Monday 2 May 2011

So I'm different. What say you?

I got some interesting responses to yesterday's post, 'How do you feel about Offensive content in ADULT novels?'

One particular and common response, initiated by Ted Cross, was "I don't consider any content to be offensive unless it has no bearing on the story." But how do you judge this? What kind of reasoning takes place to determine whether the content is necessary or not? It must have been necessary in the author's view, otherwise it wouldn't be there. Just like Sarah said, "The word "offensive" is entirely subjective." I agree. Completely. And I don't think readers can really judge what should and shouldn't be in a book.

And this brings me to my point: I like to break boundaries, and I like to read books that do too. I cringe at cliched prettiness, at characters that are too good to be true, at fairytale behaviour, at prince charmings and barbie doll girls who become princesses. I like books that jump up and bite me in the face. But that's just me. I think I have been like that all my life. I like to like everything that goes against the norm. I like to be different.

I don't fit in with pop culture. I never have. And I'm actually not sure whether that is REAL or whether it has just become a habit from my teens of always wanting to be different.

My Sig.Oth. says I'm conservative. LOL. Maybe I am deep down. Or maybe it's the other way around. Maybe I am on the surface, but deep down I'm not. It's also interesting how people interpret what conservative means. Are you conservative? What makes you that way? What makes you the opposite? Are you different? Do you fit in with the norm? Oh gosh, WHAT IS THE NORM? Too many questions, folks. Can you answer any of them?


  1. I missed the post. But I think you're onto something when what we think is normal is set in highschool and that tends to stay with us. I'd say I'm conservative but at the same time I hate following trends or doing something just because others are. And for being conservative, I'm willing to read a lot. I do have a hard time reading about graphic sexual abuse in adult novels. In fact, I stay away from it.

  2. I think you raised some interesting points with these last two posts. There's a tendency to be completely okay with things we're already okay with (and act miffed that others would 'overreact') and ignore those things we ourselves get upset about.

    I think people genuinely get upset about certain things (could be absolutely anything) and when they get that feeling, the emotion itself is enough to justify their anger. Few people think of themselves as oversensitive or unfairly critical.

    As a writer you can't really correct for this, it's too random and irrational. As a reader my response is that I don't connect as strongly with a story when I feel it goes off the rails, but I wouldn't expect the writer to change their approach.

    Moody Writing

  3. I don't know--sometimes I think a writer will toss something gratuitous into the story for the sake of titillation or shock rather than in service of the narrative. So, sure, they feel like it should be there, but maybe they haven't subjected the story to a rigorous sort of examination. Agents complain about this all the time. As writers, I think we have to question why every scene, every sentence and word, is necessary. That's goes for everything, not just for potentially controversial/offensive stuff. Really interesting posts, Jessica!

  4. I'm not conservative, except where I am (such as with money). I think it's my dissatisfaction with living a normal life that drove me to work overseas for most of my life.

    My comment the other day essentially meant (to me) that I almost never find anything offensive in what I read (except perhaps for bad writing). Only when something appears far too gratuitous and irrelevant to the story can I get annoyed.

  5. I'm a science fiction geek who digs heavy metal - do you really think that is normal?

  6. @Alex, of course that is normal! You'll have to do better than that.

  7. Hi,

    I'm going to say I like authors who push boundaries. If as a reader one comes up against offensive content (personal thing) one can skip it and read on.

    Being a novelist of historical romances (sagas) I push sexual boundaries all the time: morals in differing periods/eras often loose or extreme prudish, but what I don't like is sex & violence glorified in any way. Near rape can be quite thrilling in a dangerous and exciting sense, but rape per se kind of gains impact in the wrong way!

    So too, any gratuitous violent act of killing that fails to drive a plot forward is pointless. ;)


  8. I have NO idea what normal is but I'm pretty sure it's not me. Thank goodness!

  9. This is something YA writers are faced with all the time . . . hence ban lists.

    It's sad that someone other than the intended reader (teens) determines what teens should or shouldn't read. Some of the books that are considered "offensive" by some are the ones like SPEAK that reach out to teens going through (or have gone through) the same thing (rape in this incident).

    I don't agree, though, with putting something in a novel because the writer is hoping that will make it a best seller or something.

  10. Having missed the post through personal problems, I will answer now, I am not a narrow minded person.So whatever people write about is fine by me.

    Loved your A to Z challenge.

  11. I don't want to be normal but I suspect there is no such thing as normal, only parental and peer pressure to be alike.

    Rejoice in how different you are!

    Ellie Garratt

  12. I always thought I was normal, but people told me (and still do) I was different. I think by being genuinely "you" you'll be different. I do find mediocre boring.

  13. I'm in the middle between conservative and liberal, but I don't think I'm offended too easily by content of books. Shocked maybe, but not offended.

  14. I think that people are always going to have different ideas on what they think is offensive and what isn't. Like Stina said, YA books get threatened with banning for this all the time. Which makes me sad.

    What I think is important is that books challenge us in our thinking, help us to understand other viewpoints, and create a dialogue to discuss them. If it's important to the story, I'm for pushing boundaries.

  15. First, loved your A-Z Challenge. I eventually fell out (so many to follow) but learned a lot along the way.

    I missed the post but can relate. If you met me, you'd say I was conservative, but if we talked a bit, you'd think, hmmmm, maybe not. I personally think there's enough info on a book's jacket for the reader to decided what's what. I don't like violence so stay away from that genre. However, I enjoy well-written books that push boundaries. We sometimes forget that Shakespeare was a master at pushing boundaries. Don't forget The Tale of Two Cities pushed boundaries, as did Dr. Zivalgo, Men are from Mars (Women are from Venus), and so many other writers and books woven into our cultures. I sometimes think a person's fear of reality (very subjective) affects choices because change threatens.

  16. oh god, growing up I strived for conformity. I wanted to be different but only in framed ways. 'a rocker chic' 'a preppy' 'a relationship girl' etc... Growing up, getting dumped, and having kids have certainly made me into my own person. I don't strive to be 'like' something or someone. I'm just me and I don't have the time or patience to pretend to be anything else. Same kinda concept goes for my writing. My writing is YA so yeah, it's 'what's hot' and it is kind of pop culture in a lot of ways but it's me, and what I enjoy. And it doesn't stop me from pushing boundries in my own way.

  17. I'm pretty sure I'm the basis for the norm and everyone is trying to be me.

  18. LOL, lot of questions! I'm so left of norm dogs won't even bite me. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  19. I don't read books about pretty girls falling in love with hot guys, so I'm not sure how to compare, but I LOVE books where people have realistic problems, and over-come things like abuse, addiction, or violence.

    These things exist in real life, so why not write about them?

  20. I do where you're going with this discussion because it underlines the fact that people are so very different, and will come at writing and reading in such varied ways.

  21. I missed yesterday, but I agree with Ted's assessment... and I think the 'unnecessary' happens when someone is trying too hard for authenticity (usually in the sex or gore domains). I don't mind graphic sex, but it needs to propel the plot if it is there outside of something already identified as erotics. and violence, I think if a writer were to jump into some detailed glorification and it's the first time we are in the bad guys head... In both cases, I prefer emotional impact rather than 'parts' but I'm not OFFENDED if it fits the story.

    And on conservative... I suppose I am a creature of habit, and I am not so much a gambler--I like a sure thing... I suppose that is some variety of conservative. But I also am NOT one to do things traditionally.

  22. see? And that's why there's a place for writers of all variety--because there are readers of all variety.

    Conservative? Liberal? I dunno. Ask me a question b/c I'm all over the place~ :D <3

  23. And I'm the reader that loves the fairy tale ending, the princesses and magical things happening and being tied up in a nice pretty bow. I want to be taken out of our dreary depressing world and into a shiny new one. It's so subjective and that's why I love that there is a book out there for everyone. Great post Jessica! (btw, there is a patron at our library named Jessica Bell and I think of you every time I handle her books ;p)

  24. I wanted to fit in in school all the way through college. I graduated and started teaching. I chafed at the idea that I had to fit into the stereotypical teacher mold. I was single and I liked partying.
    Somewhere I realized that I would never fit in. That group was closed to me. SO, I worked hard at being different. I laughed too loud at the wrong times, and I expressed my thoughts without apology.
    Now, I work hard at being me. I've toned down the laugh, unless something is hysterically funny. I coat my comments in a wrap of politeness now so that I don't anger anyone. After all, it's only my opinion. Everyone is entitled to one.

    MM the Queen of English

  25. Isn't "offensive" largely in the eye of the beholder, Jessica? I mean, that's what culture is all about, right? Differing values.

  26. I think it really depends on the person. I don't get offended easily but I have been offended before. =)

    Poetry, Quotes and Book Reviews.

  27. I, too, like to be challenged when I read or see a film. This question is so difficult, because when 'art' is created, you feel it, somehow, even if the material is offensive. You feel richer for the experience.

    I've struggled at times with books or films or art I've seen that at first disturbed me, and then enthralled me. It had to sink in, and then I had the 'ah ha' moment. Other times I've felt disgusted and remained so.

    I always think it's a good idea to push the envelope. Sometimes it's only when we are on the edge that we know how we really feel.

    Great posts!

  28. You may be conservative face to face, but your writing is far from it. Granted, I've only read one short story of yours and a lot of poetry. But you have one of the edgiest voices I've ever read.

  29. I think the norm is what people expect, and anything that's just a bit sideways isn't that. I think I surprise people - not shock so much, but unexpected. Sometimes that's good (not always. :)).

    Rock on in your rugged individualism! :)

  30. I don't like reading horror or erotica, but not because I'd be offended. It's just not my thing. I've read some wow-worthy books, where the author pushed boundaries (WIDEACRE, by Phillipa Gregory for example). But the wildness was part of the story, and it's one of the reasons it's memorable. I think if something outrageous was thrown in for no good reason, the readers will spot it right away.


“I'm using my art to comment on what I see. You don't have to agree with it.” ~John Mellencamp

“Allowing an unimportant mistake to pass without comment is a wonderful social grace” ~Judith S. Marin

“I don't ever try to make a serious social comment.” ~Paul McCartney

“I'd make a comment at a meeting and nobody would even acknowledge me. Then some man would say the same thing and they'd all nod.” ~Charlotte Bunch

“Probably what my comment meant was that I don't care about the circumstances if I can tell the truth.” ~Sally Kirkland

“We're not going to pay attention to the silliness and the petty comments. And quite frankly, women have joined me in this effort, and so it's not about appearances. It's about effectiveness.” ~Katherine Harris