Oversensitivity vs. Creative Freedom - A Brief Reminder for 2016
(Partially inspired by Wrey's blog about clichés, tropes, and how everything's been done before.)
Hello, hello! I hope the first month of the new year had been kind to you writers, new and veterans alike. Though I'm a month late, I felt I wanted to remind the new writers this year of something in case they get a niggling little feeling in their guts about whether or not a character, setting, or a concept in their story would offend someone.
A brief reminder:
You are going to offend someone. That's life.
You cannot please everyone.
No matter what you write, you're gonna piss someone off. Here are some of the classic examples and the broad reactions to that.
Write a white, heterosexual male protagonist
"OMGWTFBBQ!!? So bland! So dull! So unoriginal! Where's my representation!"
Write a non-white, homo/hetero female protagonist?
"OMGWTFBBQ, PC LIBERAL SJW SCUM!!!"
Write a strong, badass female protagonist?
"ERMIGERD, A MAN WITH BOOBS!"/"MARY-SUE!"
Write a female who would rather stay home and knit?
"OMGOMGOMGWTFBBQ, YOU SEXIST PIG!!"
Write a disabled character?
"OMG! YOU JUST PUT HIM/HER THERE TO CHECK A BOX IN YOUR PC-LIST!"
Write a non-disabled character?
"WHERE'S OUR REPRESENTATION!? THANK YOU FOR SAYING WE DON'T EXIST!!!!"
Just write what you want to write. Make the characters you want to create. I don't care who are what they are. The point is for you to write the story regardless. If the story involves a white, heterosexual male, fine. If it involves an Asian woman with deformities who falls in love with a sexy Russian woman and they have hot, hot sex in a four-starred hotel in Moscow, that's fine too. If it serves your story, DO IT!! Not including a character from this or that group doesn't make you a bad person. I could have Amos (my Colonial detective) drop dead of cancer (back then, it was known as 'the wasting disease'), sure, but I won't because that won't help the story I want to tell, that's not what the story is about. Same if I gave Mishu (my fantasy protagonist) a heart condition that'd kill her if she didn't take her meds. It's not her character, it's not what the story is about, so she doesn't have a heart condition. This doesn't mean I secretly hate people with cancer or have heart conditions. It's simply not the story I'm writing.
No matter what you do, no matter what you write, you're gonna piss off some group or other. You are, of course, free to write about characters who are women, not white, LBGT+, or have a disease or a condition but do it because you feel it's right, because you wanted to write it, not because you were peer-pressured by society to write something you may not want to write about.
In closing: someone's going to be offended, and that's their right. You get to write whatever the hell you want regardless. Don't restrain yourself, don't put chains on your creativity. Don't let the fear of offending someone kill your desire to write.
Now write on! Have a happy 2016!
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