toned down in his later books). So, could racism be found in his books, yes. What Dickens did endeavor to do was raise awareness in the middle class of the plight of the poor and oppressed. He was a champion of the antislavery movement as was Mark Twain.
Standing up against slavery and against the inhumanities of his time was brave and these writers were above all brave. You need to be brave as a writer. You need to be prepared to reveal parts of yourself in your books, points of view, that one day you might look back on and cringe. That's how we grow as writers.
Starting off wishing to offend no-one is not going to help you write good books.
Especially books that stand the test of time. Good fiction should at the very least widen the world of the reader, and they should reflect elements of the real world rather than distort it. Good fantasy and science fiction does that.