1. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Making the Disgusting or Weird Normal?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Killer300, Jun 9, 2013.

    Specifically, is there a way to get the reader used to a world where say, cannibalism is a lot more common? Or are there certain behaviors where it's just not possible for the reader to accept them?

    I bring this up because worlds with radically different morality in regards to certain behaviors, with cannibalism being an example I'm thinking of trying. In that case, it'd be part of war, with soldiers taking bites out of opponents and eating them after battle, and the dead, with those who die in peace time being eaten by their family. Now, I think the last may actually already be a current real world practice, and I know the first occurred some in the past.
    However, it's rather out of the mainstream, and cannibalism is one of the highest cultural taboos imaginable, hence, I wonder if there are any tips to getting a reader to accept something like that in a setting?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Read Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. The Martians performed cannibalism reverently.
     
  3. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Silence Of The Lambs broke all box office records of its day!
     
  4. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I was just going to say that. There have been a few films about Hannibal, and there's even a current TV series which has already been green-lighted for a second season. I think the majority of people don't actually like cannibalism, or whatever is taboo in a film or book, but rather are fascinated by it. You know when you watch a horror movie and want to look away, but can't? I'm presuming it's something like that - the Saw and Hostel franchises also sicken a good few people, yet the horror genre continues to boom and flourish.

    This could be the same for your book. People may not accept it as such, as people do not accept the things murderers do in horror books and movies, but I think there would definitely be a fascination there which you could play around with. Maybe readers wouldn't understand why the society in your book accepts cannibalism and is a common occurrence, but nevertheless they will enjoy being "grossed out" by it and would want to know more, if that makes any sense.

    As a side note, the TV series and books, Dexter, are about a serial killer who is basically a bit mad. Yet as each episode goes by, we feel for him and understand him more and more, as we see things through his eyes and perspective. Just a heads-up that readers or viewers relating to or understanding a taboo subject a little more can be done.

    Hope this was of some use to you. :)
     
  5. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Oh... thanks for that! People weren't kidding with how odd that book got.
     
  6. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Interesting point. Well, here, the cannibalism is a cultural tradition, in the style of say, how your average country buries their dead. Still, at least I have the reader's fascination.:p
     
  7. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    People can accept cannibalism even in real life. E.g. the well-known Uruguayan football team who crashed in the Andes. People can easily accept heroes killing other people. Spy plots, action plots, war plots. So why wouldn't people accept a fiction where heroes both kill people and eat them afterwards? Sounds an interesting challenge.
     
  8. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Morbid curiosity will most likely keep people reading even if it is taboo. Plenty of books, movies, tv shows dealing with taboo material still do very well.

    I would also suggest using the characters to frame the circumstances as normal. A character's behavior around any action, taboo or not, speaks volumes.
     
  9. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    How about the cannibalism being necessary for survival? Perhaps on a generation ship travelling between the stars, and cannibalism is the most efficient way of transferring required (and in short supply) nutrients from the older generation to the newer one?
     
  10. Motley
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    Motley Active Member

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    Some people will throw the book across the room the moment someone sinks their teeth into someone else.

    I think most mature readers would read on. It's all about how the character does the cannibalism, like you said in a reverent ceremony for the dead or some such.
     
  11. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    If the characters accept it as normal, the reader will accept it. Don't dwell on it. If you were to write about your day, would you spend a chapter writing about how you went into a McDonalds, ordered a hamburger and fries, waited a moment at the counter, paid your money, took your food to a booth, sat down, picked up the hamburger, took a bite, chewed it and swallowed it, then took the salt shaker, shook some salt on the fries, took three in your hand and brought it up to your mouth and ate them? No. You'd just say that you got a hamburger at McDonald's for lunch. If you met a friend at McDonald's, you'd focus on the conversation you were having, which also would not likely be about how you chose a hamburger while your friend got McNuggets.

    You wouldn't be focusing on the food experience unless there was something really unusual about it, like it was your first time ever at a McDonalds and your first hamburger. If your characters regularly eat people, they wouldn't be focusing on that, either.
     
  12. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Well, as I said, in this case, they eat enemies, so it isn't quite an ordinary experience, however, on the other hand, I see the point a bit here.

    As for its origin, it was indeed necessary for survival, not only by preventing starvation, but also... well, lets just say the cannibalism, in setting, gives them an important advantage in battle. Both ended up evolving into a culture that treats it like one would treat a religious ceremony. Not normal per say, but not unexpected either.
     
  13. nevari
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    A lot of writing, fantasy, horror etc.... is all about things that don't happen every day. It is an escape to the humdrum life. If you want people to be eaten.. by all means have them bbq'd up. as long as the story is entertaining and it fits. Don't put some random "And they ate the guy" and then nothing more about it.
    Taboo.. Read any V.C Andrews book.. that is the most ~tree don't fork~ series author out there.
     

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