For this month’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group post, I’d like to talk about political correctness in fiction. Do you temper your writing style to accommodate other people’s insecurities or do you throw political correctness to the wind for the sake of ‘real characters’?
I take somewhat of a middle road. I want my characters to be as authentic as possible, but I’d prefer to do that without offending people. I’m sure writers’ and readers’ opinions fall across the whole spectrum on this issue, but I noticed something interesting during my beta reader stage for The Big Smoke. I had a number of beta readers from both Australia and America, and several of my Australian readers pointed out phrases that could potentially offend people’s sensitivities. None of my American readers made comments of a similar nature. Is there something in that, do you think? Does it say something about our different cultures? Are Australians more worried than Americans about political correctness in fiction?
Obviously, my sample size is quite small, so I wanted to see what you think. These are the phrases that some of my Australian readers suggested I re-word:
- Robert forced a laugh. ‘Don’t worry about Cindy. She’s a schitzo.’
- I nodded in the direction of this fat chick in super-short shorts. ‘There’s your talent. Whatchya waiting for? Make a move.’
- She named me after the opera singer. Seriously, could you get any gayer?
- I was about as coordinated as a nine-year-old girl with bow-legs.
- And that hair. That fake, slutty red hair.
I took my readers’ advice on board and changed these phrases, but I’m interested in what you think. Would you suggest re-wording any of the above to avoid potentially offending people? Or do you thinks it’s OTT to even consider these phrases potentially offensive? I’ve numbered the phrases so you can be specific if there are particular ones you’d like to refer to.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. In your comments, please identify where you live (country) so we can see if cultural influences could be at play. Looking forward to hearing what you think!
P.S. Don’t forget to support other insecure writers!