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Thread: A Touchy Subject

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  1. #19
    practical experience, FTW CaliforniaMelanie's Avatar
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    I feel it depends upon what you're going for. Let's face it, not every reader is reading every type of book for the realism.

    If what you're writing is a book with abuse survival as its central theme or at least a major theme, then yes, you need to be very, verrrrrrry careful, very sensitive, and have "healing" (if you will...I say this a as a survivor, BTW) take a loooooooooooooong-arse time...if at all. (I'm still waiting to be totally "cured"...maybe in another 39 years? )

    BUT...

    ...if that's not the idea here, there's another thing to consider: if we took out every potentially triggering, not entirely sensitive, or not 100% accurate idea out of every book, we'd have precious few books left. I think things can go so crazy on the PC idea (I say this as a granola crunchy hippie, by the way) that creativity is choked to death and the book becomes an absolutely boring read.

    Writers have, throughout history, written shocking, ugly material, for a whole variety of reasons. We have not always carefully weighed and measured the social consciousness of our every word. Writing explores all kinds of things, in all kinds of ways. And any creative expression at all can offend people. People are offended by the Bible. They're offended by SpongeBob SquarePants. (There was a whole issue about SpongeBob and Patrick and rainbows for a while...I wish I were kidding...totally not kidding.) People have been offended by books and blacklisted and physically burned them as a symbol for eradicating what had offended someone. I've seen offense at Encyclopedia Britannica entries.

    And then again, I've seen the opposite. I've seen shock literally for shock value and I have seen people absolutely love that, and that's all good, IMO. And I've seen shock to explore our own ugliest sides and for no other reason (Stephen King, anyone?). I've seen ugliness written to titillate, too.

    I've seen (and you've seen) incredibly popular works in art, writing and literature that were so utterly inaccurate and impossible you just have to laugh, yet still adore them. There was an audience for them, and some people freaked out and screamed endlessly - and continue to - about their inaccuracies or about something that "should have" been stated a different way. Some of these very works have become classics - warts (and errors and ridiculousness) and all.

    Writers will be criticized somehow, some way and we'll never make everyone happy. Yes. Rape is a sensitive subject. Been there, not past it. And totally not offended that not every single person is going to "get it right" - and yeah, I'll groan or get pizzed and put the book down or turn off the movie if it's something that would trigger ME, me personally. But that's me. I don't expect the entire world to be aware and conscious of me, my specific past, my issues...because I'm not the whole world and the creator of the book or movie had his/her reasons.

    I just feel if we try to be uber-sensitive to every single issue, every single time, yes, even if it's a biggie like rape (and that IS a biggie), when we're being creative, anyway, we choke the life out of and create fear of being creative...and I feel that's kind of sad.

    If you want to make a real difference as regards sexual abuse then there are loads of ways to do that, via loads of organizations (which could use some great pro bono writing, trust me!), with awareness-raising, creating a blog and so on. I don't know that you are necessarily going to do that in a work of fiction. It's the rare writer, IMO, who accomplishes both those things. Spreading awareness is different from writing fiction with an abuse sub-plot that only a small percentage of the world is going to read anyway.

    *Now.* Are you trying to promote an idea that sexual abuse victims secretly wanted the abuse, or something of that caliber? Then yes, I personally feel that could be dangerous. Note the I personally in that sentence. I don't know that. I don't know if people will read that intimation and just collectively blow it off and toss the book in the garbage. Because that's possible too. But if you're trying to be at least minimally sensitive then yes, that sort of thing is something to avoid; find a different plot device for why your character does what she does and wants what she wants. (Or he, sorry.) And if you just want to increase your chances of good karma and/or if you don't wish to promote rape culture then obviously you'll want to be avoiding anything that, well, bad.

    But do you owe the world a sensitive, politically correct, researched, science and evidence-backed, developed 30-year healing process to an abuse victim in a work of fiction? Especially if that would all be great mounds of text that not only don't propel your plot but actually detract from the story, create clutter, and bore the reader into handing the book, unfinished, over to Goodwill? No.

    Just my thoughts.
    Last edited by CaliforniaMelanie; 11-12-2017 at 12:19 AM.

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