Stacy_R_Haynes's picture
Stacy_R_Haynes from North Charleston, SC is reading Coffee Break Screenwriter January 28, 2013 - 9:40pm

Hello Peeps,

How y'all doing? 

Here's something I was contemplating of late, and it's sharing time. Have any of y'all felt like you couldn't write something out of any fear of how others may respond of the material? Be the topic inspired by real life or not?

Is there any topic you'd consider taboo and wouldn't write it, or is it all fair game?  

I'm learning not to hold back from a topic, and if I don't like it, there's no law that says I have to take it further than writing it out. Also life has so many inspiring moments, and I realize it may sting sometimes, but it's not about "pinching" people. It's mainly about the humor.  

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like January 28, 2013 - 10:51pm

There are things I simply wouldn't want to write about, but it wouldn't be because they're taboo.

Carly Berg's picture
Carly Berg from USA is reading Story Prompts That Work by Carly Berg is now available at Amazon January 29, 2013 - 7:14am

I think it is a good idea to consider possible ramifications before sending anything out. Like how you would feel if your kids, your mother, your boss read it. Also, sometimes people are dumb and do not understand that "your character" and "you" are not the same person, if it's fiction. If it's non-fiction, a person you've discussed can give you  backlash ranging from anger to a lawsuit. I like using a pen name, it lets me write what I want without feeling like anyone is looking over my shoulder. However, the pen name gets to be a thin screen, because who wants to be totally anonymous and get no bragging rights at all? So now I'm thinking about using a second pen name for stories that are darker. 

Stacy_R_Haynes's picture
Stacy_R_Haynes from North Charleston, SC is reading Coffee Break Screenwriter January 30, 2013 - 7:56am

I've thought about a pen name. Not sure yet. People may have to take my stories as they read them, or not. I could expand my horizons though and take on a lot with a new identity. 

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore January 30, 2013 - 8:23am

sometimes people are dumb and do not understand that "your character" and "you" are not the same person

Christ, I got so much flak about this with my first book, because it was first-person, writtten in a deceptively-casual voice, and I used some details about my former occupations to flesh him out. And then was defending myself constantly (he was kind of an asshole) when asked about it.

As for taboo topics, nah, I think every topic is open to exploration, just depends on how much tact you have and whether you're true to the character's feelings on the matter—even if they're ugly ones—rather than purely your own. Just like with comedy, no topic is off-limits, but I'd argue that for comedians, there's indeed a "wrong way" to handle topics, because they have to be more considerate of their audiences than novelists, who can more easily hide behind characterization and artistic intent, and who aren't within striking distance of tomatoes hurled in knee-jerk reaction. We know that with free speech, just because you can say something doesn't mean you should, and you have to be prepared to deal with the consequences that come from everyone else's speechifying on the matter.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break January 30, 2013 - 8:28am

sometimes people are dumb and do not understand that "your character" and "you" are not the same person

Christ, I got so much flak about this with my first book, because it was first-person, writtten in a deceptively-casual voice, and I used some details about my former occupations to flesh him out. And then was defending myself constantly (he was kind of an asshole) when asked about it.

Same.

I had a lot of people asking me about the extent of my drug usage. 

Or they'd kind of toe it by saying, "You seem to know a lot about drugs."

Setting everything in my hometown didn't help.

OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz January 30, 2013 - 9:57am

Also, sometimes people are dumb and do not understand that "your character" and "you" are not the same person, if it's fiction.

People do have trouble with this or they're like, "well, I never thought about tying up a child in a closet and then torturing him, why did you write about that? What's wrong with you?" So not only may you have to explain that your characters aren't you, you have to justify what you've written. 

In a short story I wrote about Dionysus, my reader (a girl) was upset that he slept with 2 women. I explained that the scene wasn't "Yeah BRO, TWO CHICKS BRO" but that he was a god who was celebrated and there were allegedly orgies. It was also used to show his boredom with something that some people might find exciting. But she saw the "writer" as opposed to the "character" and I was frustrated trying to explain it and gave up.

I had a writing teacher talk about this and say that she just says, "look, these are not me. This is an example of one of many voices I can write in." 

 

As far as "fair game." I still have things in my life that  may become part of a story but I wouldn't want to publish because it's still a little too close in time and I don't want to hurt or reopen fresh wounds. I do think with the passage of time, though, you can start to get comfortable with certain things.

I've had a rocky relationship with my folks at times. I may not write about that and publish it just because there are certain cans of worms that just aren't worth opening.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters January 30, 2013 - 10:14am

What's wrong with you?" 

Get this all the time.  There's nothing to do about it except smile. 

 

OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz January 30, 2013 - 10:23am

Smile. But also the throat chop. Then when they have a little trouble breathing you say, "what's wrong with you?" 

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer January 30, 2013 - 11:37am

I was asked not to enter the front door of my childhood church by a long-time congregation member. I'm not sure if they thought the place would burn to the ground or what. You have a character chop up a few chicks and rearrange their body parts and suddenly you are a bad guy.

Actually, I am coming up on something like this pretty soon. I write for a website called The Confabulator Cafe. We have a flash fiction assignment coming up where we are supposed to fictionalize an event that really happened to us. I use my personal life quite a bit in writing, but I don't think I am okay with the idea of pointing out to people that it is based on something that actually happened to me. Anything worthy of creating a story isn't anything I want people knowing, particularly given my day job.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts January 30, 2013 - 5:38pm

Every once in a while, when I think fuck it, I need to try to be one of them hack mainstream writers, I'd consider a pen name and the only reason I could think of is because I don't have a badass, catchy name like Lee Child or Jack Ketchum.

The shit that really horrifies me just seems logically like it would be the most worthy stuff to write about and try to figure out. There may be one or two things I don't write about because I'd be hardpressed just to make them interesting enough for fiction. Not that any of the other kinda stories sell anyway, so not too worried about people thinking I'm horrible. Most people I meet already think that, with me looking like a hardrocker hillbilly goblin. I did work landscaping with a guy who'd get ragged on for having a college degree, so in that kinda culture I don't think anybody's worried about my little horror stories.

I do feel like I've been compelled lately to be more honest with the writing, some stupid idea about art. Of the 15 or so stories I've written the past 6 months or whatever, outside of the weirdo characters and the initial premise, every line has been mined kinda-sorta from real life. It's a style of storytelling I'm interested in, don't know if it's any good or not.

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore January 30, 2013 - 5:49pm

I think a major rite of passage for any serious writer is getting over and not being influenced by the embarrassment of what their real-life family and friends think about the content of their work.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like January 30, 2013 - 5:55pm

For the most part, people I know don't argue with me. I doubt the content of anything I would actually try to get published would supercede that. And people I don't already know should disagree with me all they want.

"I do not fear their siege; I welcome it."

angelic007's picture
angelic007 from Washington is reading Possessed January 30, 2013 - 6:24pm

Fuck 'em. That's all I got.

Covewriter's picture
Covewriter from Nashville, Tennessee is reading & Sons January 30, 2013 - 8:58pm

Every time I send a story to my sisters ( I'm close to them) I preface it by saying ' this didn't really happen and it s not me or you guys.' They still read in family things. I don't care any more. One time one of my sisters said ' if this gets published what would your mother in law say? ' But seriously, I don't care. At some point writing even at my level becomes art, and art trumps.

angelic007's picture
angelic007 from Washington is reading Possessed January 30, 2013 - 10:14pm

art trumps.

I whole heartedly agree. Art trumps everything. Even life.

JEFFREY GRANT BARR's picture
JEFFREY GRANT BARR from Central OR is reading Nothing but fucking Shakespeare, for the rest of my life January 31, 2013 - 1:02am

Life is serious but art is fun!

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies January 31, 2013 - 8:31am

for the most part i don't care. i just don't show my mom some of my work. but, there was a rape scene in my second novel, Disintegration that gave me a lot of trouble. it was already a dark, violent, sexual book and i worried that this one scene would define the book and me, and maybe not in a good way. in the end, i had to dig deep and embrace the character and do what made sense for HIM. and i was happy with that. i think you HAVE to take risks and put it all on the page, otherwise, why bother?

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ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig January 31, 2013 - 11:37am

I'd consider a pen name and the only reason I could think of is because I don't have a badass, catchy name like Lee Child or Jack Ketchum.

Jack Ketchum is a pen name. Hehe.

OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz January 31, 2013 - 2:17pm

i think you HAVE to take risks and put it all on the page, otherwise, why bother?

Exactly. If we wrote nice stories about nice, good looking people without any real issues who always win, we'd be writing the True Hollywood Story for John Stamos. And who wants to read that shit? 

I think a lot of it is the seeing the man behind the curtain effect. A lot of our friends and family read books or watch movies/tv with disturbing parts - but if you know the person who produces it, it's kind of like, 'i didn't realize you're crazy.' 

I'm pretty much an aethist. My parents believe in God. My first published story is Heavyweight, a guy looking to fight God. I'm already bracing for the "you don't believe in God but why are you writing about it?" conversation when they get around to reading it. But I'll just let them know I'm a fan of fiction, just like them.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters January 31, 2013 - 2:25pm

we'd be writing the True Hollywood Story for John Stamos. And who wants to read that shit?  

*deletes 70k words about john Stamos. Crys in corner*

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer January 31, 2013 - 2:46pm

Fan fic erotica doesn't count.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts January 31, 2013 - 3:53pm

Jack Ketchum is a pen name. Hehe.

I meant that that's the catchiest pen name I could think of. It even says so in the name itself. he catches 'em. Lee Child's also a pen name. All the smart crime guys use pen names.

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer January 31, 2013 - 7:21pm

I was going to use a pen name, but I was never ever able to think of anything cool that didn't sound made up.

 

Stephen_Inf's picture
Stephen_Inf from Illinois is reading Whiskey Tango Foxtrot January 31, 2013 - 8:36pm

I preface it by saying ' this didn't really happen and it s not me or you guys.' They still read in family things.

This is always a concern for me at home. I can't write about a married couple without being paranoid that the wife will think I'm writing about us.

To complicate things, my wife recently led me in an unprompted reenactment of a scene from a story I've been working on for several months, (without having read it or really knowing at all what I'm writing about).

I laughed it off at the time and told her how similar it was and that it "didn't end well for them" in the story and she wasn't all that moved by it. But I didn't specifically tell her that the husband spends a good chunk of the rest of the story fantasizing about the wife's death and cheating on her.

So that could be an issue should my wife ever read the finished product. Hopefully she gets it. At this point, I'm too deep into it to change the scene without demolishing the rest of the plot. I have no desire to tread carefully with my writing but I have to say I'm dreading the day she asks to read it.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK February 1, 2013 - 4:26am

I think everything is fair game. Write what you want, ultimately you are writing the story you want to tell. Whether other people like it or not is their problem, not yours. It's down to you and your story, your characters, as to what happens. For example, someone gets raped by your main character. Do you tell it from his point of view, or hers? Or, to avoid it being too dark, do you tell it from the point of view of the guy tied up in the next room, and what he can hear? If he can't see it, he imagines what is happening. That can become darker and more visceral, without being too graphic or offensive. It's your choice how far you push things, my opinion is nothing is off limits.

On the other subject, my mother-in-law has offered to proof-read my novel, which at present is half written. I've been working on it for about eight months, and so plan to finish the story and redraft it by the end of the year. At that point I will be looking for proof-readers and so on, and she has proofed novels before, some of which have been published. She will inevitably read it once it is published (whether traditionally or self-published) so I might as well use her expertise in the drafting process. The problem is the content and tone of my book (career criminals, sex, violence, etc.). My lady has been reading it as I go, offering thoughts on each chapter as it is churned out, so she knows what it is like. She suggested a disclaimer, so her mother won't think I'm some kind of sociopathic con artist, which I think is a very good idea. I'm going write a cover page to add to the front of the book (when it is in draft form) saying something along the lines of:

"This is a work of fiction, and does not represent the views of the author. This book contains strong language, deviant sexual scenes, violence, criminal activity, and other content which may offend, Please understand this is the character choices, not a relfection upon the author. Enjoy."