Friday, September 18, 2015

PC writing

My publisher once had me change rusty, "10-year old Toyota" to "10-year rusty car" because they were afraid Toyota would sue despite the fact that any 10-year old car in New England would probably have rust because of the salt on the roads during the winter.

As writers we know is more powerful to be specific in details. Rose is better than flower, cabbage says something different from vegetable, Heartbeak Hotel gives  a clearer image than song, etc.

Fear of law suits and not wanting to offend can weaken our writing. Sadly, it is not just the US facing the problem.

This week in Paris Match there was an interview with very successful writer Jean-Cristophe GRANGE. He was complaining about his editors wanting him to change certain phrases. He was referring to a character who used the word "Les négros."

"Les éditeurs me font souvent retirer ce qui n'est pas politiquement correct Quelle oppression! Mais Morvan ne peut pas s'exprimer comme on écrit. Imagnez que je lui fasse dire 'les personnes de couleur," ça ne collerait pas."

The editors often make me remove what is not politically correct. What oppression! Imagine Morvan can not speak as we write. Imagine I make him say 'persons of color,' it does not stick.

Our written words can be hamstrung by being too careful. 

I don't recommend insulting any group just to insult, but reality should be allowed to creep in. 

If  a very conservative homelander (American living in the US and I'm not sure that term is PC)  described me as a Feminist Socialist, it might be considered a slur in his mind. If it came from Gloria Steinem or Bernie Sanders it could be considered a compliment. But in between those two extremes there is one thing that it is important. IT IS A TRUE description of parts of my character.

If I were writing in the point of view of an angry black woman in one of the Boston ghettos and she said to her brother, "Get your black nigger ass over here" that would be in character but not PC. If I had her say "Would you please come over here, my lovely brother" it wouldn't ring true unless I'd done some serious preliminary work. If I had an upper white woman in the south say"Get your black nigger ass over here" to her black gardener, that wouldn't ring true either unless I had shown her to have a crude streak. 

There are times we need to be raw, crude, insulting as part of our character development in fiction. And although I believe we catch more flies with honey (I never knew why we wanted to catch flies) than with vinegar, we also need vinegar in a good salad dressing. 

Trying to make our writing to PC can make it bland and worse unbelivable. 

As someone once said, if you are totally PC, a mailman would be a personperson who delivers letters.




1 comment:

Ginger Dawn Harman said...

Wow, I thought it was only in the United States. I really think we have made things too politically correct! Great Post! Thank you for sharing!