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Old 01-11-2013, 07:37 AM   #1
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What is truly offensive?

Hello everyone,I'm new here,just found out about this awesome site in my pursuit for information regarding a novel I've just finished(after 6 years,yeah I know,but I had my studies to focus on) and I've seem to have come across a problem.
First of all,I can't even place my novel in a cathegory as it is a psychological fictional thriller(the fiction part barely noticeable,but still).The second problem is that my MC does not believe in God,and he constantly reminds everyone else of what little he cares about all religions.Could this be a problem?Is it considered offensive?Furthermore the MC tends to...kill in gruesome ways,even scenes including children,pregnant women,and so forth.Is that offensive?Come to think of it,the MC permanently questions,to say the least everything around him,from society to ethics,could that be considered ofensive?The fact that he instigates to violence?I dearly hope that someone could enlighten me.Thank you and I must say absolutewrite is the bomb :P
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Old 01-11-2013, 07:44 AM   #2
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There is no way to say how offensive or otherwise a work is based on some general characteristics. both of those things could be done in a way that will highly offend many people, or in a way that would bother very few people (in the target audience).
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Old 01-11-2013, 07:45 AM   #3
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The MC does not always have to be the good guy, look at Ted Bundy...
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Old 01-11-2013, 07:52 AM   #4
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I think your problem here is more that it may be difficult for readers to sympathize with this MC. I can't think of anything that is too offensive to put in a book, as long as it's appropriate for the genre and handled well.

I should hope that not believing in God wouldn't be considered "offensive," unless you were hoping to market this as a religious book. But him talking about his dislike for religion all the time could make him seem annoying or like a jerk. At worst, it could seem like his atheism is connected to his gruesome and antisocial behavior, which, as a nonbeliever, isn't a message I would appreciate coming across in a book.

If this guy comes across as unlikable, that's not offensive, but it's going to make a lot of readers dislike him. So if he's supposed to be the protagonist, that could be an issue.
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Old 01-11-2013, 07:53 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by MD.Cristian View Post
Hello everyone,I'm new here,just found out about this awesome site in my pursuit for information regarding a novel I've just finished(after 6 years,yeah I know,but I had my studies to focus on) and I've seem to have come across a problem.
First of all,I can't even place my novel in a cathegory as it is a psychological fictional thriller(the fiction part barely noticeable,but still).The second problem is that my MC does not believe in God,and he constantly reminds everyone else of what little he cares about all religions.Could this be a problem?Is it considered offensive?Furthermore the MC tends to...kill in gruesome ways,even scenes including children,pregnant women,and so forth.Is that offensive?Come to think of it,the MC permanently questions,to say the least everything around him,from society to ethics,could that be considered ofensive?The fact that he instigates to violence?I dearly hope that someone could enlighten me.Thank you and I must say absolutewrite is the bomb :P
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Your would categorize your novel as a psychological thriller and query to agents who handle thrillers.

Your main character is who he is, who you have created. As for the details of his crimes, that would depend upon the person. Heavy violence does not bother some people, other people it does.
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Old 01-11-2013, 07:56 AM   #6
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I'm with thoth about a non-charismatic character =/= a bad one. (Hell, half my characters are that way)

But I do see a problem with a character constantly speaking out about something. That's preaching, even if its not for a religion and against it. And it might turn a reader off. I'm not for nor against religions, but a character bitching about religions would turn me away immediately--that sounds more like a teenager complaining about the world, rather than a character acting in a adult fashion.

On the front about his actions, as in killing and such, the world isn't a perfect place so don't try to hold back the grit. But if you can, you might want to skate around issues. You can show the badness of this world, in a way that it makes people reflect on what is going on, but like I said before, if you don't have to (nor see a point in doing it) why go so far?

For a reader to continue reading a non-charismatic character, they need reason for his actions. If he's killing children, there needs to be a reason (doesn't have to be good, but it does have to reflect his personal morals and make some sense, or otherwise you broadcast him as insane), and that there is some redeemable quality to him (as if there is a reason why he does this, or maybe he can be saved, or maybe he can change from it).
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Old 01-11-2013, 08:04 AM   #7
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Well,frankly I don't care how offensive it really is as long as it's publishable,as in it's not considered instigation to violence or anarchy of any sort,my MC makes Ted Bundy look like a saint.
That's my biggest concern...the entire novel revolves around a character that defies all of society's values,all common good sense,a character that constantly cryticizes,kills and shows no emotion.
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Old 01-11-2013, 08:10 AM   #8
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I'm with thoth about a non-charismatic character =/= a bad one. (Hell, half my characters are that way)

But I do see a problem with a character constantly speaking out about something. That's preaching, even if its not for a religion and against it. And it might turn a reader off. I'm not for nor against religions, but a character bitching about religions would turn me away immediately--that sounds more like a teenager complaining about the world, rather than a character acting in a adult fashion.

On the front about his actions, as in killing and such, the world isn't a perfect place so don't try to hold back the grit. But if you can, you might want to skate around issues. You can show the badness of this world, in a way that it makes people reflect on what is going on, but like I said before, if you don't have to (nor see a point in doing it) why go so far?

For a reader to continue reading a non-charismatic character, they need reason for his actions. If he's killing children, there needs to be a reason (doesn't have to be good, but it does have to reflect his personal morals and make some sense, or otherwise you broadcast him as insane), and that there is some redeemable quality to him (as if there is a reason why he does this, or maybe he can be saved, or maybe he can change from it).
Well,I do understand your point,but the entire novel revolves around a man preaching to another ,also my MC doesn't bitch about it,he only shares his opinion,refraining himself from mocking or insulting others for their beliefs,as for the skating around part...I can't really skip on the gore,as it is a major part of the story.
My MC is quite chrismatic,despite his numerous flaws,which is ironic.
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Old 01-11-2013, 08:17 AM   #9
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Well,I do understand your point,but the entire novel revolves around a man preaching to another ,also my MC doesn't bitch about it,he only shares his opinion,refraining himself from mocking or insulting others for their beliefs,as for the skating around part...I can't really skip on the gore,as it is a major part of the story.
My MC is quite chrismatic,despite his numerous flaws,which is ironic.
As long as you make it seem like you're not preaching to the reader. "These are my views and you should see them this way." Because that's argumentative and no one wants to read something like that. If there is a reflecting view point, that's all I can wish for.

Flaws make a character great, it doesn't mean they are non-charismatic.
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Old 01-11-2013, 08:18 AM   #10
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A character who detests religion and engages in gruesome murders... That's fine. There are precedents - watch the Z do Caixo (Coffin Joe) series of films.
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Old 01-11-2013, 08:37 AM   #11
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Just wanted to tell you that you shouldn't call it a psychological fiction thriller. Including the word fiction in there makes it look like you don't know anything about categorizing your work. Since it is a psychological thriller, it is by definition fiction, as psychological thrillers are a type of fiction.

About whether it's too offensive, that depends largely on the individual reader. I think your premise and character will not sit well with some readers, but others might love it. The key thing is telling the story you want to tell in the best way possible. Don't tone down your story if that doesn't stay true to what you want.
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Old 01-11-2013, 08:54 AM   #12
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While I agree that no two people are going to be offended by the same things at all times, there are some general guidelines to keep in mind. There's a fine line between antihero and villain, so if you expect me to be rooting for the main character, I would try to stay as firmly on one side as possible.

If the main character of the story is meant to be the hero, don't have him beat up his wife, for instance (or murder pregnant women, for that matter). A lot has been said and written on the topic of "flawed" heroes, and I think that's a good thing. It's easy to get carried away, though, to the point where the "flawed" part becomes more important than the "hero" part. A major appeal of a story is to see a character develop and progress as the plot progresses, but if he just becomes more and more of a jerk, I'll probably stop reading. But the views and opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily represent, yada yada, you know the rest.

Personally, one of the few things I find truly offensive are missing spaces after punctuation marks, but hey...
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Old 01-11-2013, 09:20 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by rwm4768 View Post
Just wanted to tell you that you shouldn't call it a psychological fiction thriller. Including the word fiction in there makes it look like you don't know anything about categorizing your work. Since it is a psychological thriller, it is by definition fiction, as psychological thrillers are a type of fiction.

About whether it's too offensive, that depends largely on the individual reader. I think your premise and character will not sit well with some readers, but others might love it. The key thing is telling the story you want to tell in the best way possible. Don't tone down your story if that doesn't stay true to what you want.
Yes,you are right,I know nothing of categorizing writing into types.
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Old 01-11-2013, 09:25 AM   #14
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While I agree that no two people are going to be offended by the same things at all times, there are some general guidelines to keep in mind. There's a fine line between antihero and villain, so if you expect me to be rooting for the main character, I would try to stay as firmly on one side as possible.

If the main character of the story is meant to be the hero, don't have him beat up his wife, for instance (or murder pregnant women, for that matter). A lot has been said and written on the topic of "flawed" heroes, and I think that's a good thing. It's easy to get carried away, though, to the point where the "flawed" part becomes more important than the "hero" part. A major appeal of a story is to see a character develop and progress as the plot progresses, but if he just becomes more and more of a jerk, I'll probably stop reading. But the views and opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily represent, yada yada, you know the rest.

Personally, one of the few things I find truly offensive are missing spaces after punctuation marks, but hey...
What if the MC is neither villain or hero?What if my intention is for the reader to hate the MC because it's impossible to understand or identify yourself with him?Afterwards as the story progress to feel nothing in regard to the MC,besides curiosity of the outcome?Frankly,I think my Mc is rather linear for the most part of the novel.
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Old 01-11-2013, 09:26 AM   #15
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In general, nothing is too offensive. Bret Easton Ellis has not only been published, he's been successful.

Also, not for nothing, but no one, but no one, makes Ted Bundy look like a saint.
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Old 01-11-2013, 09:37 AM   #16
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What if the MC is neither villain or hero?What if my intention is for the reader to hate the MC because it's impossible to understand or identify yourself with him?
That's not a terrible idea, I think, and it has been done effectively before (see Apt Pupil). It's not the type of thing I generally like in longer books, but for a novella or a short novel I may be interested. No matter what I say, it's going to be a value judgement from my point of view only, so don't let me hamper your creativity.
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Old 01-11-2013, 09:50 AM   #17
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In general, nothing is too offensive. Bret Easton Ellis has not only been published, he's been successful.

Also, not for nothing, but no one, but no one, makes Ted Bundy look like a saint.
I guess you have a point because Ted Bundy actually existed.
I'm worried because all the evil murdering MCs in every decent book do it because they are psycopaths or proffesional assasins(and most authors use this because it's unquestionable and can't be judged)while my character does it because he is sane.Anyway I'm going in for a ten hour session of dialogue and detail enhancing Thank you for your imputs,fellow writers.
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Old 01-11-2013, 09:52 AM   #18
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What if the MC is neither villain or hero?What if my intention is for the reader to hate the MC because it's impossible to understand or identify yourself with him?Afterwards as the story progress to feel nothing in regard to the MC,besides curiosity of the outcome?Frankly,I think my Mc is rather linear for the most part of the novel.
I think this is doable, and it's definitely possible to write a novel with a protagonist who does horrible thing. The protagonist doesn't have to be a "hero" in the usual sense of the word. There have been other novels with protagonists who are murderers.

The challenge, though, is writing them in a such a way that the target audience will be willing to devote several hours to reading about them. If a character's negative traits are too overbearing, some readers may be turned off by that because it can be frustrating to read. That can be a separate issue from hating the character because they're portrayed as a horrible person. That's something to keep in mind when deciding how much you have him lecture and preach at people, for example.
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Old 01-11-2013, 10:38 AM   #19
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I think this is doable, and it's definitely possible to write a novel with a protagonist who does horrible thing. The protagonist doesn't have to be a "hero" in the usual sense of the word. There have been other novels with protagonists who are murderers.

The challenge, though, is writing them in a such a way that the target audience will be willing to devote several hours to reading about them. If a character's negative traits are too overbearing, some readers may be turned off by that because it can be frustrating to read. That can be a separate issue from hating the character because they're portrayed as a horrible person. That's something to keep in mind when deciding how much you have him lecture and preach at people, for example.
Whenever a MC's trait becomes too overbearing,you need to keep the reader intersted,same goes for preaching or any other thing he does excessively and my MC sure does preach alot...but I have a technique to counter this by using another character that identifies with the reader on a conscience level,that questions and calls out the MC for his arrogance and so forth.The dificulty lies in not allowing the reader to identify himself with the secondary character too much,therefore shiffting his focus from the MC and the main storyline,which is by far the most important.I'm still struggling with that by making the secondary character highly ambiguous.I think it's all about guiding the reader to the situation,not to the characters...but it's very difficult.
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Old 01-11-2013, 10:44 AM   #20
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I guess you have a point because Ted Bundy actually existed.
I'm worried because all the evil murdering MCs in every decent book do it because they are psycopaths or proffesional assasins(and most authors use this because it's unquestionable and can't be judged)while my character does it because he is sane.Anyway I'm going in for a ten hour session of dialogue and detail enhancing Thank you for your imputs,fellow writers.
Well, I meant it because of what Bundy did. He was a brutal, sick, twisted fucker.

I don't know quite how you're defining sane vs. anything else really (Bundy, for instance, was certainly sane), but I'm pretty sure your character doesn't kill people *because* he's sane.
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Old 01-11-2013, 11:09 AM   #21
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Well, I meant it because of what Bundy did. He was a brutal, sick, twisted fucker.

I don't know quite how you're defining sane vs. anything else really (Bundy, for instance, was certainly sane), but I'm pretty sure your character doesn't kill people *because* he's sane.
Ted Bundy was the perfect example of a sociopath with a well-constructed mask of sanity.That is the apex of insanity,to be such a psycopath that you are actually able to imitate sanity to the very last detail.Even career psychiatrists can be fooled by such individuals.Trust me I have been researching killers for my book for a long period of time,besides if you eat people,you can't be sane.Also,all the killers in history considered themselves to be sane.That's the paradoxal part of insanity.
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Old 01-11-2013, 11:32 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by MD.Cristian View Post
Ted Bundy was the perfect example of a sociopath with a well-constructed mask of sanity.That is the apex of insanity,to be such a psycopath that you are actually able to imitate sanity to the very last detail.Even career psychiatrists can be fooled by such individuals.Trust me I have been researching killers for my book for a long period of time,besides if you eat people,you can't be sane.Also,all the killers in history considered themselves to be sane.That's the paradoxal part of insanity.
... Insanity/sanity is a legal term, not a psychological one. He was sane because he was judged to be sane. Psychological professionals testifying toward Bundy's sanity weren't in any way 'fooled.'

I don't know what you mean by "if you eat people you can't be sane" but I don't think there's an 'if you... you cannot be' that'd really fit any situation.

As to that particular situation, I don't know of anything that indicated he was not sane.

Whether or which psychological disorders he may have had is a different thing.

Also, no, "all the killers in history" didn't think themselves sane. First, we're not talking about a homogenous group, in any way, shape or form. Second, plenty have fought to be recognized as insane.
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Old 01-11-2013, 11:52 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by cornflake View Post
... Insanity/sanity is a legal term, not a psychological one. He was sane because he was judged to be sane. Psychological professionals testifying toward Bundy's sanity weren't in any way 'fooled.'

I don't know what you mean by "if you eat people you can't be sane" but I don't think there's an 'if you... you cannot be' that'd really fit any situation.

As to that particular situation, I don't know of anything that indicated he was not sane.

Whether or which psychological disorders he may have had is a different thing.

Also, no, "all the killers in history" didn't think themselves sane. First, we're not talking about a homogenous group, in any way, shape or form. Second, plenty have fought to be recognized as insane.
I like your arguments.Sanity is not an exclusive legal term,it can be aplied in psychology.Ted Bundy was considered sane because he knew the difference between good and evil,nobody was really interested,as with all murdering maniacs,to what extend was he sane.The prosecution was interested with convicting him...not analyzing him.
The ''if you...you cannot be'' is one of my common mistakes (english is not my first language).
There were many signs that indicated he was a sociopath,more specifically ASPD(antisocial personality disorder) as he clearly showed three of the necesary behaiviour anormalities that characterize the the personality disorder.Once ASPD is certain,further investigations are necesary to establish how affected the indivual iss.
Many psychological disorders affect judgement to some extent.
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Old 01-11-2013, 01:03 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by MD.Cristian View Post
That's my biggest concern...the entire novel revolves around a character that defies all of society's values,all common good sense,a character that constantly cryticizes,kills and shows no emotion.
How is this character remotely sane? We're a cooperative, social species. We're able to survive as a species because we form societies and adhere to social rules and values that keep things functioning in a relatively smooth manner.

A person who not only defies those values, but is also so emotionally numb, detached, and lacking in empathy that they repeatedly perpetrate horrific torture on fellow humans fits the criteria for a variety mental illnesses and personality disorders. It doesn't sound like he's benefiting from the gore in any tangible way (like the guys running blood diamond operations for example), aside from just the fun of it?
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Old 01-11-2013, 01:06 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MD.Cristian View Post
Ted Bundy was the perfect example of a sociopath with a well-constructed mask of sanity.That is the apex of insanity,to be such a psycopath that you are actually able to imitate sanity to the very last detail.Even career psychiatrists can be fooled by such individuals.Trust me I have been researching killers for my book for a long period of time,besides if you eat people,you can't be sane.Also,all the killers in history considered themselves to be sane.That's the paradoxal part of insanity.
Assuming this is all true, how are you going to communicate to your readers the sanity of your MC? If he is a killer who considers himself sane, like 'all the killers in history', I'm not sure how you're going to be able to differentiate him. What part of his behaviour will demonstrate that he is 'actually' sane, and not just 'perceived as sane'?
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