1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Have you ever let the fear of controversy stop you from writing?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Link the Writer, Jan 6, 2011.

    This might go to Hell fast, so I'll say this. PLEASE leave all political discourse out of the thread or Cogito or another mod will come in and justifiably lock it.

    With that said, I have a question: Suppose you ever had an idea for a story that sounded really cool, but considering the political strife, you backed down because you thought you smelled disaster if you tried?

    For example, I'm toying with an idea of an archeologist/adventurer who's a Muslim by the name of Omar Baitey who teaches in a university in Virginia. It sounds cool and I can already see him using his brains to get out of sticky situations. I feel thrilled when I see him exploring Russia in search of the missing Tsar's Amber, or creating make-shift tools out of everyday things. He's basically a cross of Indiana Jones and McGyver.

    I don't think I need to explain the rest.

    But basically, have you ever stepped away from a plot because you thought it was too controversial to touch it?
     
  2. PurpleCandle
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    PurpleCandle Senior Member

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    I think that sounds like a great story idea.

    Not all Muslims are terrorists. Just because some of our population believes so, does not mean that they are.

    Every group/religion/culture has its stereotypes. You can't let stereotypes control what you write. Think..the Asian is always good at math, African Americans have bad credit..and so on. If you had to write to appease stereotypes... how boring, unoriginal and wrong would it be?

    I like your idea because it contradicts stereotypes, which are themselves inherently usually erroneous and xenophobic.
     
  3. laciemn
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    laciemn Senior Member

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    Definitely - most of the ideas I really like are controversial in some way. I also let thoughts of my family - or author genre authors - the ideas of future judgments. People say write what you want - but I always have a reader in mind. One thing that comes to mind is the male perspective.Much of the stuff I write will be aimed at the younger males(Y/A). I think "what if they think he's too weak" or "what if he seems too depressed" and on and on. I like to mess with gender stereotypes. Not just like social status and physical strength, but personalities, so most of my character are rather neutral in gender, of course they have a physical gender but you get the drift.
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    No - I have wanted to at times. There is a scene in my book that I am working on that sickens me.
     
  5. Fiona
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    Fiona Member

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    I so agree with the above. Elgaisma, what's your scene involving, if I may ask? I have a couple of scenes in The Banishing that I had trouble with but I left it there. My book is dark - I will admit that one agent rejected me on the basis that the book was "too dark and disturbing for us to take on." THAT made me feel bad, but I kept the book the way it was. I had to tackle issues of domestic abuse in my book and I HATED putting my character through that. But it was an important part of the story and it had its place there.

    Link The Writer - I think you should go ahead :) Your idea does sound really good and I know I'd like to read a book along those lines! You should feel encouraged.
     
  6. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    You're right.

    I would love to have Omar Baitey explore the world. Maybe in every book, he's in another country adventuring with a different companion. Like one book, he's exploring something in Dakota with an American companion, and in the next book he's running around Egypt with an Eyptian companion and so on in France, Britain, Russia, Japan, etc. The ideas are unlimited I tell you! :D I adore world culture and believe I can show it through Omar Baitey. (I even have him riding Asian elephants through India, fighting rapids in the jungles of Vietnam or attending a celebratory dance in Saudi Arabia)

    But still, I have that voice in the back of my mind that goes: "OMGWTFBBQ!? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS!? ARE YOU STARK RAVING MAD!?" I have images of my book being plastered on the screen with folks on Fox News asking "Is this promoting terrorisim?" (with your host Glenn Beck!)

    At the same time, I know Mr. Baitey will have to fight. He may have to pick up a gun and defend his friends. Maybe he's captured and tortured by the villains? What will the world think then? "OMG that yank is anti-muslim!!"??

    It's stupid, I know, but that's still a very real thing in the back of my mind. It's almost crippling and I just don't know how to
    stop it. I really want to introduce the world to Omar Baitey.
     
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think you have to worry about anyone saying you are promoting terrorism, based on what you've said above. There's nothing you've said that would make me even remotely think along those lines. Of course, if you have a Muslim character running around the world doing these things and not being a faithful Muslim in the process (or doing things that extremely fundamental Muslims consider non-Muslim) you may get criticism from that angle. But I don't see anything here that even relates to the issue of terrorism.

    There are a number of books out there with Muslim protagonists, and I haven't seen people labeling them as promoting terrorism.
     
  8. J_Jammer
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    J_Jammer Banned

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    Ever seen My Name is Khan? Such a good movie...it's long and I think the end is bit over the top in that it seemed slightly propangadaish....but the point is the entire movie deals with all kinds of themes because the characters involved are Muslim.

    I don't want to give anything away, but they deal with all kinds of issues and you'd like it...I think based on what you said here.

    The MC has Asperger's syndrome.

    It's good stuff.


    As for what you asked...I don't shy away from anything controversial. I have two secondary characters that are gay and are on the football team. They are used for many reasons in the story. I don't think someone can figure out why I decided to pick them to put in the story. I wanted them to be in the story because that's different, one, and two....it's a subtle reason.

    I think your idea will work out just fine as long as you're not trying to preach to people that this group is the same as everyone else. I know they are. I don't need a book to tell me that.

    If you decide to tell the story, do so without doublespeaking without going back over and painstakingly make sure you are not offensive. You're going to offend someone, but if your intent is to tell a story about a man who has a different background than others that might pick up the book, then use it as an opportunity to not over explain to much but at the same time show how he's no different.

    That's why My Name is Khan is so good. I didn't feel like someone was TELLING ME how to feel. Just because the Main Characters it eh Main Character doesn't mean I have to like him or her. They have to give me a reason to like them. Their mere existence isn't good enough.
     
  9. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    It would only get sticky if he as a muslim thought about or acted on ideas the west would find highly objectionable. Imagine if you wrote a James Bond novel in Saudi Arabia and he was lusting after every girl he met. You might be in more trouble that you could imagine.

    I mentioned this is some other threads, but I really hate token characters for PC purposes. A person who is a devote muslim is going to have a much different mindset than the average westerner who isn't very serious about religion.

    If he's the kind of muslim who has been living in the US for a couple generations, has never read the material, and it's just like a vague ethnicity, then I'm fine with that. But, if he's supposed to be devote, yet a great guy, you have to research Islam and figure out how such a person would think and act to make it in the west, and still be liked.
     
  10. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well there was one idea that I have so far hesitated on writing. The book starts off in the present as a man turned immortal by God is at a Church. He is sitting and silently cursing God when a priest comes up and strikes up a conversation. It eventually turns into a discussion of God. The Immortal goes on about how cruel and horrible God truly is. Which launches into him recounting his life and how he became Immortal and why has grown to hate God through the centuries.

    So alot of the book would end up looking like a very anti-Christian novel. Of course at the end of the book its supposed to be revealed why he was turned Immortal. Something about him not doing something in the past that would have changed the outcome of so many lives both directly and indirectly related to that one event throughout time. His job was to ensure these events occured to better humanity. Whether he realized it or not. Also exploring the idea that God has given us what we need to better the world ourselves, its just we more often then not choose to ignore this because of greed and all that fun stuff.

    But yeah it would be heavily contraversial just because most who find it objectionable would only read a part of the book and never finish it. It would easily spawn several hate groups towards it, whether or not the people read it or understood the message. It would be similar to how Harry Potter was contraversial amongst some people who haven't read it. They just heard what someone else has to say about it.

    Then again maybe I am giving to much credit to my writing ability?
     
  11. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you're worrying too much about controversy. Pretty much anything can be found controversial by somebody who wants to. After all, Rowling doesn't seem to have suffered too much by the backlash against HP, does she?
     
  12. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah well her book wouldn't have a rant about how evil God is and how horrible the MC thinks He is.

    That and I think you are right. I tend to be more pessimistic then I like. Always thinking of the bad with little room for the good. That and maybe I don't give people enough credit.

    Oh well.
     
  13. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    In short, no.

    If you want to win someone's favor, you have to appease them. That is when you should worry about the content. Otherwise, worrying about things like controversy will only hinder your writing. I write for myself and to express myself, so I could care less about how people would receive it. If I felt like it, I would not mind writing a novel about how Jesus Christ was just a normal man that Christians came to mistakenly worship as a messiah of god. Say wait, did not Dan Brown already did that with The Da Vinci Code? Let us not deny it, controversial topics tend to sell very well.
     
  14. PurpleCandle
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    PurpleCandle Senior Member

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    I have actually studied Islam quite a bit and it is a beautiful religion once interpreted properly. PM me if you have any questions.
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    IIRC, Philip Pullman got away with it. Well, he upset some people, but came out of it ok. And Mike Riddell -- well, he got fired from his job in a Baptist seminary for writing The Insatiable Moon, but he's gone on to other things and a great film has been made of the book.
     
  16. penpaws
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    penpaws New Member

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    Ironically I tend to get riled up by people using controversial subject matter to make a personal point, yet I've noticed how I seem to enjoy doing it myself! hehe

    Currently reading Phillip Pullman's 'The Good Man Jesus...' and so far I have no opinion on it. I simply have no reaction to it, adverse or otherwise, and I feel it isn't at all blasphemous unless someone chooses to see it that way. It's just a fictional story... but then again so was the bible's?
     
  17. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    I'd read it.

    Such a book could be defended based on rational complaints about life. Many people have trouble with "The Problem of Suffering" and a benevolent god, and an immortal would have seen plenty of that. He'd have a scope that none of us have and it would make sense that such a guy would be heavily traumatized. So, it would be tough to complain about the work or his feeling because they would mirror the experience of real people.

    Meanwhile, it would be shocking to read a character who didn't believe that women should be in the work place, that democracy, freedom of speech, artistic expression, and so forth are wrong. I believe critics would wonder at your motive for making that people the hero.
     
  18. PurpleCandle
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    PurpleCandle Senior Member

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    Muslims don't believe that. Muslim woman can work. Freedom of speech issues are more often cultural, Islamic Art is world renowned and so on. The things you mention are what people think Muslims think..
     
  19. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    Complaining about Jesus is so common it's trite. I've heard it all my life and the deal is that's it's cool because it's the most common religion in the west. It's not considered fair to write a book designed to debunk minority religions in the west.

    I recently read the awesome:

    Voltaire's, God and Human Beings.

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/1616141786/?tag=postedlinks04-20

    Which is much like:

    Spinosa's, Treatise on Religion.

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/0872206076/?tag=postedlinks04-20

    And guess what, I will not even describe what they're about because I'm sure many of you will hate ME for doing so. I recommend you check them out though.

    Tough:

    What would be tough for a reader would be this:

    Years ago I was in a food store, which I loved, and my family loved. The owner was of a certain religion and that mattered to no one, because the place was awesome. I was standing at the counter waiting for an order and overheard a conversation, which was loud and plain as day.

    Female worker to owner: "Did you hear that Joe Blow's house burned down?

    Owner: Yeah!

    Female worker: Well that's terrible isn't it?

    Owner: No, that's what he gets for marrying an infidel!

    Me: Holy sh!t, what...no...that's not what you're supposed to...hey wait----I;m an infidel too! I'm never coming here again!!!

    That's a true story and what shocked me is that I was raised to believe that everyone is equal and you're only to be judged on behavior. It was out of my realm of experience to think or hear the way the owner bitterly spoke.

    So, imagine writing a character who belonged to a religion/culture that had very different beliefs than the standard western criticisms of others.

    MC: "Man, there's all this divorce in this country because you guys don't sew women's vaginas closed. I know that sounds crazy dude, but think about it."

    That's an actual practice by the way.
     
  20. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I think it sounds like a very interesting idea. I'm assuming you are familiar enough with the tenets of Islam to be able to create your character in a credible way.

    I think the worst thing a writer can do is self-censor because of fear of being too controversial.
     
  21. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    I wasn't talking about Muslims specifically, but any religion or culture who might think those things wrong.

    Meanwhile, I'm not sure you know what you're talking about. Muslims aren't allowed to draw images of people, animals, or anything because it could turn into idol worship. All of their art is based on geometric design and avoids forms.

    Also, I;ve read the Koran and Hadiths due to working with Muslim people and know what's what on a working level. Also, if you read Bertrand Russell, he traces the belief system back to Plato's Republic which is yet another interesting read.
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    no... nor would i ever, if i had a good reason for writing it... fear of controversy wouldn't stop me from writing or saying anything, because i don't fear it... in fact i welcome it, since my writing is philosophical in nature and meant to enlighten, which does often involve debate and engender controversy...
     
  23. PurpleCandle
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    PurpleCandle Senior Member

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    I am not trying or going to debate you on this. But, reading and having the correct interpretation are different things. The Quran and Haddiths cannot be easily understood and interpreted without understanding the cultures they come from. If you had the correct interpretation you would know that Muslim women can work. It takes years of study to know what's what. Took me 3 years and countless conversations with people around the world to know what's what in Islam and I was only studying it for recreational purposes.

    Again, I am not debating. I will respectfully step away as I see we are not going to agree, which is ok and you are entitled to your opinions.
     
  24. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    Since you don't know me you cannot know what's easy and not easy for me to understand. So, you will have to take my word for it that I have excellent reading comprehension.

    And again, I didn't say that muslim women can't work, and I in fact use work with many of them in a psych counseling center. We got along excellently, by the way.

    NonMuslim Example of My Comments:

    Many people love Sean Connery, myself included.

    A few years ago, Sean was doing an interview and stated he thought that at the correct time a woman needs a good slap in the face.

    Many links here:

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&source=hp&biw=1362&bih=573&q=sean+connery+slapping+women+quote&rlz=1R2ACAW_en&aq=0&aqi=g2g-v7&aql=&oq=sean+connery+slapp&gs_rfai=

    In the US, there's a strong belief that you should not hit women under any circumstance. You may be arrested, punched in the face by another male(s), and thought a coward by both men and women. Sean's admission was met with shock by fans and many can't let the comment go. Sean never said he did it, just that he thought it ok.

    So, I use that to illustrate my point.
     
  25. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd have taken that as a compliment. It takes artistic talent to write something really disturbing.

    You're talking about historical Islam, or the most extreme of today's Muslims. To say it's true of "Muslims", is like saying that Christian women are not allowed to have short hair, or to speak in church.

    Of course there are situations where you should hit a woman - in self defense. Many men are abused by their female partner, but are too ashamed to do anything about it, or are not believed. (1)

    I have a feeling it wasn't those situations Connery was talking about, though.

    So far, I haven't written about anything so controversial I've felt compelled to drop the subject, but I'm always aware, at the back of my head, of how people may react, and I'm sure it's affecting me in some way.
     

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