1. JasonR66
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    JasonR66 Member

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    What You Can and Can't Write About...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by JasonR66, Sep 24, 2008.

    Is there anything, any topic or idea, that is too taboo or controversial to write about? I would like to think there isn't but I have had moments where, through writing poetry, certain topics seem to really agitate people. Things like disorders, abuse, religion, and so on. So what's the consensus on this site? I personally think that every topic is fair game as long as the writing and the message isn't hateful. For example it's one thing to write about physical abuse (which to me is acceptable) but it's another to promote it (which isn't acceptable). What does everyone else think?
     
  2. soujiroseta
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    soujiroseta Senior Member Contributor

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    as a writer you can write anything under, over, inside and around the sun. i think the crucial bit is how you actually write it, how you portray whatever it is you're writing about. The message is the key bit here. I myself never limit myself by saying i cant write about this because its too controversial or taboo, it is by being that which makes me want to write even more.
     
  3. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    People should be governed by their own conscience, if you choose to ignore it or that aspect of your brain is inadequate, then you will most likely suffer the repercussions.
     
  4. Shadow Dragon
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    Shadow Dragon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think there is anything that should be off limits to write about. All that matters is how well you write about it.
     
  5. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, tact and prudence, the hallmarks of an incisive writer...
     
  6. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is an audience for everything. If people don't want to read it, that is their problem, not ours.
     
  7. Little Miss Edi
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    Little Miss Edi Contributing Member

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    I think you're free to write about whatever you want and every issue is available no matter how controvertial. However, I also think it's wise to put a little pre-warnnig out there, mostly as common courtesy and so as not to ruffle feathers. After all, even if you choose to write about it, not everyone wants to read it.

    I have to admit, there are some things I cannot bring myself to even consider writing about. But that's my choice. Plus, well written controversy sparks debate, and that's healthy.
     
  8. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    In the contest of this forum what you can and cannot write about it summarised in this link: http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?p=101625#post101625

    In a wider context I agree that nothing is out of bounds for a none-censured author. Of course, some countries have censure which would forbid for example certain religious, ethic and idealogical writing. For the less conservative, nothing seems to be off limits. Though it is worth remembering at all times, that all topics should be well researched and treated respectfully to avoid insult.

    It is also worth remembering that certain content will alienate certain readers which may hinder sales / appeal of certain material. I think it is wise to only include material in any piece that is essential. Material which is purely sensationalistic, designed to insult, or which seems only to satisfy the author's experimental perversions should perhaps be considered carefully before any submission to the public domain.
     
  9. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I can write about anything that interests me or pertains to the story, but of course, presenting it will be more difficult in some cases than in others. I have one story where rape, incest, graphic violence, child abuse (of all kinds), underage relations, etc. etc. etc. are common topics due to the time period and theme of the story and yes, some of these are difficult for me to write about, but I write them. I do worry what others might think of me when reading it (it's unfortunately true that the occasional reader is incapable of separating the writer from their work, and thinks that just because you write about something, you must be encouraging it), but it's not stuff I agree with. The truth is, the world is full of such things, so some fiction is, too. I use such topics to explore the characters' emotions.

    That being said, I do find such subjects even harder to write about as the rating of my work goes down. The above is much easier to write about in that story since it's basically rated NC-17/X. In my PG-13 writing, I can't even seem to mention the word "rape" without grimacing and squirming. There's a brief reference to it in one of my milder stories and I just could not bring myself to use the word itself. I had to be very vague and hope that the reader will understand the meaning when they get to that part of the story.

    Likewise, I once easily wrote an X-rated story describing the most horrific abuse in minute detail, but when I tried writing a PG-13 story where a character was remembering his own abuse, I struggled terribly throughout the entire thing. It's not a matter of how much description to use since I know that; it's a matter of how to make this topic presentable regarding the audience. I always worry that I'll overstep my bounds.

    It's like my brain separates in two regarding the audience I'm writing for. Typically taboo topics are par for the course in my adult writing. In my more YA writing, they make me very uncomfortable, even when presented in a very vague way. (Truthfully, when I read about what stuff is permissible in YA writing today, I was shocked! My stuff is tame compared to that. :redface: )

    But aside from that almost nothing is off limits to me. Just off limits in certain stories.
     
  10. TheAdlerian
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    TheAdlerian Senior Member

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    You can write about anything, but will it get published. That's the question.
     
  11. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    Well, in truth, that wasn't the question. :D But when in doubt there's always self-publishing.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You can write about anything you can express with words. Some concepts may not be epressable in words. You may create a word for an idea, but if only you have the experience for that idea, and it cannot be expressed in analogy with a shared experience, you won't be able to write about it.

    Consider teh verb to grok in Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. The entire book builds the definition, but even at the conclusion you are left with the feeling that you only graze the surface of understanding it.

    As has been mentioned in this thread, however, you may be limited as to where you can publish what you write. That includes web sites.

    Freedom of expression is an ideal. Even governments limit it in some circumstances (fomenting terrorism, distributing child pornography, etc.). Private web sites such as this one can and do impose their own restrictions.
     
  13. Leo
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    Leo Senior Member

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    Is Stranger is a Strange Land worth a read?

    A stranger in the book shop said he heard it was good, but I don't have the time or money to buy it or read it at the moment.

    I'm a big sci-fi fan though. Is it worth it for when I do?
     
  14. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    There are no limits for writing. Writers can write about anything any way. Now will you sell books writing about certain subjects? That's debatable, but writing is a very versatile art form. It has no limits in my opinion. Just about anything is writable.

    There's a reason i call it one of the greatest Science Fiction novels ever written (I rank it higher than Dune myself). Just be ready for a long read.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's the answer, in a nutshell!

    of course one can write anything one wants, but not everything will be publishable or marketable... and even if it does get into print, one can be sued for writing certain stuff and in some countries, even executed!... just ask salman rushdie...
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as do i!

    you find a pb of only 528 pages a 'long' read?!?
     
  17. mistressoftheflies
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    mistressoftheflies Member

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    I think we should be able to write about anything we choose. My current story has abuse, religion, murder, and suicide in it; that's pretty controversial I suppose. ;]
     
  18. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    A writer I knew that recently died, had his last publisher at the last second pull his book. They had published other books of his before, but this one they said needed to be toned down.

    Naturally there will be publishers that will not publish a novel that deals with some topics, such as rape.
     
  19. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Such topics however do not automatically constrain an author and sales. It depends on how the scene is treated by the author, how it fits in the piece as a whole and whether it is necessary. Rape, for example, did not stop Khaled Hosseini's Kite Runner from being a global success, both in print and on film.
     

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