Hi gang, Craig with you once more to talk about an open topic. This one isn’t a specific writing lesson. It’s more of an awareness with no right answers. Feel free to discuss in the comments later.
When we think of censorship, we think about movie ratings, an overzealous school board, or maybe even a political body of some kind. Those things still happen, but something else has reared its head when it comes to books.
I’m talking about the power of the Internet. Anyone can voice an opinion at any time these days. They can gather friends and move against virtually anything. There have been stories of targeted venom spewed at specific books or authors. More than once if your name is Rowling.
What brought this to the point of a post was the documentary “Get Back,” on Disney+. They felt the need to publish trigger warnings prior to viewing. One of those was a warning about smoking. Seems a little off-base to me.
This means there are people who could be offended by almost anything we choose to create. Where do we draw the line?
I’ve gotten reviews that knocked me down a star because of a racial slur. The story was set in 1901, and if anything, I watered it down from reality. Another reviewer knocked a book down once because of a swear word.
If we let others put us in a politically correct box, we’ll never produce anything entertaining. Fiction needs stress. It needs bad guys, and it needs broken main characters who might be able to overcome their own prejudices.
If we can’t introduce certain things, sometimes graphically, what are our main characters supposed to do?
I learned to avoid politics, religion, and parenting tips in social environments a long time ago. (These days, I just avoid social environments.) In fiction, some of those things must be touched upon. Then some crazy person shows up and accuses us of being too liberal, too conservative, anti Christian, or any number of things. It’s fiction for
Christ’s sake crying out loud!
We want people to read our stories. We want them to love our stories and pine for more. Should we start putting trigger warnings in our blurbs? (Say no. Please say no.) Should we only write about happy people with no problems at all? (No is the right answer…) Perhaps all our characters should be gender neutral with no semblance of politics, religion, race, love interests, or any of that. Problems would be limited to something for IT to deal with.
Imagine trying to write about organized crime or gang violence without ever referencing race. Not to mention drugs, prostitution, or graphic bits. Can you imagine a member of the Yakuza saying, “Golly,” or “Darn it.”
Personally, I have places I won’t go. I never kill the pet character, at least so far. I try to have certain things happen behind closed doors and not in your face. It doesn’t mean I hate anything where this happens. Kind of enjoyed John Wick.
I don’t write for the Disney crowd, but I don’t write for the Chainsaw Massacre crowd either. Readers should expect some bad things to happen to good people. If I have to start including trigger warnings and avoiding things you might see and hear on every street corner, maybe it’s time to keep my stories to myself. Could this kind of silencing be what the PC crowd wants?
I’ve been parked on an African adventure that could be set during one of the Boer wars or a Zulu uprising. Hunting, even sport hunting, would be a logical part of that story. (A completely legal act.) It’s so controversial that I’ve never written it.
Indian Native American First Nations people really did massacre settlers in some instances. This violence flowed both directions, but how hard does it have to be to write about? Pick a side for your POV. The opposing side are the bad guys. Massacres happen. Racial slurs are more likely than not. Cigarettes and peace pipes were probably around to some degree. Violence is going to be part of this story.
This kind of thing is worth some thought. Where do you stand on it? Would you change history to reflect modern sensibilities? Would you change dialog into something like nobody actually uses for the sake of being PC? Should organized crime stories move to science fiction where you can blame it on aliens and make them the bad guys?
I’ve written a character who smokes, and kills a lot of people. One of my characters was a nude life model in her past. I have a character who started out as a peeping tom, but he eventually married her. My urban paranormal stories include swearing, and a portion of blood. Some of my stories involve living off the land and that includes meat. I think about this stuff, but it’s kind of low on my worry list. We’re all at risk here, but how much concern should we put into it. I have a hunch everyone’s gauge is different.
How long before someone gets to Amazon and they upgrade their algorithms to accommodate modern sensibilities?
Let me hear from you. Let’s keep it civil like Story Empire is known for, but this is an important topic.