Political correctness has taken over, hasn’t it? It seems that almost anything can offend someone, so we make sure everything is gender neutral, religiously neutral, racially neutral, and so on. We don’t want to offend anyone, do we? But what about in literature? Should we be PC?
Question 42: Does political correctness have a place in your writing?
H. Anthe Davis
I’m not sure what this means. I don’t write Earth cultures, so the societies are different. People fight about different things. I do keep an eye out for story-elements that could be construed as racist/sexist from our perspective, but my personal opinion is that most of those problems, in fiction, come from treating the characters as props instead of people. Since I try to fully flesh out my characters and their cultures, no matter how minor, I think it goes some way toward heading off those complaints. Though I suppose there is one thing I do: I avoid derogatory terms for women or femininity unless they’re really necessary, because those just piss me off.
Paul B. Spence
Obviously you haven’t read my writing. J No, I don’t tend to be particularly politically correct, which is not to say I’m offensive for the sake of being offensive. I try to make sure I’m only offending the people I want to offend.
Don’t get me started on this! I equate political correctness with censorship. My mama always told me there was a way to state your opinion without it being a personal attack. And she’s right. The first amendment guarantees you the right to BE offended. My high school government teacher was a brilliant woman. She told us repeatedly she would rather racists, and others, have the right to say what they want. That way you knew who they are.
In writing, we have to be true to our characters. People are not perfect and life is messy. We need to remember that when we write. It’s hard. I know I have a little voice that creeps up and yells, “Don’t write that! Your mama won’t like it.” At that point I have to re-evaluate what I’ve written and the character, to make sure that it’s still true to the story and character.
I’m not saying you should run out and write hate filled books and call it literature. But at the same time, there is a way to write about difficult or unpopular ideas.
It depends on the time period I’m writing. If I’m writing current material then political correctness has it’s place. I’ve written a few pieces where political correctness went out the window simply because my characters weren’t politically correct. I tend to be a PC person so my characters usually are, also. Writing non-PC is tough for me if I’m writing in the current time period.
I try to portray my characters as honestly as possible. Some of them aren’t very politically correct. Some of them are. It’s not something that I give much thought to when shaping a story.
Tracey Lynn Tobin
Yes and no. I do make a conscious effort to avoid the kinds of things that tend to offend people and get them all riled up. However, I don’t hold back if I feel the story warrants it. So, for instance, in “Nowhere to Hide” there is a fair bit of profane language, because I felt that it would be ridiculously unlikely that everyone would remain prim and proper in the face of flesh-eating undead monsters. Above all else a writer has to make their story feel like it could really happen, to get their reader to fall deep into the world, and if you avoid political incorrectness it could very well be at the cost of making your characters and your story feel unrealistic.
Gregory S. Close
No. Although delivering a sensible and honest diversity in my writing to engage the broadest possible base of readers does have a place. I work to make sure that I represent different genders, outlooks, sensibilities, orientations etc. in a fair and honest way, both to the character and the delivery of story.
For example, I would never place a gay character into a story just to check off a “gay” box, but I certainly try to be aware that gay people exist, and that when creating a character it’s a realistic question to ask – is this character gay? If the character is gay, how does that affect the character’s place in the story, or society, or with other characters? The same question should be asked of other characteristics – should the character be black or white, male or female, etc. Star Wars fan or Star Trek, that sort of thing.
Short answer: I don’t really care about being politically correct, but I do want to be fair. (I guess I should have just led with that)!
No. I don’t think about political correctness at all. The only correctness I think about is how “correct” is the story and my story telling.
Linda G. Hill
I have to say yes. And no. If I’m narrating something in a novel I try to stay as unoffensive as possible. My characters on the other hand are bound to say anything that’s in their nature to say. I have very little control over them – if I try to control them it’s obvious, and my writing becomes boring to read.
D. T. Nova
That depends very much on what is meant by the term. Many things which I have seen some people denounce as “political correctness” were almost certainly not included for any such reason. I strongly suspect that, for example, the diverse relationships in my first novel would fall into that category.
I have said before that I do intentionally include characters who represent groups that I consider to be underrepresented.
However, I don’t intentionally pander to anything I don’t agree with. If I think a belief or practice is very harmful, I will not portray it without depicting the harm.
S. R. Carrillo
In general, my feelings toward actual political correctness are a little conflicted. What people consider PC is usually just an attempt at legitimate correctness, maybe not executed the best. So, sure. I guess you could say PC is in my books, although I stay away from labeling most things at all.
Jay Dee Archer
I will only use political correctness if it’s appropriate. That is, if it’s related to government, public relations, or customer service within a novel. All other situations, I’ll keep things more realistic. In everyday life, we don’t speak politically correct in general. So why should characters in a novel behave and speak politically correct? I don’t think they should.
If I have an offensive character, whether he or she is racist, sexist, foul-mouthed, or whatever else he or she may be, they will be offensive. I will not censor my character to protect the feelings of readers. Besides, when you read my novels, I want you to be offended by an offensive character. If you get upset with a character, then I did my job well.
Keep this in mind: the attitudes and opinions of my characters do not reflect my personal attitudes or opinions.
How about you?
If you’re a writer, how much does political correctness factor into your writing? If you’re a reader, do you feel novels should be politically correct? Let us know in the comments below.