T … is for taboos

T[1] is for taboos. Nothing is taboo to a writer these days, or so you might think, but I would disagree.

I’d like to put that statement in perspective before we get into the body of this post.

I was a soldier for 23 years, and the first 7 of those, I was single. To say I lived a colourful life would be a massive understatement. More on that later, but please remember that this is a guide, based on my opinion.

Which areas are possible taboos?

There will be more, but there are areas where I would tread carefully. They include: rape, child abuse, torture, the disabled, the elderly, religion, poverty, addiction, racism, alcoholism, bestiality, gratuitous violence, and successful criminality (crime paying is not a good theme).

I know, I know. There will be some of you asking what is left?. I’m not saying we shouldn’t include or describe any of these things in our writing. I use several of them in my novel, ‘Beyond The Law’, but I don’t glorify any of them. Some modern writers can write a rape or domestic abuse scene, but it’s not done in a style that sounds gratuitous – it is done to fit in with the style and the genre of the book.

The best way I can think of describing the use of a taboo subject is to take care with your portrayal. It would be wrong to suggest that these themes or topics don’t exist, because they do, but it’s how they are used in writing that can make them work without being offensive or degrading.

Is there a simple guide?

I believe that there is. My own method is to use my own writer’s conscience.

What is my writer’s conscience?

My personal writer’s conscience is what I’m left with when I filter out the extremes of social conscience. There are many out there in our world who take political correctness to an unbelievable level. I’m talking about racism, sexism, sexuality, vulgarity, etc. When I write about such things, it’s not my opinion that is voiced; it is the opinion or voice of the character. Even so, I don’t use my characters as a cover for abuse of any sort.

If I wouldn’t like to read it; I don’t write it.

How do we recognise personal taboos?

If I’m reading horror, I want to be so terrified that I don’t want to continue reading in a dark room, with only a table lamp on.

If I’m reading erotica, I want to be aroused, and might prefer to be reading in a dark room with only a table lamp … (Yes, I know, too much information). lol

If I’m reading any story and I find it distasteful or the content is simply for the writer’s gratification, I stop reading it. This has happened more than once for me. Two things I don’t like are: bad writing, and stories written for those with morbid tastes.

That is how I recognise personal taboos, and how I’ve developed my writer’s conscience. I hope it hasn’t been too boring a journey today. As I said at the introduction; I’m not, and never have been a prude, but I do still have standards.

There was a hint at the introduction that I would say more about the colourful lifestyle I enjoyed before marrying. One of my next novels is, ‘A Life of Choice’, which is fact-based fiction. I’ve been working on it for several years, but I will aim to complete it this year. It will of course be publicised right here.

Thank you as always for your patronage, and I look forward to any comments, which I will of course reply to. I’ll be back tomorrow with ‘U’.

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