1. Headintheclouds
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    Headintheclouds Member

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    Making Uncomfortable Issues Accessable

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Headintheclouds, Mar 11, 2011.

    So I was wondering recently, how would you personally go about writing about an uncomfortable issue to make it accessable to all? Often I see books covering those uncomfortable types of issues, and because of their content many people choose not to read them, or find them unaccessable.

    For instance, take the issue of homosexuality and lesbianism. If you were to a write a book about such issues, how would you work to create it as a book that everyone could enjoy, not simply people interested in those issues. How would you make it so that the book would not be uncomfortable for readers who are uncomfortable with such topics?

    And of course it's not just these issues. If you have any other ideas at all, feel free to share.
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    My main characters in my current work are gay - to me it's a non issue. They are characters in my story.

    In my previous book there are gay characters and again aside from one coming out scene I merely show it by they kiss, hold hands, call each other hon, love etc Same way I would treat a heterosexual couple.

    Socrates' Children - this is how I treat that particular non issue. It's amazing how many people see Soc as female :) I don't care to be honest if people are uncomfortable. My gay best friend has had to read about straight couples for years which he struggles with and finds unnatural.

    I also have newly wed and loved up pensioners in another work lol Again treat them as I would any other set of characters. I have them holding hands, cuddling, kissing etc Iris gets jealous when Gus flirts with another woman. Gus is desperate to get time alone to be with his wife.
    Gus and Iris



    Have yet to have a straight person object to my all male love quadrangle in my third book or my two men partners and spies in the second and so far people find my loved up pensioners 'cute' Several people have read my first book and don't even notice my older gay couple. My main couple in the first book aren't gay though - they deal with marrying at seventeen and being a teen pregnancy. I was determined when my character Socrates' was outed to me by his lover that it would be a book that was a fantasy with gay characters in it rather than a story about being gay or a romance/erotica tale. It's about the only plan I had for them. I was a little surprised when my older gay couple kissed but that is because I didn't know they were a couple until that point - they are the ultimate in odd pairing.
     
  3. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    The area that stays within everybody's comfort zone is a very small one indeed. Some people get offended by Spongebob Squarepants. Christian extremists burn Harry Potter.

    Write what you want to write. Let the prudes hide in their basements. Do you even want to have them as readers?
     
  4. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure it's possible to explore an uncomfortable issue without making people uncomfortable, because the uncomfortable parts are the ones people need to confront. But maybe you can lure them in with a good story and characters before making them uncomfortable.
     
  5. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you've already failed if you are treating "homosexuality and lesbianism" as "issues". The issues are to do with the interactions between people, especially when there is a conflict of attitudes to such sexuality (internal conflict is likely to be a result of earlier encounter to external attitudes).

    One way to make such a story accessible to "everyone" is to concentrate not on the character directly involved in what you perceive as an excluding issue but instead concentrate on the effect on an "everyman" character closely affected by what happens to that character. Maybe strongly heterosexual people would have trouble identifying with being beaten up as they come out of a gay bar, but almost any adult would be able to identify with the anxious parent waiting outside the emergency room in the hospital for news of their son who has been beaten up.
     
  6. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're never going to please everybody. And you'll never make homosexual relationships acceptable to everybody, ESPECIALLY if you're TRYING to do that. The best way I can say to make it the most acceptable to everybody is to not try to "educate" the audience but just tell a story.
     
  7. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    You start by not writing a book about issues. The book should be about people.
     
  8. Headintheclouds
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    Headintheclouds Member

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    Thank you for your answers. I can see what you mean. However, I would like to highlight that I wasn't just talking about homosexuality and such, simply topics that some people find uncomfortable in general. I don't actually have an idea for a story right now.

    However, thank you for your advice. I was simply curious how you could aim such a book towards a more mainstream audience. You are right - I should simply focus on telling the story. Thank you for your insight.
     
  9. Show
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    ^^^^^Well, just about every issue can be made difficult to some. Some people won't even read a story in which a child character dies, no matter how tenderly it's handled. Some topics may be poorly handled and thus come off as more offensive than is intended. So there's obviously better ways to handle something than others. But you should worry about story first, get some opinions, and then see if you need to reign in any of the overarching uncomfortable subject matter, or if it's good as is. You'll get there, but this would be something to worry about with revision, IMO.
     
  10. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Having controverse in a story helps make in interesting. The struggle your characters face against it are what draw the readers in and make them sympathize with your MCs. The readers don't have to share your MCs believes or feelings, but if they can sympathize, then you've done a good job of storytelling.

    You could provide concrete facts against every myth and stereotype of homosexuality, but it won't necessarily change people's view on it. That doesn't mean your story can't be engaging.

    Ever seen the Tom Hanks movie Philadelphia? It's a movie about a gay man who contracts AIDS and is wrongfully fired from his job. It's a good movie that helped educate people about homosexuality.
     
  11. PurpleCandle
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    PurpleCandle Senior Member

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    If you are writing a book that has controversial characters then I agree with what most people have just said.

    But if the book itself is solely about the controversial subject, such as homosexuality, I would say that you should write it and try to remove as much bias as you can or at least the most obvious bias. Don't write a book titled Gay People are Great, Straight People Suck and bash every objection people might have to gay people-then expect people to want to access your book.

    Present all aspects of the issue in an honest way. Think of the questions people might ask about those issues and try to find answers, even if you don't agree with those answers. For example (if you are pro-gay) and you a writing about Biblical objection to people being gay, Don't just say, "Well, the Bible say this, this and this. However, the Bible is an old book and doesn't make sense". If you are trying to make the book accessible to bible-believing people they'll just close your book and probably burn it.

    There are ways to convince people that your opinion is right without running other people's opinions into the ground.

    Just stay away from bias as much as possible (easier said than done) and avoid your own fallacies of logic when writing about the subject.

    If you can make your premise support your conclusion without tearing apart other people's preconceived conclusions you stand a better chance at getting your foot in the door and having your conclusion understood and respected.
     
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  12. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    @PurpleCandle: Brilliant post, care to give some examples of one and the other?
     
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    The God Box by Alex Sanchez comes to mind when i read PurpleCandle's post.
     
  14. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    As a good or bad example?
     
  15. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Definitely really good. It was quite cathartic for me in many ways as well. It is about a bible study group in a school, one closeted teen in the bible belt wondering what is wrong with him and a new boy who is open about being gay.
     
  16. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah, cool. I'll add it to my mile-long reading list.

    As a bad example I can think of His Dark Materials, book three. Don't get me wrong, I really loved the series and I've written recommendations for it here as well, but at one point in book three, the story actually stops in order for a character to roll out a chapter-long bashing of the Catholic church. Not that I'm siding with them the slightest, but it was just so misplaced, ineffective and it killed the tension.
     
  17. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I didn't get past the Subtle Knife. Dark Materials bored the backside off of me. My husband loved it though. I know he was the counterpart to Narnia or claimed to be but to be honest Lewis had story first and then agenda. Pullman's was the other way round.
     
  18. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Very true. But I'd say that Lewis' work flows naturally because he used all the tried and true conventions of fairy tales and never took many risks. Now that he and Tolkien and a great many others have been using that same cookie-cutter so many times, something new has to be tried and that's where it gets risky and hard. A great part of Pullman's agenda was to turn all the fairytale conventions on their head, not just bash Lewis and the CC (though, that obviously was a big part!) and for that I think he deserves some credit.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you can never please everyone in re everything... so just write whatever's fitting for your major target market [adult/YA/children's] and don't try to please them all... if some get what you want to put across, fine... if some don't, that's ok too...
     
  20. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    totally agree with Maia

    You can't please everyone.
     
  21. katica
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    katica Senior Member

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    It's actually a good thing if your novels make people think and offend some people. The most well-read novels are usually the most controversial as well. I probably would have never read or heard of Harry Potter if I hadn't been around Christians who complained of it all the time. It intrigued me enough for me to pick up the series and see if all the things they said were true.

    And if you don't involve the entirety of your novels on just that one controversial subject, then people probably won't care. I've read opinions of characters that I disagreed with a lot of times in novels and it doesn't usually bother me, unless I'm bashed over the head with that opinion and the book talks of little else.

    That's why I stopped reading the House of Night series because within the first 100 pages, the author made fun of every single group of people she could possibly thing of: goths, people who drink, preppy people, religious people (many, many times), people who swear, people who have sex before marriage, the list goes one and I got tired of the elitism. Not to mention that I disagreed with most of it. I've read novels that made fun of those things before, but the difference was, I could tolerate it because they weren't beating my head over with it. The author herself was literally ranting about all those things through her character every other page.
     

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