Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Insecure Writers Support Group 2 March 2022: The Effect of PC Culture on Writing


Image by Prettysleepy from Pixabay
"The Lord is testing me!"

Have you ever been conflicted about writing a story or adding a scene to a story? How did you decide to write it or not?

Before I get to the question, some of you may be saying "hey, Ornery Owl changed blogs again!" 

Yes, I did. I want to return the Naughty Netherworld Press blog to be a place for sharing and promoting my stories and keep the rants here at the Crazy Cheerleading Camp. Everyone is welcome at the Camp, but be forewarned that I cuss a lot and the things I talk about aren't always pretty. I'm not going to censor my shit here. Now you know and knowing is half the battle.

Swearing is not only possible but likely in this post, so if you prefer a less profane experience, the back arrow is your friend.

I've mentioned previously that back in 2007 I published an ill-advised book that revealed way too much about me and my thoughts on a certain incident that happened in the early 1990s. It was a fictionalized version of the situation in question, but the backlash I received made me almost stop writing for good. There was one death threat in my email, a fair bit of cyberbullying, and one "fan" who I can't call a stalker but I allowed her to get too close to me to my detriment. I was lonely and desperate for a friend. I have since learned that cool detachment is the best approach to "fans."

In recent times, we've seen the advent of something called "sensitivity readers." My rule for my own writing is "don't be a dick," and when editing my work I will ask myself "does this part of the story make me sound like a complete trash fire?" If it does, I change it up. 

Note that this is in reference only to the way my personal beliefs may be perceived. Odious characters are necessary, at least in grittier fiction. 

I wrote a story for a writing challenge that included a really awful fellow, an alcoholic veteran who referred to his Latina wife as a "dumb beaner," verbally abused his terminally ill stepmother, and liked his female conquests too young. He pervs on his stepdaughter. When a Middle Eastern family moves in across the way, he refers to them using unflattering slurs. The family consists of an elderly aunt, an adult nephew around 40 years old, and the nephew's thirteen-year-old daughter.

The daughter behaves in a seductive manner and the antagonist suggests that he ought to come over and keep her company while her father and great-aunt are off working at the renaissance fair. The young lady turns out to be an ancient vampire summoned by the antagonist's stepmother to rid the world of his presence so the stepmother can depart peacefully knowing that her granddaughter will be safe. The nephew is actually the outer god Nyarlathotep and his "aunt" is his daughter. 

There were never any graphic descriptions of the antagonist's behavior towards his stepdaughter and he never engaged in any sort of sex acts with the vampire in her teenage girl form. He didn't engage in sex acts with the vampire in her true form either, because she made a meal out of him. 

The antagonist uses objectionable language. He is an objectionable person. People like him exist. I have had the misfortune of knowing people like him. I really don't think that I should have to explain that I find him objectionable. I would think that the vampire tearing his throat out at the end of the story would make that obvious. However, I've concluded that I'm going to need to write a caveat at the beginning of the story when I self-publish it, and I do intend to self-publish it.

Reedsy removed my story from the roster for objectionable content. However, they published a story with graphic descriptions of a man spying on a woman masturbating using a high-tech dildo. I did not have any objection to them publishing said story. It was humorous in its way and obviously intended for an adult audience. However, I do have a problem with a society that thinks a man perving on a woman during a private moment is okay but a realistic depiction of an odious character who uses racist slurs and treats women and girls as slaves and sex objects is unacceptable.

Authors should consider their content. I dislike gratuitous gore. I despise the fact that far too many authors use larger people as scapegoats and metaphors for laziness almost without thinking about it. Reading anything as a big person is a minefield because a book I'm enjoying may suddenly become something I don't want to finish. I gave a book by a well-known author a one-star rating because of their unnecessary disdain for a large older lady with multiple pet cats.

The scene wasn't written depicting the detective talking to the woman as disdainful, it was written describing the woman as having "two chins and working on a third" and using similar disparaging descriptions throughout the scene. The author herself clearly disliked larger people, believing that they do nothing but sit around eating all the time and deserve to end up alone with only animals for companions.

Personally, I give the side-eye to anyone who uses the "crazy cat lady" trope. It reveals more about the person using it than it does about the people they are looking down on. The "crazy cat lady" is a lonely person mistreated by her fellow humans. Anyone who thinks it's cool to ridicule such a person needs to have a long, hard look for their soul because they've clearly lost it. The world is full of crappy people and I've always enjoyed stories where such people get their comeuppance. 

I try to learn from my own mistakes. In the past, I've written autistic characters into my stories, and looking back on those stories I find my descriptions inadvertently condescending. I understand now that autism is on a spectrum. If I were to write an autistic character into a story today, I would be careful to avoid the stereotypes that I previously included. 

There are some topics that I avoid altogether because I have no desire to open a can of worms. However, if an odious character pops into the mix, I will not sanitize them. I'll either redeem them or kill them off, often brutally at the hands of an ancient vampire from beyond the stars or something similar.

~Ornery Owl Has Spoken~

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The Icky, Sticky, Nit-Picky Legalese If You Please (Or Don't Please)

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  1. Since society frowns on us doing in nasty people in real life it is rather a 'satisfaction' (not the right word?) to be able to give them their just desserts in a fictional world. And you are right about using 'tropes' like the cat lady. There I think writers are called on to use their imagination to come up with better descriptions or ways of getting the character across and not be lazy with using common 'visions'.

  2. It's tricky knowing what to put out and what will get a reaction these days. I'm typically not sensitive, but read a book that was full of Native American slurs, and it was simply too much. It was set in an era where everyone was doing it, so it was a constant onslaught throughout the book. It did get to me, as these were things I'd been on the receiving end of throughout my life, and it was painful/hurtful to read. I didn't cancel anybody, lol, and I haven't publicly torn apart that author or anything, but it was the first I reacted to something like that so negatively, which was eye opening for me, as someone who writes varying levels of horror and has had to defend some choices in the past or chosen not to write something I thought would be hurtful. I will say that it sounds satisfying to see a bigot get eaten. I hope it was painful. ;)

    1. I still have a book from my childhood that was written in the 1940s. The young (white) heroine makes friends with a Latina girl. At one point the heroine thinks about how pretty her friend's dress is and what a shame it is that her legs are "so dark." I like the rest of the story but that part bothered me even as a child.

  3. Yeah, that might need a disclaimer. But not fair they pulled yours while letting another story with a questionable act go through.


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