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Thread: How to write without offending anyone

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW kelliewallace's Avatar
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    How to write without offending anyone

    The last thing I want to do as a writer is offend anyone. Im currently researching for my next novel- a post apocalyptic fiction- and I'm trying to find ways to skirt around an issue.

    In the novel, a country has bombed US. I want to specify the country but I don't want to offend. For example if I say North Korea started a nuclear war am I open to be sued? Haha.
    I'm probably looking way into it but how can I mention a country without mentioning it? I hope that makes sense. I don't really want to make up a fictional country but might have to.

  2. #2
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    Stop overthinking and get back to writing.

    There has been thousands of novels depicting one country taking over the world. It's been done before, and there hasn't been any problems.

    The only way you're going to offend someone is as if they already has a stick up their ass and are on the look out for something to trigger themselves, or you really try at it.

    Stop worrying about and get back to writing.
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  3. #3
    Azarath Metrion Zinthos AshleyEpidemic's Avatar
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    That is an impossible feat. No matter what you say, you will manage to offend someone out there.

    Even if you make up a fictional country, people will associate that country with a real one. It happens. Don't be too wary, but know your target audience.
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  4. #4
    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    You prolly can't - even by trying not o offend people, you will possibly end up with something so bland it offends people.* What if you offend homophobes? Racists? Etc etc Do you care?

    And then - you may portray something in one way, and another person, for their own valid personal reasons will see it another way and get offended.

    You very nearly can't not offend someone. Because they are not you.

    Yes - research. Yes - think about issues and portrayals and all that. Consider it. Keep it in mind, wriggle it all around your brain. It is wise to be aware of any problems that may crop up

    Then write the book the way seems best.



    *Unless you're writing kid's picture books or something.




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  5. #5
    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
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    When it comes to writing, you can't please everyone and you will offend someone.
    Susan

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  6. #6
    Tonight on Mythbusters BenPanced's Avatar
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    If you have North Korea bomb the US in your novel, it's more plausible than offensive. If you have Canada bomb the US, it's more hilarious than offensive (because, well, you know. Canadians.) Just write it and don't worry if somebody's offended because as stated above, somebody'll get a wild hair up their ass and write a stern yet pointed letter to the editor about it.
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  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW
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    Write without offending anybody? Have you tried invisible ink?

    North Korea might just as easily be pleased at someone taking their stick-waving seriously.

  8. #8
    New motto: more purr, less hiss Nekko's Avatar
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    Someone will always find a way to be offended. Write your story, ask for feedback on SYW.
    People there will let you know through consensus if you've really crossed a line.

    Think of all the Cold War novels/movies that vilified the Soviets, or the Chinese? What about all the books on WWII, fiction and non-fiction that point out that there were some really bad Germans?

    Write it.
    You can't... start to delete a word so you can change it to a different word but then keep the first letter of the old word...
    it will eventually eat the new word's soul and turn it into an evil, undead word-zombie...

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  9. #9
    New motto: more purr, less hiss Nekko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buffysquirrel View Post
    Write without offending anybody? Have you tried invisible ink?

    North Korea might just as easily be pleased at someone taking their stick-waving seriously.
    Sometimes Buffy you just crack me up
    You can't... start to delete a word so you can change it to a different word but then keep the first letter of the old word...
    it will eventually eat the new word's soul and turn it into an evil, undead word-zombie...

    --jjdebenedictis


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  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW kelliewallace's Avatar
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    Thanks guys. I didn't even think about those old WW2 movies, etc. In fact I wrote a WW2 fiction novel which didn't shed the Germans in a good light. So far, no one has complained LOL. I'll write it and see where it leads me

  11. #11
    Just Another Lazy Perfectionist Brightdreamer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Flibble View Post
    *Unless you're writing kid's picture books or something.
    Picture books?! What do you have against blind children, you hateful beast? Expect a lawsuit on your doorstep come Monday morning!

    To the OP: Your job, as a writer, is to write your stories. If people choose to read offensive meanings into your stories, that's beyond your control. Take a look at a few banned/challenged book lists, and you'll realize no story, no matter how great, is immune... and that people latch onto some strange things when they want to be offended.

    If you're seriously worried about possibly offending people with books you haven't even written yet, maybe you're pursuing the wrong creative outlet. Consider something less controversial, like macrame or button collecting. (Although macrame might imply lynching, and some of those buttons are likely manufactured in sweat shops overseas...)
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  12. #12
    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brightdreamer View Post
    Picture books?! What do you have against blind children, you hateful beast? Expect a lawsuit on your doorstep come Monday morning!
    And Brightdreamer proves my point....




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    The series has grown in complexity since the beginning, reaches a profoundly moving conclusion that is both unexpected and entirely satisfying - Publisher's Weekly

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  13. #13
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    Don't worry about it - it's been done. Books, movies. Write it, then fictionalize it.

    My first thought was close to Buffy's.

  14. #14
    Soldier, Storyteller Linda Adams's Avatar
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    You can't write to please everyone. It's not going to be possible. People can take offense at weird things. My father gave a Toastmaster speech and mentioned the word toilet in routine use. He so offended the evaluator with the use of the word that she could not effectively evaluate the speech. People react to strange things. You can't control that.
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  15. #15
    Let it go Persei's Avatar
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    You don't.
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  16. #16
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Baby Jane's Avatar
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    Agree with all of the above but if you are interested in seeing how one writer has skirted the topic of nationality, try the Tomorrow When the War Began series by John Marsden. He never mentions who the invading nation are because it's not important to the characters and where they are in events.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by kelliewallace View Post
    The last thing I want to do as a writer is offend anyone. Im currently researching for my next novel- a post apocalyptic fiction- and I'm trying to find ways to skirt around an issue.

    In the novel, a country has bombed US. I want to specify the country but I don't want to offend. For example if I say North Korea started a nuclear war am I open to be sued? Haha.
    I'm probably looking way into it but how can I mention a country without mentioning it? I hope that makes sense. I don't really want to make up a fictional country but might have to.
    Seriously?

    I can't believe you're asking this question. Can someone tell me how to block this poster? Christ almighty.

  18. #18
    Retired Illuminatus dangerousbill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kelliewallace View Post
    The last thing I want to do as a writer is offend anyone. Im currently researching for my next novel- a post apocalyptic fiction- and I'm trying to find ways to skirt around an issue.
    I think that if you set out to offend no one, you will end up neither informing or entertaining anyone. No matter what you write, someone, somewhere, is going to hate you for it.

    Me, I've got it in for Beatrix Potter.
    Dangerous Bill

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  19. #19
    Retired Illuminatus dangerousbill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BenPanced View Post
    ...(because, well, you know. Canadians.)
    Canadians are rough and tough, but they're too busy fighting and brawling to get upset over a mere book. Remember, it was the Canadians who kicked Nazi butt in WW II, but they were too busy celebrating to notice when the Brits and Yanks took all the credit for it.

    Signed, A Canuck (who moved to the US to make more money)
    Dangerous Bill

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  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW kelliewallace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoBird View Post
    Seriously?

    I can't believe you're asking this question. Can someone tell me how to block this poster? Christ almighty.
    I'm asking a serious question to my peers. It's a genuine query.
    Last edited by kelliewallace; 03-25-2013 at 06:45 AM.

  21. #21
    Mushroom Polenth's Avatar
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    The first thing that pops into your head is likely influenced by all the media you consume. It's not wrong to consider that. Not because someone might shout at you, but because you might end up reinforcing harmful things.

    However, I appear to be in the minority thinking that, so assuming none of that matters, try considering that the first thing you think of is likely to be the least interesting. I'm much more intrigued by a story where the US bombs itself than one where the US is bombed by North Korea, because it already has me asking what's changed, without knowing anything else about the story.
    * Polenth *

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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by kelliewallace View Post
    I'm asking a serious question to my peers. It's a genuine query.
    I've got to start using more smileys. I was just joking.

    Here's my serious answer: I think there's a real problem when authors start feeling like they have to cater to political correctness. To me, it feels like a weird form of censorship, and I don't care for it. Writing, in my opinion, is about telling stories--stories you want to tell.

    Remember, there's a difference between something that's offensive and someone being offended. Someone can be offended by something that's not intrinsically offensive. In other words, the world is full of crazies, and a lot of them are overly sensitive.

    Shrug. In my opinion, you should write whatever moves you and entertains you.

    You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have: the facts of life.

  23. #23
    Benefactor Member Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    The others who've chimed in on this are right. Pretty much any book that's not wallowing in insipid blandness (and even some of those) has the potential to offend at least some people.

    I've seen readers/reviewers take offense at fantasy novels (claiming the work is attacking some culture or religion) taking place in entirely made up worlds where people, cultures, religions and events bear only the loosest resemblance to things from real history.

    There have been many books that portray post apocalyptic Americas (and other places too). Sometimes the reason for the war comes into it, sometimes it doesn't. So long as it's plausible and doesn't demonize an entire people/culture as evil monsters because someone in their government pushed the button, you're probably fine.

    Actually, when you think about it, a book's becoming "controversial" is a sign that a lot of people read it and were interested enough in it to talk about it.
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  24. #24
    My own worst enemy jmare's Avatar
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    As long as you don't offend everybody, don't worry about it. And as a bonus, if you do get published, the people who hate your book will buy just as many copies as the people who love it. Pack in lighter fluid and matches and book burnings will make you a ton of money.

  25. #25
    practical experience, FTW kelliewallace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoBird View Post
    I've got to start using more smileys. I was just joking.

    Here's my serious answer: I think there's a real problem when authors start feeling like they have to cater to political correctness. To me, it feels like a weird form of censorship, and I don't care for it. Writing, in my opinion, is about telling stories--stories you want to tell.

    Remember, there's a difference between something that's offensive and someone being offended. Someone can be offended by something that's not intrinsically offensive. In other words, the world is full of crazies, and a lot of them are overly sensitive.

    Shrug. In my opinion, you should write whatever moves you and entertains you.

    You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have: the facts of life.
    Sorry, JoBird. I didnt mean to go off. Thank you for your advice. I understand it, and you are right. I should just write and forget about the crazies

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