1. Malkhalifa
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    Malkhalifa Member

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    Cultural barriers are restricting my writing ... thoughts?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Malkhalifa, Jan 27, 2013.

    Alright, so I'm working on a Sci Fi Novel targeted at an 18 and above readership, but I've come across some important considerations that I need to make. So I thought I'd get everybody's two cents.

    Obviously, I aim for this work to be successful, but there are two things I want to avoid. The first is swearing. Now I swear like a sailor, but I'm afraid that in the event of this book's success (God willing) The criticism that will rain down from my immediate and distant family as well as the general public in the country, will be a thorn I don't want in my side. I'm Middle Eastern and in most parts of the Middle East, the culture is conservative to a fault. Where I'm from displays of public affection are frowned upon (even holding hands) , skirts above the knee warrant the same reaction as streaking, and swearing in public gives people the same unsavory impression of someone peeing in a public park. That being said, the culture is also tribal, so everybody feels entitled not only to talk about you like you like a low life or a lunatic, but approach the people that know you to express how you've shamed their name.

    Which brings me to the second thing, a love interest in the story. Personally I cringe at romance in novels and I find intimate, sexual descriptions to be distasteful and irrelevant, however I am aware of how a love interest helps sell. The problem is people here generally don't appreciate creative process and attempts at realism in a narrative. They assume what they read is not a story with fictional characters but a confession of how sick and twisted you are.

    So.

    While I want to find a way to sneak a brief love interest to sate the wants of the salivating masses, I do want to keep it surface level.Thoughts?. Also with swearing is saying " He cursed" aside from Hell and Damn good enough?

    Thanks
     
  2. popsprocket
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    popsprocket Member

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    To the matter of swearing: I'm much the same as you and I don't even live in a conservative culture. It's not often that I think swearing in dialogue actually adds anything to a story. Very rarely you come across a character who is suited to frequent swearing, but outside of that it seems to be completely irrelevant. Saying 'he cursed' and it's variants are perfectly okay by me. Especially since you can be vague but specific at the same time and don't have to invent your own curses to suit the story, e.g. "He let out a string of curses so vile as to make the devil blush."

    To the matter of romance. A tricky question and I understand where you're coming from with wanting to add it in but not wanting people to assume it's some fantasy of your own.

    The thing about romance is that it's one of those things that pops up wherever you least expect it - especially in real life. So it only makes sense that characters, when thrust together, may develop feelings for each other. Actively stifling characters and not allowing them to show romantic interest in each other will inevitably hurt the narrative and knock the characters down a few notches if done incorrectly. My best suggestion here is to have the characters show interest in one another in various ways, but not to let it go any further than that. Their jobs are too busy to give them any time together, or their mission is too important to become preoccupied with things like this right now. That sort of thing. They can steal sweet glances at one another, but not really get any closer than that.
     
  3. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    OK.

    You can always just imply the swears and let the readers use their imaginations. He/she says a swear, we don't hear it, but we see everyone else's reactions to the swear.

    The character in question can be someone who doesn't swear, or may make up his/her own silly swear phrases (as popsprocket suggested) such as, "Monkeyfists!" Use it sparingly like it were a real swear word.

    I see. So, if I'm understanding this right, the people you live with will see this work of art as an actual confession from you, not some fictional world you've concoted?

    Hmm...Would writing it under a fake name hurt? I wouldn't know, as I don't live there (obviously), but if you wrote under a fictional name and got it published...

    Hmm... Yeah, this is tricky.

    Not all love have to be hot and sweaty. Maybe they can be subtle about it?

    Keeping swear at a minimum might be good. I plan to make sure my characters don't swear more than they need to. A good plot doesn't always need a potty-mouth character. Yelling 'dammit' or 'go to hell' once or twice won't hurt anything, I don't think.
     
  4. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Well, if the story takes place in the future, it's fair to assume that language changes over time. Invent your own cuss words.

    As for sex scenes, perhaps your characters are aliens. I'll bet they have differing nomenclature for all sorts of body parts...
     
  5. Malkhalifa
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    Malkhalifa Member

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    Popsprocket: Good point on romance being an inevitable occurrence. Thanks for the insight. I'm relieved I can make it subtle.

    Link: equally good advice, much appreciated. I'm seriously considering a pseudonym, Though my middle name is Ali, so " Author: Mohamed Ali" would yield some search results my way due to the boxer. On the other hand as JK Rowling's publishers initially feared lack of male interest in the Harry Potter series because it was written by a woman (Hence the initials JK), I fear the lack of international/western (my target audience) interest due to the unpopular ,albeit unwarranted connotations of the name Mohamed or any other Arabic name for that matter. It is quite the conundrum.

    The Tourist: Honestly, Battlestar Galactica is the only fiction I digested invented swear words from. Frakk! is so awesome.
     
  6. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    You need to write the story you want to write, without a consideration of whether it will later on become "successful." Because the odds are, it's not going to be a blockbuster, top selling book. And if it somehow does, that will be after much revising and re-considering. So write it the way you feel is true to the characters. If that involves a lot of swearing, so be it.

    And NEVER throw in sex or romance just because you feel it should be in there or that is what the readership wants, or because you think that will make the book a success. Readers can sniff out a forced storyline like a beagle sniffs out cheese. If anything, a forced storyline will prevent your becoming published and achieving any sort of financial success, so your worry will be moot. As you write your characters, if a romance develops, then go for it. There are ways to write or imply sexual scenes without getting too graphic. So if you get to that point, you can worry about that then. But if no romance develops, you probably don't have to worry about it.

    In any event, don't go into this expecting to make money or write a best-seller. The odds are against it. Write the story you want to write and if you then really believe in it, put in the work to try to make it happen. So concentrate first on writing a great story.
     
  7. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    I currently live in Libya and can totally understand you, people here are very different from other places and often it can be very annoying at how they view things...

    My advice to you is enjoy your writing and dont think too much about publishing till later when done, then you can think about if you will publish under your name or some other.
    As for the sex, well you can always hint that something happened and let the reader imagine it how it happened or hint that after the mission/story something might happen, and try not to curse so much.
     
  8. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Frakk?

    I was thinking of "felgercarb," probably because I'm older than most of the members here.
     
  9. kathleenoakwood
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    kathleenoakwood New Member

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    Writing is about expression, and I agree with what many of the Posters here have suggested. Swearing for the most part is not a necessarry thing. In fact, it can be rather off-putting and make the writing to be something it isn't. It is always a good thing to write down what you feel as it comes to you, then edit it later on. You are perfectly within your right to alter such curse words to invent new ones or use existing ones where possible. On the mention of the sexual content, I cannot suggest you go against your own morals, nor beliefs but if you can do it in a way that is not seen to be 'seedy' perhaps it may be acceptable. But again, I say to you that writing is and should be primarily about expressing yourself, so let it flow from you, and mould it later, like you would clay.

    I'm sure you'll do just fine. Good Luck to you.
    -Kath.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are plenty of successful books without either cursing or sex. If you're not comfortable including those things, don't include them. It sounds like you'd only be adding them for reader appeal, not out of your own creative inspiration, and that they'd be an uncomfortable, half-hearted, watered-down presentation. That's much worse than leaving them out entirely.
     
  11. Teodor Pravický
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    Teodor Pravický Senior Member

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    Well, this do only people who are living at criticizing other's work. Casual reader is living the story itself. Its like you enjoy eating gyros and really don't care about what they put into it. The taste is good, but once you go deeper and do it by yourself, your taste gets spoiled.

    There is a huge difference in the opinion once the person is starting to evaluate other's work or the idea. Therefore if everybody has the opinion about swearing, abortion and that girl have to be married in 12 or she gets too old or something, I would still make it real, but trying to avoid all the opinions you ever heard about it. Then you can get both, even readers that actually don't understand your stuff
     
  12. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I think at some point, many writers come up against your core problem, which is that what you want to write is at odds with the mores of your family, friends or community. And the truth is, you have to choose which is more important to you - writing the best story you can, or the opinion of you held by others. My advice is to make the decision that you can most easily live with.

    Good luck.
     
  13. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Of course, that's where you and I differ.

    I have never secured anything, a job, a woman, or a creative writing treatise by living inside a self-constructed comfort zone.

    By simple definition, creative writing is "creative." By a simpler definition, "the same old thing" is not.

    Somehow the idea to change a perspective, but then bend the yarn to make that perspective just an adjunct to your traditional thoughts, seems like a waste of time.

    I liked the movie "Alien." For the first time in my life I saw a life form that was truly alien.
     
  14. AndyB
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    AndyB Member

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    I would transpose the location to another culture, acceptance could be gained by having them face this sort of dilemma in interacting with their new country and its clash with their own.

    as it's scifi the cuture need not be western but you can draw parallels and point score by making us evil westerners look like monsters in parody while your protagonists struggle to stay pure to their original values.


    in this way you can make the sex wild and dirty but also frowned upon by your characters and spoken of as shameful


    this isn't a new way of doing it in Sci-fi, take the first interracial screen kiss in the original star trek as an example, set in a different enough environment hardly anyone will notice the formally totally forbidden act.
     
  15. AndyB
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    AndyB Member

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    I would transpose the location to another culture, acceptance could be gained by having them face this sort of dilemma in interacting with their new country and its clash with their own.

    as it's scifi the culture need not be western but you can draw parallels and point score by making us evil westerners look like monsters in parody while your protagonists struggle to stay pure to their original values.


    in this way you can make the sex wild and dirty but also frowned upon by your characters and spoken of as shameful


    this isn't a new way of doing it in Sci-fi, take the first interracial screen kiss in the original star trek as an example, set in a different enough environment hardly anyone will notice the formally totally forbidden act.
     
  16. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    You bring up a good point. In our present day the volatile scene would be George Takei kissing any female...
     
  17. AndyB
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    for those that knew the background yea it would be.

    Another classic example of GR thumbing his nose at the 60's was the infamous Abe L scene when he met Uhura and opened with 'My what a beautiful Negress' then back peddled thinking it may of caused offence and she replied 'Its ok, we are beyond such petty distinctions in this day and age' or something along those lines.

    the whole scene screams 'GROW UP YOU STUPID RACIST PIGS!' very loudly yet if was screened with hardly a comment.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    why don't you just write it the way you want and use a pen name?...or does your family know you're writing a book?
     
  19. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, that is not where you and I differ. Where we differ is that you appear to be advocating for a specific outcome. I am not, because only the writer can make that decision. Note that I said that the decision should be one he could live with. If one decides do limit one's writings so as not to offend cultural norms, that can be very difficult to live with. So can the decision to press on despite contumely from family, friends and community. It is a matter of the values of the individual writer.

    It's easy to say, "Go ahead, press on and write a great work." I could say that, but I don't have to live with the consequences.
     
  20. AndyB
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    AndyB Member

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    What are you? some kind of gaulmogging Cylon?
     
  21. Teodor Pravický
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    Teodor Pravický Senior Member

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    Yeah, but what kind of douchebag shows the works to his friends and family? I mean, if they aren't artists or something, the conversation can't be about anything but job, some trip and food. Its the same shit everywhere. I think is for the best to show up something else
     
  22. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Am I missing something? If he gets published, odds are that his friends and family are going to find out.
     
  23. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    Isn't it pretty natural to want to share your artistic exploits with those close to you, well, if they're supportive anyway...

    Back to the OP, It's a tough line to walk... But I think that finding ways to write the story you want to, without offending your own morals, or the morals of the people around you can build your abilities and make you a more capable writer... It forces you to be more creative in how you tell a story I think. That's what I've found anyway...
     
  24. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Write comfortabley. Don't force yourself to write something you don't feel or something that
    makes you uncomfortable. It won't come out right anyway.

    Sex and romance tend to be considered synonymous - but they're not. Sex happens but does it
    need to be highlighted - no. Implied - maybe.
    And depending on the pace of your story, a sex scene could actually bog things down.

    As for swearing. Who needs it? If your conversation is witty, intense and perfectly demonstrates
    your characters nobody will read your story and say - good but not enough swearing. In fact you
    have a bonus of appealing to a broader range of readers for keeping it out.
     
  25. D-Doc
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    D-Doc Active Member

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    I wouldn't recommend adding a love interest just to help your story sell. If a love interest will enhance the story in your eyes, then go ahead and add it. If you do it just to satisfy a potential audience then it probably won't be written with enthusiasm, as a result will likely hinder the story.

    As far as cussing, I say go for it. People cuss frequently, as I'm sure you know, and it will make the story more believable. With that said, know where to draw the line. If your story involves soldiers or roughnecks, then more cussing is acceptable. I suppose a lot of it depends on the context. Some characters and situations warrant more cussing, and with others it might be unnecessary. Most people cuss when under duress or extreme panic, so if your novel has plenty of situations like that then shying away from cussing may be to your detriment.
     

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