Friday, 11 December 2009

PC or not PC

I was reading the blurbs from my local cinema and came across this for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus: Cert 12A: Contains infrequent strong language, scenes of threat, hanging and smoking. It made me laugh that smoking had become something that we have to warn concerned parents of, but then I started to think about censorship when writing.

It's unconscious, but reluctantly I have to admit I self-censor my work. My characters don't smoke, mainly because I don't and nor do the majority of my friends, but I'm also aware that I believe - I haven't asked her - a habitual smoker wouldn't get past my editor. In Nice Girls Do, Anna gets led astray into a coke-sniffing party lifestyle, but I was careful to show the negative effects this has on her and not present it as a sensible choice.

Would I get away with writing about a character who makes what are seen as negative choices - sleeping around, drinking too much, taking drugs, eating to excess - and presenting them in a positive light? I think not. I did once write a scene for one of my characters where she gets drunk and sleeps with a stranger which I felt was true to the character's distressed and confused state of mind, but it didn't make it past the editor. She felt readers would be disgusted and unsympathetic. I ditched the scene. Is that being PC, or over-sensitive to reader sensibilities?

I'm not sure. In retrospect, I'd gone overboard on making the scene too negative an experience and perhaps a sexy dalliance with a handsome stranger would have passed without comment. So long as they didn't smoke, of course.


Lizzie Nichols said...

Hi Sarah,

I just wanted to say that I really look forward to reading your blogs. They're always thought-provoking, helpful and interesting without being bossy – there are so many writers blogging away bossily online!

Particular blogs that have made me stop and think re wip are Flashbacks, Feedback and Chapter Endings.

By the way, I have a cat who thinks she's a fur stole.

Keep blogging.

Sarah Duncan said...

Thanks Lizzie, that's really nice to hear. Is there anything you'd like me to cover? At the moment I'm just doing whatever aspect of writing takes my fancy, but I'm def up for requests (if that isn't asking for trouble...).

I'd love a fur stole cat - does she drape around your neck? Mine isn't up for much physical contact. I think it's because she was an only kitten.

Good luck re the wip