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Do you ever worry about offending certain readers?

  1. Yes

    13 vote(s)
    28.9%
  2. No

    30 vote(s)
    66.7%
  3. I try not to offend anyone

    2 vote(s)
    4.4%
  4. I try to offend everyone

    3 vote(s)
    6.7%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Le gribouilleur

    Le gribouilleur Active Member

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    Do you ever worry about offending certain readers?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Le gribouilleur, Dec 26, 2017.

    I'm writing a war novel. Although the two sides will meet as friends decades later in the story, I'm concerned that the details of the war will offend the other side. I'm going to depict the battle in such details that the reader would learn the horrors of war. The other side would lose much more men. It's meant to help the reader understand how someone would get PTSD. I'm afraid that (a) certain readers might get offended to have their country depicted as the enemy, and (b) the details of the sufferings might anger them. Do any of you ever worry about similar things?
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2017
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  2. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    No.

    I worry that I won't get published because I made some agents monocle pop out, but I couldn't give two short fucks about offending the audience. Just about every element of my books is objectionable in some way (and some in several ways) and that is kinda the point. It's supposed to catch you off guard and make you unsure if you can be ok with this stuff. It's dark and weird and it's not always an easy read. And from there, well I'm sure people can find stuff to get offended over. But if they do they missed the point and I'll be happy to laugh and shout "It's supposed to be horrible!" at them.

    ETA - Can we get "I try to offend everyone" added to the poll?
     
  3. Le gribouilleur

    Le gribouilleur Active Member

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    I like your idea.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2017
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  4. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    My novella contains many scenes of brutality. Notably, a critical scene where white settlers are corralled by savage, and bald tribesmen. These Johnny Depp pirates of the Caribbean type settlers, swarthy men, are surrounded by the Indians, and unknown to them, the primitive custom and ritual of 'initiation' of these 'Indians' - to become a true Mohawkan - they must 'lay a strip,' they call it, and to do so they slice pony-tales clean away from the pirates early hair bands. I fear this may provoke a backlash among girls, and also pirates with pony-tails. Possibly I'll confine the practice in writing to pig tails?
     
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  5. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Offend, no. Disrespect, yes.
     
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  6. Trish

    Trish Damned if I do and damned if I don't Contributor

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    There are at least two sides to every story, and in the portrayal someone is always seen as the bad guy. I don't worry about it because it's true to the side of the story I'm writing it for. That's all that needs to happen. It needs to be true for your character. Will people get offended? Of course! I'm sure there's someone, somewhere, offended by the fact that I'm wearing blue nail polish. Someone will always be offended. It doesn't matter.
     
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  7. making tracks

    making tracks Active Member

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    I think everyone has very different thresholds for what they consider offensive. I love reading books that challenge my views and make me feel a bit uncomfortable, but other people might find these offensive. So to a certain extent you don't have control over offense anyway.

    In your example I wouldn't have a problem with it if I was the 'losing' side because that is the perspective of the characters. War is complicated and nuanced and of course people are not necessarily going to think favourably of those involved. The times when I would be worried about offending people would be books advocating for or promoting hate speech, but I think that's a topic that would need its own discussion.
     
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  8. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    That's pretty much the crux of it. Anything can be offensive to someone and you can't dodge around it. Trying to not be offensive will be offensive someone. So just write what you want to write.

    There's a series of books by Bernard Cornwell where the hero is fighting for the confederacy in the civil war. And there are of course some slaves around and some very uncharitable things said about black people. But you can't worry about offending people, even knowing that this will definitely offend a good chunk of people. Because that's what the world of the book is like. And they are good books and we'll written (well, they are very boy books, lots of battles and stabbing and such) and do what they set out to do. And that's all that needs to be said on any offense taken.
     
  9. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    Man, I guess I’m totally alone here.

    When I’m writing, I do think about what will offend people. And I do take it into consideration, a lot of the time.

    Like— this is how I think about it. I’m a bisexual person. It’s exhausting, dealing with the “bisexual people are cheating whores” stereotype in real life. If I pick up a book and the only bisexual character is a big old fat cardboard stereotype, I’m going to be annoyed. I’m going to think, “This author is a dumbass.” And I’m going to stop reading. Maybe that’s unfair, but fuck it. Seeing your people get slandered with the same shit over and over gets OLD, and as a reader, I read books to have fun.

    So yeah. When I write, I try to be conscious of my own biases. Absolutely. I want to portray realistic, interesting characters.

    I guess what I’m saying is, I care about it.

    Yes, there will always be some kind of stereotype in your book. Yes, someone will always be offended. Yes, sometimes people will criticize your work in stupid ways. But that doesn’t mean you should say “fuck it” and ignore all criticism.

    You have to use your own judgment, absolutely. There will be times someone calls your writing offensive and you disagree with them. That’s okay. It happens. But you know what? Sometimes they’re right.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2017
  10. Trish

    Trish Damned if I do and damned if I don't Contributor

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    I agree with you. I wasn't saying people shouldn't take criticism, and I think that's an entirely different thing. I also would never write a bi-sexual stereo-type because I don't believe that stereo type to be true. What I meant was that, if it's true for the character, then it's true. Not that writing a card board cut out stereo type character was good for any reason. If the character believed that particular stereo-type to be true, part of the book, if I wrote it, would be the character learning why it isn't.
     
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  11. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    For sure.

    I think there’s a middle ground.
     
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  12. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Worry might be too strong a word ...but I certainly do think about whether I'm going to offend or upset somebody with certain aspects of my story. I think certain topics are bound to. It doesn't stop me writing what I want, but I am aware of the potential for offense.
     
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  13. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

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    I don't worry about offense per se - I worry about harm. I live in the South, where folks get offended when a cashier says 'happy holidays' or when queer people ... exist. I'm not worried about offense as those types of people understand it. My concerns are more in line, I think, with what @CoyoteKing is talking about. It's a matter of being genuine, honest, and frankly - just not lazy (see cardboard cut-out stereotypes).

    I read for fun and escapism, and I want other people to be able to read my work without being hit in the face with that real-life bullshit, so I do my best to research things and be mindful. Sure, some projects deal with the real-life bullshit on purpose, and that's a completely valid method, but that's not necessarily my style. I'm just wary of talking in terms of 'offense' because it's such a loaded word nowadays ._.

    In a project meant to teach "the horrors of war" I think the reader probably expects some bad shit. And if I'm reading a book about the American Civil War, I know my folks are the bad guys and I'm not going to be upset by having it pointed out, but I for sure know people who'd find it offensive to be portrayed that way. You can't win'em all and you do have to pick your battles on this kind of thing.
     
  14. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    I want to brag on one of my betas.

    I was editing a book for her recently. There was a scene where her MC (who is very flirty) got very threatening/creepy towards a female character. So I let her know, “Hey, your MC is coming across as a bit creepy here. Is that intentional?”

    He’s normally a very charming/funny character.

    It turns out that it wasn’t intentional. Her MC was supposed to be kind of a jerk, but that scene was not supposed to have a weird sexual/threatening subetext. And, god bless her, instead of sending me an email blaming me for getting offended or telling me I was reading her book wrong, or sending me a strongly worded letter about how her MC is not creepy and I’m too sensitive... she fixed it. She got rid of the intentional subtext, and now it’s a better scene.

    God bless her.
     
  15. making tracks

    making tracks Active Member

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    @Trish @izzybot and @CoyoteKing I think you're absolutely right in talking about it in terms of harm! That is where it becomes problematic because literature and pop culture does affect how groups of people might be seen.
     
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  16. Mink

    Mink Contributor Contributor

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    No.

    If I offend someone, I offend someone. I write highly problematic situations that all have a bearing on the character and the story being told. Most of what I write will likely prevent me from being published by a publisher, but I'm fine with that. I'm not writing for the comfort of others; I'm writing to tell a story and to, on some occasions, help people have someone that they can relate to on some level. I know that, when I was growing up, I would have loved to have read about characters in similar situations to me but that never happened likely due to people not wanting to offend (or choosing big publishers over smaller publishers).

    Anyway, I also figure that if you offend someone then you've likely done something right.
     
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  17. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    Heartily agreed. If your work is so bland no-one could be offended you've done something terribly wrong.
     
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  18. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Contributor

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    There aren't many things that offend me when I'm the reader (offend in a way I'd bitch about it on Twitter or something). I think something like scenes that glorify violence (unless written from the POV of some weird sicko) offend me in that I-wanna-rant-about-this-online-cos-this-writer-is-ignorant-asf way.

    As the author, I don't think about offending people that much, to be honest. I don't want to write stereotypes, I don't intentionally aim to piss people off unless I find a certain "group" stupid or deplorable, which means I've written my fair share of creeps, iconoclasts, own-fart-sniffers, and jerks of all trade.

    Having said that, I'm 100% sure there are bits that offend other people in my writing, ranging from the usual sex & violence to the more niche voldemort topics (= topics-that-shall-not-be-discussed).

    I don't worry about it too much. There will always be people who "get it" and there will always be people whose fists have perpetually petrified around their pearl necklaces from all the shocked clutching they've done over the years, so of course they'll be offended.
     
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  19. graveleye

    graveleye Senior Member

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    I've been writing all my life, but I'm new to writing fiction novels. I've always been creative, writing, poetry, music and lyrics, as well as painting and drawing. Never in my creative history have I cared about what anyone thinks of my work because I create for me and me alone. I've always created things that I want to see, read or hear and frankly, if you worry about whether people like it or not, then you're in for a soul crushing existence. Especially with music because you will never, ever make everyone happy. You have to have some thick skin and just do what you want for the sake of doing it.

    However, writing fiction has me thinking much more about the reader. When I started, I was in the idgaf mode, but I quickly realized there are nuances about writing that are simply not found in other forms of art. Particularly when writing about sex and love, I'm careful. I'm not writing erotica, and there is no violence, but I damn sure don't want my MC to come off as creepy like those apes we've been hearing about in the news lately. And I don't want for the reader to perceive the author as thinking that way either.

    So yes, I do take the reader into account, and I am careful with what I write in many instances.
     
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  20. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    I don't think that worrying about offending people is quite the same as considering the reader as you write. In the end, you are writing for other people not just for you so obviously you need to understand what the reader cares about, what things they enjoy, what stuff will read as being realistic to them, all of that. But I think that stuff is slightly different to worrying about offence.

    Generally when we're talking about thinking about the reader we're talking in a positive sense, of the things you do want to include, not the things you don't. Saying "Well, most readers in genre X would like a romantic sub plot" is fine. But pulling something out that you want to include just because someone might be upset? Nah.

    Don't get me wrong, I think you're right and it is important to think about who is reading. There's definitely things that you might pull out because they are too dark for the audience and don't stand a chance of being published. There's things that you might pull out because your intended audience just won't get the reference. But I think the one thing you can't do is start pulling things out because people might be offended. Because I think you can talk yourself into removing any element of a story that way.
     
  21. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    Well sure.

    But my writing makes people happy, and that makes me happy.
     
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  22. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    My writing makes people really sad, and that makes me happy ;)
     
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  23. graveleye

    graveleye Senior Member

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    I'm probably not a good example and certainly don't have enough experience to give advice. I only have my one book and my one set of characters, so I can't speak in general terms.

    In short, I am not worried about offending one person, or even a handful of people. I am concerned about alienating an entire group of people, and I think it would be ridiculously easy to do if you come across like Howard Stern or Harvey Weinstien.
     
  24. Damien Loveshaft

    Damien Loveshaft Active Member

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    Eh, I see it as a necessary evil to offend people, especially in horror writing. It makes them feel uncomfortable and sometimes that is just what I wanted. I also write LGBT stuff so yeah, I have relatives that'd have a bloody tantrum if they found out much less a stranger. Who cares about them though? However if your war story is historic does it need to be? Why not use fictional countries or not name the countries involved? I've seen stories go this route before in my literature classes.
     
  25. jim onion

    jim onion New Member

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    Everyday I wake up terrified that I'm going to end up on the same list as Charlie Hebdo. I can't even walk outside anymore.

    Seriously though. I'm more concerned that whatever it is I'm writing is true to myself, and true of the world. Integrity and honesty are more important in my opinion, because money isn't my top priority.

    If money is your top priority, you might want to worry about offending people, because your goal is to appeal to the lowest common denominator of society. Pull out that check-list of all the different races you have to include. Don't challenge the assumptions or beliefs of a single one of your audience members. And remember: the Bechdel test doesn't measure whether or not you can tell a coherent or entertaining story.

    Or, I suppose the opposite is true. You could pick a side; sell your soul to a polarizing cause, and guarantee yourself an audience at the expense of other groups. If you're okay with living a lie and being forced to say things you personally don't think are true, go for it. I pray you make it out mentally stable.

    Hitler did the last one. He just repeatedly said the things that got his rally crowds hard or wet and the rest is history.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2017

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