Offensive Writing?

Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by GuardianWynn, Jul 24, 2016.

  1. obsidian_cicatrix

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    But, still, many would take it for what it is... a piece of fiction. I mean, I couldn't really see most of our Christian friends here being quick to pass judgement, especially since you are not setting out to offend. You're simply going with a 'What if?' approach, and giving an alternative perspective. It's like I said, when you are dealing with a subject likely to raise a few eyebrows, if you can get it down in such a way that even possible dissenters have to admit you make a good point, you're halfway there.

    Oh, and I'm a Brit who hates tea. I'd rather drink my own urine. ;)
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2016
  2. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    I really got back into writing because it is impossible for me to find erotica aimed at straight guys that love women and just want to read about normal situations. I know there are more like me out there; not wanting abuse or Penthouse letters.
     
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  3. MouseMonsanta

    MouseMonsanta New Member

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    You should write absolutely anything you want and if people don't like it they should stop reading it. I've consumed a lot of fucked up media in my day. I've read the manifestos of mass murderers, I've watched a film where a guy rapes a newborn baby and I played a videogame where you can light people on fire and put it out by pissing on them. None of this was even a fraction as offensive to behold as the rise of trigger-warning and safe space culture.

    It's a dick move to purposely push someones buttons without reason or pretext. But that being said, it's nobodies responsibility to censor themselves to avoid offending another persons sensibilities, it's the other parties responsibility to both respect themselves and get over themselves enough to not let what other people are into effect them. When somebody opens your book they are making an agreement to expose themselves to whatever its contents may be until they close it, which they can do at any time. It would be different if you were spray-painting it on the sides of their houses.

    An idea I wish people gave more credence to nowadays, is that you wouldn't be able to recognize the mundane and safe without the alarming and offensive, just like you wouldn't be able to sense light without darkness or sadness without happiness. The beautiful thing about art is that it provides a healthy outlet for these chaotic sort of things whereby they don't have to spill into the real world. That anybody wants to impose limitations on this is complete insanity to me.
     
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  4. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    It depends on what message you're sending. I'm not going to support someone making neo-nazi propoganda.
     
  5. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    To the OP: You can try to predict what will offend your average jane, but if you try to be inoffensive and not-an-asshole in your writing, you'll probably end up being a hypocrite as well. Your readers might complain your book hasn't got a POV character of every letter in QUILTBAG, which makes you to contribute to the oppression of sexual minorities as you've clearly on purpose made U's and I's invisible. They may complain your black character who you crafted just to show you can avoid stereotypes as you being dismissive against black culture and trying to subliminally tell your readers that they have to "act white". They might say your soldier woman is promoting violence against women because she gets beat up by a male character. (I know this sounds hyperbolic, but some people are weird and go overboard easily.)

    I mean, I was just reading this rather feminist-ey novel about a princess who decides to run away before she has to marry a prince she has never met. I'm myself rather shocked that she expects her brothers, on the other hand, to fulfill their duty to their kingdom and not only marry princesses they don't know but also lead their men to battle against two formidable enemies because of her selfishness and probably get killed or mauled in the process, plus never mind all the people of her land who will now suffer. In that light getting married to a stranger and living in luxury doesn't feel like such a huge burden. I want to scream at her to take her chance, become queen, and then change the law so that bloodlines aren't necessary to unite kingdoms.

    I'm guessing the author didn't mean to write a character that a female reader (her audience) would find appalling.

    Plus it can be quite stifling if you start to worry about a certain aspect in your book that might offend someone somewhere. Of course, a lot depends on your audience as well. If you're writing a children's book about diversity in American schools, you don't want to mention the N word even if one of the characters was a child brainwashed by his white supremacist neo-nazi white power KKK Trump-voting parents. If you're writing for adults and you want to limit your audience to those who can stomach cursing or sexual content, then you've made your choice and you have to accept that not everyone's going to like your story.

    As for portraying other nations or your opposite sex in a way that might trigger some of your readers... Again, whenever you write something you're not or have not experienced, someone's going to complain. Sure, you can do research, but if you decide to leave it all to your imagination (e.g. creating your version of Russia), that's just your way to be creative. I'm sure you won't go Nazi-propaganda on Russians anyway, so you seem to be worrying over a rather minuscule portion of readers.

    By the way, I'm a complete bitch when I'm PMS'ng, and also at the beginning of my period. I always give my hubby a forewarning so he knows I'm not being a c*nt out of spite, I'm just hormonal and uncomfortable, and that makes me cranky. Other women don't experience this, and I'm not myself offended by the stereotype of a PMS'ng crazy woman 'cause that's basically me. Some other women certainly are.

    I'm not saying being as inclusive and inoffensive as you can is automatically a bad thing. I'm sure this comic about a superhero who's plus size has a lot of fans. Deadpool also has a lot of fans. Steven Universe has a huge fanbase. So does South Park. People love Hunger Games, but they also love Twilight. But sometimes it can get pretty confusing and stifling if you worry about every little thing and how it might affect (hurt?) a reader whose triggers you can't predict. Trust me, it doesn't make you a better person if you make every wrongdoer a white man as opposed to making them foreigners with a Slavic lilt (one of my "favorite" stereotypes in North American media: the evil or morally ambiguous, mentally unhinged Russian/East European... sigh). Or if you think Islam is free game but Christianity should be protected -- or vice versa. Even Atheists can laugh at themselves sometimes, and we should, actually. It's healthy.

    Anyway, if I one day read your book, I promise not to come after you if something in it offends hurts me. I'm sure you didn't do that out of malice and to specifically attack me. ;) But I won't promise I won't complain about it online!

    P.s. You can absolutely draw black humor from horrible things like massacres. In fact, gallows humor is just one way for many of us to deal with painful things. Again, some people will be absolutely, positively appalled. Others will laugh until their sides split because you'd rather laugh than cry -- doesn't mean they don't feel fear or pain.
     
  6. jannert

    jannert Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's well said, and detailed enough to be useful.
     
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  7. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I forgot to answer this previously. Oops. Holiday Golightly and Tralala are both prostitutes.
     
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  8. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Raping a new born baby is significantly LESS offensive to you than trigger-warnings?

    I just want to make sure I understand what you're saying.
     
  9. MouseMonsanta

    MouseMonsanta New Member

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    No, a fictional representation of a guy raping a newborn baby that is in fact an inanimate object is significantly less offensive to me than trigger warnings.

    I just find all of this to be a huge problem. People today don't want to be accountable for their own feelings or perceptions, so they try to get a third party to protect them from things they don't like.

    This dogmatic political correctness and oversensitivity seems to be a cyclical thing that rears its head every few years and each time it comes back a little more over the top. This is the 3rd time I've seen it in my short lifetime alone. First it was everyone blaming Doom and Marilyn Manson for Columbine, then it was Grand Theft Auto and now it's pretty much just everything being blamed for everything (except for the poor infallible offended person, of course)

    It's easy to scapegoat art for all the ills of the world, but what about the person perceiving it? Shouldn't we be teaching people to take a little responsibility for the way they feel? I look around and I see swaths of sheltered and over-coddled (mostly young) adults who are going to be completely unprepared for life. I just don't think it's at all healthy for a grown adult to require protection from words on a page. No matter how hard this PC thing gets pushed there are always going to be outliers who don't abide by it, and there are always going to be people who are actually dangerous. How are people supposed to respond to real challenges or even threats when they fall apart at the sight of fictional ones?

    Politeness is a wonderful virtue but so is stoicism. Stoicism is an idea that is so demonized today, because people falsely equate it with being mean and oppressive. In reality being mean and oppressive has nothing to do with it, it's just about respecting yourself enough to not let external stimuli have such a strong hold over your inner peace. It's being confident enough to truly speak your mind, it's about being secure enough in yourself to let others speak their minds, and also having the humility to admit when you're wrong and be changed by new ideas. This concept seems lost on my generation, or at the very least an extremely vocal minority of it and I think it's a real shame which is going to produce very real consequences if something isn't done about it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2016
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  10. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    I see both perspectives honestly.
     
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  11. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Well, by your own logic, we shouldn't care what you find offensive. So to agree with you is to ignore you. Win / win.
     
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  12. MouseMonsanta

    MouseMonsanta New Member

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    Exactly!

    That's pretty much it. It's your job to put your message out there, and it's the receiving parties job to decide what to do with it. They can agree, disagree or ignore. In my opinion, ignoring really only hurts them, as to block out an idea that exists in reality doesn't make it go away. Ignoring ideas just puts you into a bubble and bubbles are liable to pop.

    There's also a fourth option, which is to try to suppress, but due to the Streisand effect this would be an ill-advised course of action.
     
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  13. Wreybies

    Wreybies Arroz Con Admin Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    And you're free not to support said person. This doesn't obligate the creator of that content, in advance, to satisfy the fact that you won't support that kind of content. We may as well all put our pens down and close shop if that were the case because for every idea put forward, there is someone who doesn't/won't support said idea. We will have corrected ourselves into complete inaction, because though you may think my logic to be absurdly reductive, where is the line? Who draws that line? It seems the only people really interested in drawing those lines would have us write nothing.

    Example:

    And appy-poly-loggies in advance for using an example that I use all the time. Octavia Butler's Xenogenisis trilogy posits, at its core, the idea that pretty much every human ill can be traced to a failure on our part to accept ourselves as the animals we are, and more specifically, the kind of animal we are, as regards our social behavior, to wit, pack animals, like canines. I have been corrected here in this very forum for using the phrase pack animal because there are those who find that phrase offensive to their sensibilities. I have been told "Not pack animals, social animals" because that feels more palatable to them, never mind that making use of this vague term, which also includes hive and herd animals, removes the ability of one to engage the point being made by Miss Butler in her excellent writing. Coddled sensibilities would rob us of the vocabulary to discuss the very heart of benchmark work by one of the paragons of Science Fiction.

    The irony in this is that PCing the vocabulary causes us to be unable to engage the topic, and it's our inability to engage the topic that Miss Butler is proposing as a core problem of our species.
     
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  14. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    Well I dunno whether I would ban it.
     
  15. Wreybies

    Wreybies Arroz Con Admin Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I would suggest, if you've not seen it, the film Howl. We're sitting here talking about people being offended and their reactions and responsibilities to one another and to themselves, but there was a time, not long ago, when the state took it upon itself to try to judge these things. Writing is art and the function of art is to comment on culture, and quite often culture is ugly and mean and offensive. The poem that was the heart of the obscenities trial in this film (true story) was shockingly offensive to many. So much so that the publisher (not the author) was taken to court. In the trial the prosecution attempted, over and over again, to make a point of asking if the ideas included in the poem could have been written in other ways, other images, other metaphors, other similes, that wouldn't shock the sensibilities of people. Again, I reiterate, if that's the meter by which to measure, then this forum and everything any of us participating in this forum is writing is utterly, utterly pointless. That poem spoke about a particular life being lead by a particular slice of society that felt lost and abandoned and hopeless and totally unrepresented or seen or heard because they weren't the ideal being proffered as the only acceptable portrayal of that great social whitewashing experiment known as the 1950's, the decade that never really happened.

    Sorry, but I don't want to live in a world where there is no Ginsberg to give voice to a truth that was so forcefully suppressed and repressed. I don't want to live in a world where I believe the lie of the "halcyon days of the 1950's" because the truth couldn't be spoken for being offensive.
     
  16. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Allen Ginsberg's Howl is one of the few works that inspired me to write. I keep a copy of Howl on my desk at all times to inspire when I am having a slow day.
     
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  17. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I agree that the "trigger warning" idea has been taken too far, but in its original version I don't think it's problematic.

    Like, if there's a veteran with PTSD living down the street from me and he has horrible flashbacks whenever he hears explosions (fireworks, etc.) and he lets his neighbours know about this--that's a trigger warning. He's telling people that he has a special vulnerability to something that other people can handle more easily.

    To me, it's just common sense for him to tell people about it. What the neighbours do about it? That's their choice. Just like it's my choice to consider them complete assholes if they don't moderate their behaviour in order to help him out.

    The "trigger warning" idea has been expanded, for sure--I'm not sure how much of the expansion is genuine and how much is just strawman arguments set up by people who want something to complain about. But at its root? Why is it offensive for someone to tell other people about unusual vulnerabilities they suffer from?

    ETA:
    I'm always surprised when I see people on a writers' site denying the power of words. I mean, if we're saying that art is too important to be censored (and, I agree, it is), then aren't we inherently acknowledging the power of art? Do we imagine that the art can only be a force for good, and never for ill, or that that same piece of art couldn't affect different people in different ways?

    Art is either important and powerful, in which case it should be protected, or it's meaningless and weak, in which case why should we bother making sure it's unfettered?

    And if art is important and powerful, what's wrong with warning some people that its power may affect them in a more negative way than it affects other people?
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2016
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  18. Wreybies

    Wreybies Arroz Con Admin Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sadly, I think that phrase was swept out on the riptide of semantic shift and is irretrievably lost in its more original, medically supported meaning. I think it'd be simpler for us to just rename the situation of the aforementioned veteran. I mean, as another example, can any of us really use the term narrative anymore, outside of writerly circles, and not have people immediately assume we mean its more politicized meaning? o_O
     
  19. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I don't know if we can just "find a new term" unless we get a better idea of how people are actually using the old term.

    Like, is there actually a significant movement of people demanding censorship of terms they personally find offensive? I mean, not the "Fuck you for saying 'Happy Holidays', it should only be 'Merry Christmas'" crowd, but a significant number of " sheltered and over-coddled (mostly young) adults" from the "PC" side of things? Or is it mostly a strawman?

    I worry that if we just give up on the phrase and pick another one, then that phrase will be swept away. I know, language changes, but if it changes too fast it becomes impossible to communicate, and I think we need clear communication now more than ever.

    Maybe people who are objecting to censorship (or whatever it is they're actually objecting to) should object to censorship.

    But honestly, from the post I was quoting, it sounded like the poster was referring to the older meaning "trigger warnings". He didn't mention censorship or controlling art; he seemed to be focused in on denigrating people who were upset by art.
     
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  20. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributor Contributor

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    I actually not sure what you mean by trigger warning? Care to define it. Reading later on that defintion seemed to be a tad up in the air in context.

    Though, I think we should trade one extreme for another. I mean, you sound as if, all the responsiblity of the reaction is in the hands of those reading(except in case of a fire starting ass hole.) and to some degree, I would agree.

    Yet, I think that in the same breathe and artist may benefit from showing some restrait and trying to pull his punches a tad, or the reverse! Possible increase them, the point being, in either case there is sort of a self introspection of the line of what may be considered standard, and your book may be under or above that line and moving it closer to that line may help the material.

    Which I think i a bit of a stark contrast from your advice which correct me if I am wrong sounds more like. "Follow your vision and let the dice fall where they may!" Which is fine for some people, but I think both those seeking a profit, or even some that don't care about the profit may benefit. Like me? I care about the story more than money. I want the story to have a meaning and an impact and be something that inpsires people and as a result I do feel I need to be in some ways careful of that line.

    Ya know?
     
  21. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You're offering ideas with your words. Not hugs, knife cuts, kisses, punches, bullets or anything concrete. If we start to limit and censor thoughts and ideas, I think we're on the wrong track. Imo, it's important to have access to both. To a whole diversity of ideas. Eventually the good ones will win. If we suppress questionable ones, they'll become a kind of forbidden fruit, a refuge to people who feel stifled by "benevolent" word and thought policing.
     
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  22. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    You are correct. You see, most in society don't really care. Hell, I didn't know what a trigger warning really was until now. Unfortunately, once one 'makes' it to adulthood, other things become important and most simply stop caring about others for the most part.

    "I now have a wife and three kids and work 67 hours a week and care for my ailing mom. I don't have time or energy to care what might offend you or anyone else."

    Most adults won't care what is bothering youth. We have all been through it and survived. Either you will too, or I won't have to hear about you because you won't exist anymore.
    That is society.
    Coddling people for their problems when you went through the same problems is not a normal animal reaction. The normal reaction is- "I lived and you will too, survival of the fittest."
     
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  23. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I very much agree with the above. A writer friend of mine recently pointed out that years ago (at least in fanfic) we used to use the term "squick" for things that would make you nope right out of the story but didn't cause true emotional/psychological distress. Strong sexual content, major character death, graphic violence, etc. I think are perfectly fine for a writer or publisher to point out is included in a book so that a reader can make an informed choice.

    Lately though(I think due in part the tag function on AO3) it does seem like there's a trend towards warning for every single detail to the point where I know almost everything that's going to happen before I even read the story, and I do get a little eye-rolly about that. It doesn't do any harm, and it is helpful if you've got a hankering to read something with a very specific kink (furry fics featuring sounding and size difference anyone?), but when the list of tags is longer than the story I think its a bridge too far.
     
  24. T.Trian

    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Write any kind of story and I promise you I'll be able to find something in it that someone could find offensive. Probably several somethings.
    That means you have exactly two choices: accept the fact that somebody will find a justification to choose to be offended by something in your story OR simply don't write anything; it's literally the only way to ensure nobody will be able to find anything over which to be offended.

    Strictly speaking, nobody has ever offended me. I have, however, chosen to be offended by certain things. Sometimes it was warranted, sometimes it wasn't. For example, when an asshole kicked me, I chose to be offended because I felt it was warranted. Sure, he started the tussle, but it was still my choice to be offended and react accordingly.
    However, my feelings are my responsibility, and if I lose my shit over something, it's only because of my failure to control my emotions (as a side note, it is entirely possible to even fight IRL with a cool head; being e.g. angry isn't in any way nevessary or even smart).

    My emotions are my responsibility and mine alone, not any author's, random individual's, the government's etc, and I sure as hell don't want anyone to censor anything in the name of protecting my feelings.

    In fact, I'd rather see person X write something e.g. transphobic than to have it censored on my behalf by a third party because if the writing is allowed to exist, I will be able to see that I will never be friends with person X (at least not until they changed their attitude) whereas if their writing was censored, I'd have no idea person X felt disdain towards people like me.
    In essence, free speech and the absence of censorship is what makes it much easier to tell friend from foe. That's why I don't really like hate speech laws: let the bigots spew their hate. At least then you'll know who they are. Castrating free speech only creates an atmosphere of distrust reflected in fake smiles, to put it weirdly.

    Note: incitement to violence is a different thing and is rightly illegal, and IMHO should be classified as incitement to crime, not as hate speech.
    Likewise, free speech doesn't necessarily mean freedom from consequences in every context; e.g. mouthing off to a senior officer in the military may just get you court martialed, scrubbing the toilets, or whatever.

    So yeah, be as offensive as you want. Since you can't force anyone to read your writing and you can't give offense, it's up to every individual to decide whether to read the text or give it a pass, and it's up to those who decide to read it to choose whether to take offense over it or not.

    At least that's how I see it. And yes, I have taken offense over a myriad of things despite my beliefs; I am very much a flawed perpetual blunderer and hence fail to control my emotions more often than I'd like to admit. The failure is still mine, though.
     
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  25. MouseMonsanta

    MouseMonsanta New Member

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    I feel like it sets a bad cultural precedent. If you never face your demons they only linger and become stronger. In my eyes being offended by art is a privilege, it's an opportunity to grow. By putting a warning on it you're sending a message that the viewer may not be mentally or emotionally strong enough to handle what they are about to see. Being that art and the ideas it represents exist in reality, you are therefor effectively telling this person they cannot handle reality.

    If that weren't bad enough, you're also telling them that closing their eyes and retreating from that reality is a perfectly healthy and alright thing to do. It's not. It's a regressive behavior that can, and if done habitually likely will have very negative consequences. To teach people otherwise is irresponsible.

    Yes. It's a huge problem on college campuses in particular. I don't know how to say more than that without opening up a whole other can of worms that extends far beyond the realm of creative writing, as it largely pertains to silencing opposition to a certain political ideology.

    It's not my intention to put anybody down. I just think people need a kick in the pants every once in a while. I don't think it's my place to decide that for them, but if someone picks up a copy of a novel written by Mouse Monsanta they should expect to find nothing less than a reflection of the worldview of Mouse Monsanta and all of his shitty opinions that go with it. One of those opinions is that adults should be capable of maintaining their own mental health in the face of challenging ideas without needing to be prepped for it beforehand. If they aren't interested in hearing my worldview they shouldn't open my book.

    This is an interesting point and I definitely am coming from a somewhat one-sided perspective being that raising the proverbial middle finger to political correctness is one of my goals as a writer.

    What I would do in your situation is write the story I want to write and make an assessment afterwards as to whether or not it would be more/less or equally impactful without the parts you're concerned about. If cutting it makes the story feel even slightly less true to your vision don't do it. Authenticity is important.

    Woosa
     
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