1. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    I'm worried this might be offensive to disabled people

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by CMastah, Mar 21, 2016.

    There's a hateful character in my story who I want to describe as being 'as ugly on the inside as he was on the outside'. He's crippled, half blind, partially burned and walks with a hunch. Would it be offensive to say such a thing? This wouldn't be a character saying it, it would be written as info in 3rd PPOV.
     
  2. Samuel Lighton
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    Samuel Lighton Contributing Member

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    I've just come from another thread about offensiveness. If your character is as ugly on the outside as the inside, then I would not have any problem with it - but I would have a problem with it as third person observation. To me, third person means 'observer' so personal opinion never falls into that form of writing unless it is by a character narrator. A character can feel that way any time they (or more aptly, you) want to. But the narrator always remains impartial to everything except the facts unless they themselves are capable of holding an opinion.

    In essence, what you write should be what you want to write. If that includes something that may or may not be offensive, then so be it. I don't think you should pander that kind of content unless it's a reflection of yourself or in line with the rest of your content. Don't pull the punches unless you want to.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2016
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  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    That's your character - if that's how he is, that's how he is. You can't write your story in a way that attempts to make sure no one has a problem with any of it. Just write what you want to write and see how it turns out.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I don't agree with @Samuel Lighton that your narrator need be purely neutral. I don't see how one can describe things if one's narrator is limited. But I think what he might be getting at is don't tell us he was ugly inside, tell us in a more descriptive way. And if you describe his damaged body you need not tell us you conclude that is ugly.

    You can use that advice to write what you intend to in a more sensitive way. Use his appearance as a metaphor for his being. You can write things like:

    A crippled and scarred mind, blind to other's pain, ...
    Tie the mind and body together, no need to tell us it's ugly, let the reader make that connection on their own.
     
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  5. BruceA
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    BruceA Senior Member Supporter

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    Having worked with people with disabilities i can tell you that some people will find that very offensive and others won't (just like any other part of the population people will have different reactions to the same thing). There are many people who are (rightly) offended that their differences are described as ugly, and therefore will be offended by a description of it being so. There are also people who will be offended on other peoples behalf.

    However, if you censor what you write with the fear of offending people in the back of your mind your writing will probably be boring! Writing (like all art) should provoke a reaction, but I agree with @GingerCoffee that you should let others make the connection. Good writing sometimes involves finding a different (less obvious) way to say the same thing.
     
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  6. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I agree with the neutral narrator argument. If I want to make a subjective opinion based statement I let a character express it. The narrator I limit to objective views of the situation.
     
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You can use a neutral narrator in 3d person POV, but that's a stylistic decision for the author to make. There are 3d person narrators that are not neutral. Given the OP, it seems like CMastah has chosen not to go with a detached, neutral narrator. I wouldn't change that simply based on this issue, or on forum feedback, because it's a fundamental change to the character of the work. On the other hand, if this aspect of the work hasn't been considered and the non-neutral narrator was fallen into as a sort of default, then it is worth recognizing it and deciding whether it is something that is really wanted. Both approaches can be made to work.
     
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  8. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    I agree with what @Samuel Lighton said, but not because the narrator should be impartial, but because you should show the ugliness rather than tell. If the reader can't figure it out for themselves from the text then telling them that the character is ugly on the inside will make the readers doubt your narrator's credibility, and if they can tell, then it makes the statement redundant, in my opinion. Maybe you could describe his outer appearance and then an evil glint in his eye, or what he says or does to another person, or something. Also then you don't have to worry about offending anyone, either!
     
  9. Samuel Lighton
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    Samuel Lighton Contributing Member

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    What I meant about the narrator being impartial is just that they're not a person unless they are a character (like if your Mc was the narrator) thus not entitled to an opinion. Otherwise it's just a factual and descriptive machine.
     
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  10. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Exactly .. If I see a line that says something like...
    Mike walked outside and lit a cigarette even though he shouldn't be smoking.

    I wonder who is it that's thinking he shouldn't be smoking. Is another character observing this? Is it Mike himself? Is it the author's opinion? Who?
     
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  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't know. I've read books where the narrator is exhibits some degree of intrusion or seems to make opinionated statements, but where the narrator is never really identified as a character. It's just a stylistic approach to an omniscient narrator. I don't think it makes sense to assume these are suddenly the author's opinions.
     
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  12. Samuel Lighton
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    Samuel Lighton Contributing Member

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    To be honest, even just saying he must be ugly inside because he's ugly outside isn't innately offensive. It's a story. Take Beauty and the Beast for example. That was the assumption to start with until the gradual reveal inside the castle. Were you offended at that film? I can see no difference if it were true except that I would dislike the beast instead of like them.
     
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  13. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    Thanks guys, I do actually agree that perhaps even if I'm going to try to suggest such a thing I could be more poetic about it and try and let readers reach that understanding themselves.
     
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  14. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    As a half-blind, hearing impaired man, I can honestly say that I'm not offended at this at all. Sometimes people just gotta grow a backbone and realize that not everything is a personal attack on them as a human being.

    I'm thinking you can weave it in a way so we can see just how nasty he is, something like: His skin was as charred as his heart. There was a sinister gleam in his one eye as he lumbered, cantering forward due to his hump.
     
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  15. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    If I complained every time a gay character was a villain or a gay stereotype I would be complaining all day. Just because someone is represented in a way, does not mean you are claiming all people of that group are like that. It doesn't even necessarily imply that it's common, sometimes there are atypical traits. And I apply the same logic to disabilities. As long as somewhere there is positive representation, then it's okay to do an incidentally bad representation. Some disabled people I'm sure are arseholes. You can write one of those no problem I think.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2016
  16. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    I am a disabled person and I don't find that offensive at all your just describing the characters looks and various disabilities theirs nothing offensive about that.
     
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  17. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Trust me, I met a disabled person once that was a complete asshole. Back in college, there was a student who relied on a walker to get around and man, did she have a nasty chip on her shoulder. Whenever we met, she always saw fit to glare at me as if I were causing her a problem. We never talked, I don't think I ever did anything to her, but she felt slighted by my presence. Once, when waiting for my class, I had my back up against the wall when she went out of the elevator, rolled across the hallway to my face, said, “Move!” before clearly turning around and walking off. Her helper just looked bemused at her.

    In fact, @CMastah , I commend your character. He defies the stereotype that disabled people are automatically nice people. Not all of them are. Some can be just as shitty as non-disabled people. Some even use their own disability as an excuse for why they act shitty. So don't worry about it.
     
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  18. Jeni
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    Jeni Member

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    You can't write while being constantly concerned about how PC your book is. If we all refrained from writing anything that offended anyone else then I believe there would be no books. Even the bible is offensive to some people. Write to the best of your ability and don't forget to ask yourself if it is even necessary to make those observations about that character. If it isn't necessary, and obviously you have concerns, just leave it out for yourself not for others.
     
  19. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I don't entirely agree with this. There are styles of close third person where the narrative deliberately starts to become coloured by the perceptions and opinions of the POV character.
    If skilfully done it can be fairly clear to the reader that the expressed opinion is that of the character rather than a narrator.
     
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  20. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    To be entirely honest, the view that the character is 'ugly' is not the character's per se but more intended in a fable-ish stance (I don't see disability as ugly, it's just a disability and that's it). You ever see those characters who seem to reflect on the outside who they are on the inside? This character dresses in a cloak with a hood, walks with a REALLY pronounced hunch, his face is partially burned and he goes around with a cane. He's not even pretending to be a nice person, if you saw him in an alleyway at night you'd probably think he eats children.....actually if you saw him in daylight you'd probably still think he eats children.
     
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  21. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    Oh, and I'm going with 3rd person personal, it'll be following the MC (this guy isn't the MC).
     
  22. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    LOL,
     
  23. Nicoel
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    Nicoel Contributing Member

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    Well, I'm in a wheelchair and I'm not offended? <G>

    There is such a thing as what society calls standard beauty. We can't change it, it's just a fact of life. :p Your character sounds very ugly by societies standards. That doesn't mean the character is ugly to 100% everyone, but the majority.

    I think people get upset by being reminded that their problems aren't socially accepted/held up on the "beautiful" pedestal. Which I can understand, but I still say "go for it!"
     
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  24. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    The fun fact is that standard can change.

    Hundreds of years ago, pale skin was considered beautiful or a sign of wealth as poor had to work in the sun getting a tan. Tan was considered ugly because it was a sign of poverty. Now the reverse is true. For nearly the same reason. Tan is often (from what I gather) considered a luxury only the better off can afford. As poor people have two office jobs today and don't have time to sit at the beach getting a tan.
     
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  25. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Some people still like pale skin. Tastes are never universal. And frankly, every skin colour has it's own beauty. Screw tanning, I prefer people who don't have skin cancer, you know.
     

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