Should we stifle our characters/books in case we offend

 

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More and more I am seeing people say that they are getting bad reviews because they didn’t warn the reader of something that may potentially offend them. A love story that contains an affair or anything that someone may find controversial.

What is a book?

A story that is either a reflection on real life or a trip into a fantasy world which has no connection to reality. We will never be able to write 100% to please every reader and what works for one person will rub raw on another.

I have a love story that is bouncing back between me and my editor at the moment and she, rightly so, has pointed out some comments that my characters have made or thought that could be seen as offensive. I have chosen to leave them in, however, because I believe this to be a reflection on the time that it is written, the characters and the thought processes of some men in this country. I have no wish to offend anyone but if I start to second guess everything that my characters say then I might as well give up writing now. I will put a warning at the front to make it clear that this book is meant in no way to offend.

I strongly believe that we need to write the story in the way that it demands to be written and allow the character to have their foibles, bad habits, thoughts that may not be politically correct because this is real. Not everyone in life thinks in the same way.

This does not mean that I agree with these thoughts or that should I hear them being expressed in real life in a manner that is aimed to harm someone that I wouldn’t step in and say something.

Books are full of situations that are unacceptable in real life: murder, rape and much more so lets put this back into perspective. I had an English teacher once who told us that if we needed to use swear words in our writing then we should. If they’re not needed then leave them out. I think this is true for anything, if you feel that what you have written is in keeping with your story/character and the time they live in then use it, if not then don’t.

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9 thoughts on “Should we stifle our characters/books in case we offend

  1. How true, stick to what you want in your book, we can’t change the past or have only characters who are ‘nice’ and politically correct. It is hard to have characters spew words that make we writers cringe, but strange we don’t mind our tv programes and books filled with violent murderers as long as no one says anything offensive!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Totally agree Maria books would not be worth reading if we stuck to old fashioned ways, trying not to offend. Life is full of actions and words of people that are controversial, upsetting or offensive. If the story needs it use it. Putting a warning in the book or even on the back after the blurb is very sensible. I LOVE your stories and look forward to your next release.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Reblogged this on Rose English UK and commented:
    NO we totally should not stifle our characters/books in case we offend. If a story needs a character to be offensive then so be it. Putting a warning in the book or a short warning with the blurb is very sensible then it is the choice of the reader to buy it or not.

    Check out the rest of this blog by the lovely Maria Gibbs.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Some of the most memorable and best drawn characters of literature would be appalling human beings. Some of the most thought-provoking plot-lines would be heinous in reality…but they do make us think and consider ourselves, our actions and reactions in relation to them. Readers have a choice in what they buy and read… a book with a bloody knife on the cover will undoubtedly contain violence. A steamy image suggests the book may contain sex. The blurb tends to be sufficient warning if a little common sense is used.

    If characters were all saccharine angels, what on earth could we write about?

    What a character does or says does not necessarily echo the views of the writer… it may in fact show their disgust at hat aspect of human behaviour. If writers have to smooth the corners of every character and every speech and if readers need to be protected from fiction, we have come to a pretty poor pass.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m not even sure a warning in the blurb or in the book is necessary or appropriate. Authors should not have to warn readers that they might come across something unpleasant in the course of their reading. If they are easily offended, or take something too literally, that’s their problem, not the author’s.

    Liked by 1 person

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