Supposed Crimes 30-day Challenge Day 21: What subjects would you never read or write about?
I don’t believe in saying things are off-limits to other writers, but there are a few things that I would not feel confident to write into my stories, without a LOT of research and interviewing and personal interaction with the situation,
I believe deeply in #ownvoices and would not attempt to write a story from the point of view of a trans, enby, or ace individual. I do have sensitivity readers for supporting characters in the story, but I would not presume the responsibility of trying to write a plot around being trans, enby, or ace.
Yes, people are people and for writing a main plot where the focus is not on the sexuality or relationships beyond friendships for the main characters — such as an adventure plot — I would write that story, still employing sensitivity readers to check any scenes where the motivations could skate a line.
I employ this same sensitivity to writing any non-white characters. If the plot is about race relationships, I probably wouldn’t tackle it until I had done a lot of research, and maybe not even then. I debated this for a subplot with Elena Tanner, one of my three main characters in the appropriately named We Three. Elena is Latina. She came to me that way. It is an essential part of her identity, along with her bisexuality, intensity, tactility, and adventurous desires (both for travel and sex, LOL). She also came to me expressing a poor (non-existent) relationship with her mother. So I had to figure that out, figure her out.
That led to the revelation that Elena had grown up stifled by her mother’s expectations for her. That, at least was something that readers would be able to universally connect with. Even if it was complicated in this particular case by Elena’s sexuality vs her mother’s Catholism and Elena being first-generation American born from immigrant parents, everyone understands how parental expectations and a child’s desire to make their own way can damage a child-parent relationship or even end one.
But for making sure people saw a strong, complex Latina woman, I had a sensitivity reader. I incorporated favorite music and cultural touchstones in Elena’s backstory that were tiny mentions, subtly building her character.
We are all patchwork quilts of our parents and our communities, both born- and self-determined. If there’s a part of a character’s patchwork that I need to research, I do it, before I touch it too deeply and offend a reader I’m just trying to give a nice, relaxing read.
In terms of subjects I won’t touch as a writer, I have very few. I used to think I’d never write about domestic violence, then I discovered Cassidy, from Turning Point, was an abuse survivor. I had worked briefly on a crisis hotline, which is why I thought I would never write it, having been very, very close up to some of the worst images. But when it was revealed, I went back and did more research, talking again with some survivors and having a sensitivity reader for gauging Cass’s reactions in some triggered situations.
When the sequel put Cass in the hospital, and Bren as the only person she could count on, I researched partnership laws as they currently stood and talked with a lawyer about the documents that I have the two women process together. For the paramedic scene, I turned to my brother, a paramedic, to read the scene and correct all my terminology.
At this point I don’t know that there is anything fully “I will NEVER write this!” off-limits, but I don’t write stories focused on BDSM scening or D/s roleplay. I know a lot about these things. (I edited a number of them for a publisher a dozen years ago). Also, I know a lot of erotic content seems to go there since 50 Shades. But I can’t write characters enjoying something I don’t. (I also know enough to know 50 Shades was shit when it came to an accurate portrayal of BDSM.) I have written a couple tiny scenes in stories but an aficionado of these arts would consider them incredibly tame because the characters don’t go very deep. So, no, no BDSM here.
In terms of social situations, again I’ve tackled many in small quantities, but not a whole novel focused on a single issue. I’m not keen to write a story focused on horror, serial murders, or terrorism. I’m not interested in heists or cops n robbers, no matter who makes up the cops or who makes up the robbers.
I’m not all “unicorns and rainbows,” but I see more value in telling about small human-level challenges not developing and averting world-wide disasters, so nope, I won’t be writing a Zombie (or topically pandemic) fic either. But might I write a “shutdown” scene or two? Maybe. If I get to just write people dealing with the emotions of separation or anxiety, or the challenges of WFH and finding a store with stocks of toilet paper.