This is my Insecure Writers Support Group post for October 2021.
and Mary Aalgaard!
Please stop by their blogs and say thank you.
October 6 question - In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?
Great question! I write Western Historical Romance, so this is definitely a consideration for me.
Second to poor editing, my least favorite thing is anachronistic dialogue and behavior. If a historical is well written, it transports the reader back in time. But it can also be a slap to the face of political correctness. It's a fine line to walk for authors.
I make my historical characters palatable to modern readers, but I don't plop them into historical settings and then have them behave like it's the year 2010. My heroes are a bit chauvinistic--but, in a time when women were viewed as property, and men could legally strike their wives and demand sex without committing rape--they are tame in comparison to the real men of the 1800s.
I often grapple with the use of period vocabulary, such as 'halfbreed' when referring to mixed-race characters (e.g. Hatchoq in Come Back). The term is considered derogatory now, but back then, it was acceptable. I usually keep them, though, because I strive for authenticity when it comes to word etymology. That said, I draw the line at using the N-word. Even if it is authentic to the setting year, it's too inflammatory.
I don't write Christian fiction, but many readers choose WHR for its old-fashioned values. My books typically have a couple of love scenes that develop the characters and move the plot along, and they occur almost exclusively within the bounds of marriage. My books also have mild language (d*mn, b*stard, etc.). A well-placed curse word can infuse quite a lot of feeling into a line of dialogue without dragging the prose down with a tag or beat. I make foul language fit the character and the setting year. Therefore, the well-bred heroines in my historicals do not curse. Well, only rarely, if they are very angry. 😃 (Seth: 26, Becca: 1)
I think just about any topic is fair game, if it's well written, and if the book's description contains enough details that readers can vet what they are buying. I don't cater to 'trigger warnings,' listing every little thing in the story that might bother someone, but I do put a content warning below the blurb that covers the basics (e.g. sex, violence, sexual violence).
Whatever I write, I subtly weave social, political and religious details in to the story and let my characters be characters, without turning my novel into a platform for my personal beliefs. I'll put a book down if the author is using the story like a soapbox. Bits of ourselves will filter into our stories--that's inevitable--but I try very hard not to sermonize my readers.
IWSG is the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. It's a monthly bloghop that offers a safe haven for writers to express their feelings and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. It's also a venue for offering support, both in the form of comments and positive posts. Writers of all kinds are welcome.
We 'meet' the first Wednesday of every month. If you're interested in learning more, click on the link above. And don't be intimidated by the size of the group. We're not expected to visit everyone on the list.