How do you deal with sensitive subjects in writing? - Page 4


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Thread: How do you deal with sensitive subjects in writing?

  1. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by BornForBurning View Post
    Regarding 'sensitive' topics. I guess, know your audience. And tell the truth in the way most likely to reach that audience. Don't just write WhAt yOU wAnT. Write what's true. I'm a big fan of the recent movement against racial epithets in fiction. For one, cursing is cheap. More than one talented author has ruined good dialog due to an over-reliance on swearing. For another, absolutely nothing good has come of this controversy over racial epithets in America. Once you get to the 'adopting it as their own' stage of an epithet, that's when you know things have gotten really bad. Because the group has essentially agreed to take this ugly, abusive word on as an identity.
    While I 100% agree that no one should be using the n-word to address someone in this day and age... how the hell are you going to write a story set in the American 1800s without that word being used in a historical context? History was ugly, that's just the truth.

    I just find it really weird that you want you're okay with humanizing Nazis, but not with using the n-word. I think the Nazis used the n-word plenty...
    Last edited by Joker; August 1st, 2020 at 10:19 AM.
    Currently writing: The Huntsmage

    "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch." - Robert Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

  2. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by Joker View Post
    While I 100% agree that no one should be using the n-word to address someone in this day and age... how the hell are you going to write a story set in the American 1800s without that word being used in a historical context? History was ugly, that's just the truth.

    I just find it really weird that you want you're okay with humanizing Nazis, but not with using the n-word. I think the Nazis used the n-word plenty...
    So...this comes up quite often in any writing conversation and I think it comes down to agreeing there is and should be a difference between reality and fiction. There already is, anyway. We don't write about our characters needing to go poop real bad or worrying about their taxes -- at least not often. We know that certain parts of 'reality' just don't form part of good stories.

    Yeah, history was ugly and trying to figure out how to show that ugliness without writing an ugly story is part of the challenge. It's certainly not that difficult, though.

    I have read lots of good historical fiction set in lots of racist eras and yet I don't recall reading much in which the writer deemed it necessary to actually have racist characters screaming the n-word at each other. Super strange!

    Conversely, I have read a lot of really terrible historical fiction in which the writer attempted to be gritty by incorporating 'the values of the time' and hurling racism all around gleefully so as to create 'authentic' Nazis and 'authentic' slave owners and - lo! - even with all that epic realism the book was still shit.

    Point being: If your writing is so delicate that it relies on the relatively small number of words and tropes that are deemed offensive across all contexts to make it work...then it's probably pretty weak all round. I mean, most historical fiction authors manage this just fine. Maybe read some historical fiction and see how they do it?

    ETA: Even if one disputes the moral obligation not to include offensive language in their book, how about approaching this from a purely aesthetic perspective? Ask: Do you think readers *want* to read about racists saying racist stuff? Like, do you think they will get an enjoyable or intellectually stimulating experience out of reading it? Do you *want* to write it? Probably not, right? So maybe just worry less about your 'right' to use the words and more about whether they actually add anything on importance to the actual story.

  3. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    Point being: If your historical fiction is so delicate that it relies on the relatively small number of words and tropes that are deemed offensive across all contexts to give it a sense of credibility...then it's probably pretty weak all round. I mean, most historical fiction authors manage this just fine. Maybe read historical fiction and see how they do it?

    ETA: Even if one disputes the moral obligation not to include offensive language in their book, how about approaching this from a purely aesthetic perspective? Ask: Do you think readers *want* to read about racists saying racist stuff? Like, do you think they will get an enjoyable or intellectually stimulating experience out of reading it? Do you *want* to write it? Probably not, right? So maybe just worry less about your 'right' to use the words and more about whether they actually add anything on importance to the actual story.
    You're lumping all historical fiction together, dude.

    A children's book about cowboys in the Wild West? Yeah, of course kids don't need to be hearing that crap, even if it's historically accurate, because it's for kids.

    But in a gritty, realistic story set during the Civil War? If the reader is so Charmin Ultra-Soft as to get squeamish if the n-word is used by people literally fighting to preserve slavery, they're also not going to be handle the blood and guts and men's toes falling off from gangrene. I mean, how cringy and silly would it be to not have the Confederates (and honestly, most of the Union) be eye-wateringly racist?

    Context, dude.
    Currently writing: The Huntsmage

    "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch." - Robert Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

  4. #34
    While I 100% agree that no one should be using the n-word to address someone in this day and age... how the hell are you going to write a story set in the American 1800s without that word being used in a historical context? History was ugly, that's just the truth.

    I just find it really weird that you want you're okay with humanizing Nazis, but not with using the n-word. I think the Nazis used the n-word plenty...
    With regards to historical fiction, there is a tension between unnecessary indulgence in evil and historical honesty. I acknowledge that. I do not know what the ultimate solution is, besides that, like all fiction, we must be determined to honestly address evil without falling into the trap of carnal indulgence. With regards to humanization and cursing, the answer is that humanization is always moral, and cursing is never moral (with perhaps an exception for, again, honest depiction of evil). With regards to the Nazis using the n-word, I suspect you are in deep historical error.

    If humanizing the Nazis makes you uncomfortable, you might as well give up on humanizing the human race. They committed no sin uncommon to mankind.

    But in a gritty, realistic story set during the Civil War? If the reader is so Charmin Ultra-Soft as to get squeamish if the n-word is used by people literally fighting to preserve slavery, they're also not going to be handle the blood and guts and men's toes falling off from gangrene. I mean, how cringy and silly would it be to not have the Confederates (and honestly, most of the Union) be eye-wateringly racist?
    It's less about realism and more about depicting evil in such a way that the content is constructive as opposed to obnoxious or indulgent. I know that watching someone's head get bashed in is unpleasant. I don't need to watch a snuff film to learn that, even though a snuff film would certainly be an 'honest' depiction of murder!
    Stranded in Babylon

  5. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by Joker View Post
    You're lumping all historical fiction together, dude.

    A children's book about cowboys in the Wild West? Yeah, of course kids don't need to be hearing that crap, even if it's historically accurate, because it's for kids.

    But in a gritty, realistic story set during the Civil War? If the reader is so Charmin Ultra-Soft as to get squeamish if the n-word is used by people literally fighting to preserve slavery, they're also not going to be handle the blood and guts and men's toes falling off from gangrene. I mean, how cringy and silly would it be to not have the Confederates (and honestly, most of the Union) be eye-wateringly racist?

    Context, dude.
    With regard to heavy usage of racist language that is toxic in 2020: Yes I do lump all books together, because that’s now it is. nobody will publish a white author who throws around the n word “for atmosphere” in a novel written in 2020. I absolutely promise you, it’s a huge mistake.

    I didn’t say you can’t still write about racism. The point is to take into account sensivities and your place. Assuming you’re white you are less equipped to write about racism from anything other than a white perspective. periodendofstory

    Again, you just need to read more IMO. This isn’t rocket science, plenty of people have done it well. Try “The Good Lord Bird” or “Cold Mountain”. Both highly regarded modern novels set during and about the Civil War.

  6. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    With regard to heavy usage of racist language that is toxic in 2020: Yes I do lump all books together, because that’s now it is. nobody will publish a white author who throws around the n word “for atmosphere” in a novel written in 2020. I absolutely promise you, it’s a huge mistake.
    Nobody? Literally nobody? I find that hard to believe.

    I didn’t say you can’t still write about racism. The point is to take into account sensivities and your place. Assuming you’re white you are less equipped to write about racism from anything other than a white perspective. periodendofstory
    Non-sequitur.

    Again, you just need to read more IMO. This isn’t rocket science, plenty of people have done it well. Try “The Good Lord Bird” or “Cold Mountain”. Both highly regarded modern novels set during and about the Civil War.
    Besides for this being condescending, I'm going to guess those are intended for younger audiences. I could also point out to you a bunch of recent media (written by white people) that uses context-appropriate racial slurs. So I don't see how these anecdotes show that using racial slurs should never happen in ​any context ever.
    Currently writing: The Huntsmage

    "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch." - Robert Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

  7. #37
    Regarding the OP. Watching Miriam Margalise traveling round Australia on the TV the other night I felt she had it right. "I am a lesbian" she told people. No justifications, no talking round it, no euphemisms; a simple statement of fact.

    And as Lucky said early on, if readers get offended at least you know you have readers. I remember when Lolita came out, there was a terrible stink, offended wasn't in it, more like outraged. Terrific publicity, it sold hugely.
    Visit my website to read and connect to my 'soundcloud', where you can listen to stories songs and more
    Hidden Content

    A thread of links useful to writers wishing to learn
    Piglet's picks. Hidden Content

  8. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by Olly Buckle View Post
    Regarding the OP. Watching Miriam Margalise traveling round Australia on the TV the other night I felt she had it right. "I am a lesbian" she told people. No justifications, no talking round it, no euphemisms; a simple statement of fact.

    And as Lucky said early on, if readers get offended at least you know you have readers. I remember when Lolita came out, there was a terrible stink, offended wasn't in it, more like outraged. Terrific publicity, it sold hugely.
    I wonder how some of the people in this thread would have reacted back in the day to A Clockwork Orange, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, DOOM or anything else that caused a moral panic...
    Currently writing: The Huntsmage

    "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch." - Robert Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

  9. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by Joker View Post
    I wonder how some of the people in this thread would have reacted back in the day to A Clockwork Orange, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, DOOM or anything else that caused a moral panic...
    Didn't know that it was The Holy Grail, I thought it was just The life of Brian. Not surprised though, there are some people who love to be offended, like there are some who love fighting. Is it not our duty as writers to cater for all sorts of readers and make sure they have something to be offended at ?
    Visit my website to read and connect to my 'soundcloud', where you can listen to stories songs and more
    Hidden Content

    A thread of links useful to writers wishing to learn
    Piglet's picks. Hidden Content

  10. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by Olly Buckle View Post
    Didn't know that it was The Holy Grail, I thought it was just The life of Brian. Not surprised though, there are some people who love to be offended, like there are some who love fighting. Is it not our duty as writers to cater for all sorts of readers and make sure they have something to be offended at ?
    A bunch of ultra-conservative types got their knickers in a twist over The Holy Grail - claimed it was blasphemy and all that.

    What I find funny is when leftists sit and sneer at the Bible thumpers for being easily offended, and then turn around and screech over the Joker movie because the main character is gasp an angry straight white man! Oh the humanity!

    I'm a libertarian, and that reflects on my views on literature. No one should be burning books, because what follows is the burning of men. Left, right, I don't care. I want open and honest debate.
    Currently writing: The Huntsmage

    "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch." - Robert Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

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