The problem with a politically correct novel is that it’s boring, which offends me.
March 11, 2013
No one was to blame.
Everyone worked together harmoniously. They were rewarded with a job well done and a deep sense of satisfaction for achieving their goal.
There! I’ve done it! I’ve written the first politically correct novel, guaranteed not to offend anyone, but…it is kind of short, isn’t it? I can’t be sure it won’t offend, can I? Certainly there are those who hate short novels and won’t be happy with mine. And there will be those who claim to have written the first politically correct novel, although we know that the more words—and particularly description and dialogue—in a novel, the more people who will find something with which to take umbrage (a charming phrase we don’t hear often enough…haven’t you heard or read “f***ing pissed” [or mad, angry, etc.] more than enough? “Taking umbrage” seems a much more refined way to show one’s ire). Also, we can’t ignore those who think that satisfaction is not enough of a reward for a job well done (such as writers).
The problem with my politically correct novel is that it is boring. There is no emotion, no action, no spice. In fact it is so bland, its only positive aspect is that it’s mercifully short. If I were to lengthen it, I could fill it with political correctness—acceptable to all (not just genders, ages, races, weights, heights, physical and mental health states, belief systems, people who prefer fuchsia to orange, smokers and non-smokers…) but relative to none—and no one would have the slightest interest, except to use it as a target of ridicule.
In life, conflict can be unpleasant; in fiction conflict is essential. Readers love conflict, whether it’s internal or external (better yet, let there be both). The word police decreed that conflict and any negative terminology are unacceptable in life. Despite the fact that some words have multiple meanings, such as retarded, we are not supposed to use them, certainly not where anyone else can hear or read them. Rubbish! Both good writers and successful writers take umbrage with that (see, you can work “umbrage” to death).
Writers do not allow others, specifically those involved in counter-productive movements, to rob their prose of vibrancy. Anything can be expressed in a novel, no matter how abhorrent, if the right person is expressing it. Whether the author/narrator shares the views of a story’s characters is immaterial; one does not have to share the opinion of others when reporting them, and that’s what novelists do…report fictional thoughts, words, and actions. It is in the reactions of other characters where we find balance.
When writing, proofreading, or editing, it is easy to fall into the “Maybe I shouldn’t say that” trap. While it is admirable to consider the sensibilities of one’s readers, one must also consider their intelligence. Readers know all people are not the same, there is good and bad, and things can get ugly. Some even suspect the strongest proponents of political correctness probably aren’t always.
If you feel you simply must write a politically correct book, try writing board books for toddlers (“The duck is happy,” “The sun is shining,” “The baby is laughing.” Wait…I think I’ve just begun my first board book!). Even books for young readers include conflict and negative feelings. That is how they teach readers how to handle their emotions or that they are responsible for their actions (actions that have consequences). Looking back at some of the most enduring stories, we always find an element of political incorrectness. Could you honestly tell your own life story without that element?