Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Hitting People’s hot buttons

“I don't want to hurt anybody or be offensive. But I don't want to not be me.”
Melanie Chisholm

In writing fiction there is a name for works that manage to offend absolutely no one: Boring.

It is especially tough not to offend anyone with your book jacket, as you have to reduce everything down to the simplest terms, which means using labels.

I managed to offend someone with my book jacket for “Invasive Thoughts” because I gave my main character OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and one of his symptoms was extreme touch phobia. This was a key point in the plot as he was dealing with a virus that spread through human touch.

In book I never called it OCD I just showed him reacting to all his obsessions and phobias, but on the book jacket I couldn’t get around that label.

OCD is an interesting mental condition that doesn’t effect everyone the same, some people with it will be deathly afraid to shake someone’s hand while someone else with it will be obsessed with touching and hugging everyone they know. (Hopefully they don’t join the same support group).

So when I was talking to someone with OCD about my book they got very offended that I linked OCD with touch phobia, since they were a self confessed “Hug-o-halic”.

What they were offended by was the stereotype that all OCD people are touch sensitive, which is a valid point. I explained how my character had many symptoms of OCD that I held him to firmly and some let him excel at his job and some were a curse, just like anyone else’s mental state can help and hinder them at times. His OCD actually made him more relatable as it showed off his struggle more than a so-called “Normal” person. I hoped by making him likable, at least I liked him, it would help people understand people who are a little “different”.

She admitted to me that she is a little sensitive about the subject.

So as a writer you have to be prepared to accidentally hit someone’s hot buttons, even the people that you are trying to sympathize with. But if you stay true to yourself in your writings these differences can be smoothed over easily.

Darrell B. Nelson

1 comment:

Stephanie Barr said...

Well, there you go. You can't have inoffensive characters or stories, because those with such lackluster people who have no opinions or don't do anything offend the hell out of me.