1. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    Political Correctness in Writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Cacian, Dec 23, 2011.

    1) what do you call politically correctness?
    examples would be good.

    2)are you aware of it as you are writing?

    I was thinking of a character's descriptions.
    Is it better to skip skin colour/race/religion/age as to no offend anyone and concentrate on personalities.
     
  2. Felipe
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    Felipe Active Member

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    I use a lot of black characters and don't hesitate to describe them. But in my novels, slavery still exists and the main characters are hell bent on stopping it.
     
  3. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Politically correctness, at least the way I define it is like...

    "Egads! All my characters are white and have no disabilities! Okay, Bob? You're black. Sue? You're Asian. Joseph? You're in a wheelchair and have severe hearing loss. Why? Am I doing it to creat diversity and to add personality? No, it's to make sure I don't offend anyone. You are all just blank slates of minority groups."

    Yes, in one of my story ideas, my gang of protagonists are something like that (as in one's Japanese, one's Canadian, my protag's a homosexual, etc.) and in my sci-fi, my protagonist is a black woman. However, I didn't do it because I feared upsetting someone; I did it because that's how they appeared in my head. I only care about their personality and how they fit into the story. The other stuff is just extra. Now, I might be able to draw up sub-plots from those extras, but that's not who they are.

    TL;DR (or 'WTF is that guy trying to say?!'): Diversity in a group of protagonists is okay; as long as you don't make that the only reason they exist.

    EDIT: If you're going to describe your character, better go on ahead and just do it. For example, this is how I'd describe my sci-fi protagonist. (NOTE: Yes, I'm going to do the whole 'looking into a mirror' cliche. Bear with me...)

    Helen stared into the mirror, a brown-skinned woman stared back.

    However, from what I hear, just make things equal. If you're going to describe a black person, describe a white person. For example:

    Helen looked at Joseph. All the color has drained from his usually rosy-pink face. Clearly something had terrified him.
     
  4. Justin7
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    Justin7 Member

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    My motto is that political correctness is for cowards and fascists.
     
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  5. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't give it a second thought, frankly.

    I just write.
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I rarely describe my characters' physical appearance. If one of them needs to be a member of some specific 'group', it's because the story requires it, nothing more. Otherwise, let the reader see them as they wish.
     
  7. ShadowScribbler
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    ShadowScribbler Member

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    Alas, I'm a big fan of descriptions. I try to make sure the character's physical appearance will be as close as possible as it is in my head, using detailed description in several spaced instances.

    I've never worried about political correctness. If a character must belong to a minority, let them belong to that minority. I don't feel the need to create diversity just so I can spare someone's feelings -- I don't aim to offend anyone, after all.
     
  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    This is how I write as well. I only describe things/characters if it helps me advance the story in some way. I don't strive to be politically correct because no matter how hard a person tries, someone somewhere is going to get offended.
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't worry about political correctness in the least. I think it is a mistake to do so.

    As for descriptions, I tend to use very little. The reader is going to develop her own image of my characters in her mind early on, and it probably won't incorporate more than a few major characteristics that I've described. So going into exhaustive detail about character appearance not only has little impact on the reader's mental perception of the character, it can hinder the reader's immersion in the story because the author is constantly employing character description that conflicts with what the reader has already established in her mind. No amount of detailed description is going to get the reader to abandon her own mental image in favor of the author's.
     
  10. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm writing a story set in the 1940s right now, and I'm loving being as unpolitically correct as possibly. Lots of racial slurs and swearing, but it's to be realistic to the environment my characters lives in. I'm probably enjoying it so much because I'm always so pc in real life... I always try to avoid offending anyone, and it's honestly very tiring.
     
  11. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I use very little character description. I usually give hair and eye color and skin color (if it is different than white). But even then some can be left alone; like If I have an Asian character with an Asian name--I don't need to tell people what color an Asian's skin is.

    Also, if I have a "beautiful" character, I describe the character as such. I don't go into detail because my ideal of beauty could be different than someone else. I personally think readers need some creative control on what characters and some of the environment looks like on their own. That is why my descriptions for characters are minimal.

    But to answer the question directly:

    No it is not politically incorrect to describe your characters. Nobody is going to be mad if someone is black or Jewish etc.
     
  12. Metus
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    Metus Senior Member

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    Political correctness neuters the story.

    However, if you want a foolproof way to not be unintentionally racist, write all of yuor characters, and include their race. . .
    And then flip-flop the races of the characters when you're done designing them.
     
  13. Justin7
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    Justin7 Member

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    As I said, for cowards and fascists. Don't waste your energy. A well timed Jews and money joke is hilarious.
     
  14. Justin7
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    Justin7 Member

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    So I'm writing about a white, gangster rapper that speaks in heavy Ebonics, I should make him black?
     
  15. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    Political correctness is the biggest load of BS ever. By all means try not to deliberately offend people, but sometimes trying NOT to offend them goes too far - and can even land you in trouble. For instance, a British football commentator got in trouble the other day, while discussing a player who has been arrested for 'racially aggravated abuse', by referring to black players as 'coloured'. This word was itself coined in order to avoid offending black people by calling them black, and although now universally disowned as an unacceptable racial descriptor, it highlights the fact that you cannot avoid offending people who want to be offended.

    And sometimes your characters WILL want to offend people - their views might not be politically correct, in fact they might be downright racist, biggoted or and discriminatory. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't write about such characters. You cannot, for instance, write about an Egyptian general whose lifetime pursuit is to exterminate the Hebrews without throwing in some racist bile. The story wouldn't ring true without it.
     
  16. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    One of the novels I'm working on is set in an alternate-history version of North America, with far fewer people than the real place and a low level of technology - the oxcart is about as advanced as it gets. My MC in this world is a guy who was seriously wounded in a war many years before the story takes place, and he walks with a crutch. I refer to him as a cripple in the narration, and some of the other characters also refer to him as a cripple.

    I mentioned that to a friend once and she said that "cripple" is an offensive word, and that I should use the term "differently abled". My jaw dropped. "Differently abled" does not exist in my world. "Cripple" is not seen as a derogatory term in my world. So I insist on referring to him as a cripple, as my characters do, and political correctness be damned.
     
  17. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    ^ To carry that thought:

    My mystery series is set in Colonial America, and my protagonist hangs out with slaves. While he himself isn't racist and sympathizes with the slaves, he will meet many, many people who think differently. Hell, the guy he lives with is a slave owner! While he's nowhere near Simon LeGree level of evilness, he justifies his owning slaves as thus, "These slaves have been here since my father was alive. This is the only home they have ever known, and without me and my son, where will they be? Where will they go? They're safer here than anywhere else."

    Of course, to counter the nice slaveowners, there are a few in the stories that are just downright cruel.

    Offensive? Maybe, but that's how life was back in Colonial America. Sorry, I can't rewrite history.
     
  18. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    How on Earth could physically describing a character be considered racist? Should we pretend differences don't exist, instead of celebrating diversity? I don't see how that can be considered a good thing.
     
  19. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    I just write, im not too fond of it. Sometimes is needed, but mostly not.
     
  20. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    You've clearly never read Lovecraft.
     
  21. iabanon
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    iabanon Member

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    seriously? :confused: you think describing someone's physicality isn't important to a story? that writing about someone being black or indian or arab, muslim or catholic ( I doubt you mean white christian ) is offensive? i'm stumped at this. i cant understand how describing people is a bad thing. how is anyone to imagine what a character looks like?
    this is why i loath political correctness with a burning passion. not only because of the extreme tip toeing on eggshells some ppl feel they need to do, but that i couldn't possibly write realistic people. actually, now i'm thinking about it, i might have to add a racist into my current novel. just to stir things up.
     
  22. Lightman
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    Lightman Active Member

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    "The Jew's piglike snout"...

    Also Cacian is an unsubtle troll and his post shouldn't be treated as anything more than the product of trolling.
     
  23. Brandon P.
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    Brandon P. Senior Member

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    This is only tangentially related to the OP topic, but does anyone else think that the traditional color terms we use to describe different ethnic groups are really stupid? No one in Europe is really white, nor are any Africans really black; they are varying shades of pink and brown respectively. Furthermore, even if we were to translate "white" and "black" to the lightest and darkest shades of the human skin color spectrum, then we have to account for a lot of people who are ethnically related to "whites" and "blacks" without actually having those extreme skin tones. For example, Greeks are Europeans who are statistically darker than Swedes, yet calling only the Swedes "white" obscures the common European heritage that Greeks and Swedes share. Likewise, there are plenty of African people who are milk chocolate-brown, yet they are still ethnically related to very dark brown Africans; are the former any less "black"?

    In my ideal world, we would use geographic labels like "European" or "African" to address different ethnicities rather than the old inaccurate and misleading color terms. While we're at it, we would also do away with the nebulous Eurocentric concept of the "Middle East" and replace it with "Southwest Asian".
     
  24. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Every human being is a different shade of brown. At least, that is how I look at it, haha.
     
  25. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    I am trying to figure out how to avoid falling into this PC thing.
    For example you cannot use Slang to refer to a black or Asian person without sounding politically incorrect.
     

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