1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

An attempt to have a meaningful discussion on dealing with sensitive topics

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by BWFoster78, Jul 20, 2015.

  1. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    1,952
    982
    113
    Oh absolutely. But the question is, what effect? And should an author at any point try to make us sympathize (feel emotional togetherness) which a truly reprehensible character? Personally, I'm leaning strong toward the "no" side of the debate, but I'd be interested in hearing any arguments as to how and why it can be a good thing.
     
  2. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    947
    113
    Completely cool. I get what you're saying.

    But ...

    Please understand the frustration level of being subject to rules that, to me, aren't clear. In T.Allen's estimation, I wasn't respectful regarding an issue I brought up.

    To be honest, I read his post on policy before I posted. I reread my post before hitting reply. I absolutely didn't see any issue with the post. The post wasn't even about that particular sensitive topic; it just kind of touched on it obliquely.

    It certainly seems like the topic is so sensitive that it is extraordinarily difficult to have any meaningful discussion about it without having the thread shut down. Considering that you don't want to cause any further trauma to members, wouldn't it just be better to ban it outright?

    Again, from the stands, it certainly seems like that's the end result any way.
     
    Feo Takahari likes this.
  3. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

    1,592
    1,020
    163
    BW, I don't think this is an issue of any and all posts about rape being inappropriate. To be completely honest, the language you used in your original post wasn't very well thought-out. You talked about what the character "really, really wants to do" and how "now he owns her" as though those were completely sympathetic motivations. I doubt that's how you meant to come across, but it came across. A situation like that can be seen in more ways than just "really cool character conflict."
     
    T.Allen.Smith likes this.
  4. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    5,548
    2,645
    313
    My impression here is that it's not so much about people's posts crossing the line, as it is about the potential of a thread to head off in a direction where it's likely to come crashing well over the line in a blaze of undignification and pain.

    Considering some of the threads we've seen lately, I can see how the tolerance for such is pretty low right now.
     
    Nihilium 7th and T.Allen.Smith like this.
  5. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

    653
    246
    43
    Would it be possible, then, to edit out the offending content and either let the thread continue on its original course, or at least get rid of it in the locked thread? After all, it's still sitting there where anyone can see it and read it. I'd hate for the parts of it that got the thread locked to cause anyone who happens upon it any unnecessary distress, and it would be nice to continue the original discussion in the open. If not I completely understand, I was just wondering.
     
  6. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    947
    113
    From my perspective, I read fiction to be entertained. Flawed characters who face lots of conflict tend to be the most entertaining. Done right, reprehensible flaws can make awesome characters and situations.

    Of course, it also can lead to totally unlikable and unrelatable characters. I watched Gone Girl recently. Didn't really care for it because I simply thought of both characters a bad people. Maybe the book would have done a better job of getting me to sympathize/empathize with them.

    So just to be clear, I don't think it's something a lot of us would have the ability to pull off at this point in our careers. I certainly wouldn't be able to.
     
  7. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    4,044
    1,950
    163
    I won't make that decision on my own, but I'll present it to the moderation team for discussion. The only other way it'll unlock is if Black Dragon decides to do so, and delete the potentially derisive comments.
     
    X Equestris likes this.
  8. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

    653
    246
    43
    Ok. That's a sound decision.
     
  9. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,903
    3,604
    313
    I get that we're trying to walk a line. As T.Allen mentioned, we've been debating this at length. Let's give it time and see how this works out.


    Again, this is not a judgement of your ethics or your personal respect for other members. Rather, it's about a level of respect for the gravity of the subject.

    I support T.Allen's decision, but hopefully in practice our moderation won't always feel quite as sudden as this first instance. That's something we're going to continue to watch for going forward.
     
    T.Allen.Smith likes this.
  10. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    947
    113
    Nimue,

    I'll give you that; it was not a particularly well-worded post. I looked at it in regards to the topic of the thread - slavery - not in regards to the other topic the post alluded to. I kinda just glossed over that part because, in my mind, it wasn't really important to the discussion at hand.

    But, on the other hand, I do say that the conflict is between what is right (meaning the act is not in any way glorified) and what he is tempted to do. Neither the scene nor my post attempts to say, This is justified. In fact, I think both the scene and my post imply the exact opposite - to give in to temptation is the bad thing to do.
     
  11. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

    3,102
    1,104
    163

    We're not going to restrict people's right to free speech. However, we will restrict it when it starts to infringe on other member's rights. Chiefly, the pursuit of happiness. This is not the place for people who have the mindset of: "I'm going to say whatever I want and to hell with what anyone else thinks."

    There are plenty of other sites for that kind of stuff. I think it's a bit unfair of anyone who feels the Admin staff should be berated for creating guidelines that protect our members and enforcing them.

    If you feel that you're being censored, please accept my apology. I use the word "my" because I can't and won't speak on behalf of my peers. They can either respond or not respond to your thread.

    You're a valuable member here BW and you've made made many excellent contributions. I truly hope that something as trivial as getting a thread locked because it violated our guidelines isn't going to lead to your leaving us. If you can't see where the thread started to veer off, then you just can't see it and I respect you enough to accept that.

    Please respect us enough to accept that we'll always make decisions which we think are best for the community as a whole.

    Thank you for all your contributions and for being an integral part of Mythic Scribes.
     
    Butterfly likes this.
  12. Trick

    Trick Auror

    1,258
    360
    83
    I agree but with a lens. I just read a book that shows you a character in retrospect and you totally sympathize with him, I don't know a fantasy lover that wouldn't. However, you've already met him later in life and he is frighteningly despicable at that point. He literally (at the risk of bad thread deja vu) eats people for magical power. While they're alive. Of course, he's a villain. But later (not timeline-wise of course) you see him when he was young and the things that led to his first bad decision. And you get it. It makes sense and his decision isn't really all that bad. It's sort of cool in a risky way. And yet it leads him down a path to true evil. So, IMHO, that is deftly done; I sympathized with a terrible villain by emotionally understanding the cliff he fell of off. I do not, however, sympathize with his following choices, nor the ultimate result, obviously.

    Is this sort of what you mean Brian?
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2015
    BWFoster78 likes this.
  13. Nihilium 7th

    Nihilium 7th Sage

    295
    23
    18
    I know my opinion (especially on this topic) might not be wanted but I'd still like to put my two-cents in.
    Personally I believe that the new rules might be for the best not because it forces those who might want to have discussions about sensitive discussions to stay quiet; but because it forces those who make such threads as well as those who reply to them to gauge the conversation so they may monitor what and how they contribute to it. Many times it isn't the original post that is the problem but the conversation that occurs after; these new rules might help in holding back post filled with emotions or lack-there-of.

    The fact of the matter is that everything we post/write, once submitted is open for everyone to interpret through their own way no matter what the original intent. And unfortunately many people have experienced terrible things in life which has changed the way they see things (maybe forever.) and we have to respect them as much as we respect our freedom of expression.
    I also believe that we also have the responsibility to avoid topics that might offend us. As someone who has gone through their own "situations" that is what I do. If these new rules do nothing it might have us communicate with a tad bit more respect and understanding.
     
    Butterfly likes this.
  14. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    947
    113
    Reaver,

    I think words are failing me today ...

    That's not what I'm saying. I don't even care all that much. If you don't want to talk about certain subjects, I simply won't talk about certain subjects. I certainly don't want to force you to talk about them.

    I'm simply saying that you have a guideline in place that I'm having trouble wrapping my head around. Maybe I'm the only person on this forum that this impacts. If so, you should just leave it in place.

    I'm merely trying to say:

    1. I think your policy isn't easy to understand from a practical standpoint.
    2. Your actual policy seems to differ from what you're putting into practice.

    Again, this could just be me. If so, feel free to ignore my comments. Really. It's just not that big of a deal to me.

    Thanks.

    Brian
     
  15. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    947
    113
    Absolutely. A fantastic example.

    I think, also, that there are other examples that are just as good out there. (For the time being, I'm going to avoid trying to come up with literary examples, though :) ).
     
  16. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

    1,592
    1,020
    163
    I certainly understand that. However, the way you framed it bordered on giving the two motivations equal weight. As in, we should sympathize with how difficult a choice that would be. I can't speak to how the book presented the issue, but the run-down in your post made it seem that way.

    There's also the fact that rape of slaves in the American South was a horrible and widespread thing, to say nothing of other periods in history, and juxtaposing that with horndog teenage fantasies is...well, kind of tasteless.

    To speak to the larger thread-locking context--I really don't think that conversation started out well, and I don't think it would have gone in a great direction. Can't disagree with the decision.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2015
  17. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    4,044
    1,950
    163
    To put it simply, Brian, when discussing a sensitive topic, members are required to present their questions and arguments with caution, extra care, & respect for potential victims and other members of our community.

    As Nimue pointed out, your post did not comply with that direction. You even stated yourself the presentation may have been poor.
    When that happens, either the post will be deleted, the thread will be closed, or the member will be dealt with individually. I chose to close the thread.

    We can't give you exact cases and circumstances if that's what you're asking for. The only exact line that could be drawn is outright censorship, which I'm almost always opposed to.

    Yes, banning a topic makes it black & white, but it also limits legitimate discussion of social issues represented in the genre. As a group, the mod team decided it'd be best not to ban, issue a new directive, and deal with offending posts on a case-by-case basis.

    Since you can see how your post may have been taken in a negative way, you should also see that you probably should've exercised greater care with a topic you knew to be sensitive, and recently derisive.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2015
    Nimue likes this.
  18. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

    3,102
    1,104
    163

    ***EDIT*** Ninja'd by TAS but if you'll permit me, I'll try to add to what he said:

    It's not just you, Brian. I for one value the feedback. This is a new policy so please bear with us as we try to get better at it. I can certainly see where some members might find our new policy and the way we've enforced it thus far to be confusing.

    Hopefully I can clarify some things. Basically, the addendum to our Forum Guidelines was created to prevent members from discussing sensitive topics in a callous, flippant or derisive way. It was also created to ensure that any discussion of sensitive topics doesn't stray outside the confines of literary context.

    Finally, the addendum was created as a caveat to anyone who contravenes our guidelines, letting them know that in the interest of creating a positive, safe environment for writers of all skill levels and ages, we will not tolerate it.

    Hope this clears things up a bit. If not, please PM me or invite me to chat and we can discuss things in greater detail.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2015
  19. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    947
    113
    I think one of the reasons there's an issue with my post is my fundamental approach to writing. Most of the people here at MS think of sensitive issues in terms of the issue. For every potentially sensitive issue that I can think of off the top of my head, I think of them in terms of their use as a plot device. Period.

    Does this issue help me create realistic conflict? Can I use this issue to make my character more likable and sympathetic as a protagonist or unlikable as an antagonist? If I use the issue, will it help or hurt the book? Those are my concerns.

    I think that the standard "absolute power corrupts absolutely" is a fairly commonly accepted character motivation. I also think that a character who is tempted to abuse his absolute power tends to be more interesting than a character who simply does the right thing. I do think that, when presenting a character conflict, temptation to use power and the desire to do the right thing should be given equal weight. Otherwise, the conflict would be too weak to include.

    Again, to me, the actual sensitive issue involved is completely secondary to its use in writing.

    However, I totally get if the people here don't want to discuss. In the future, I'll find examples that don't touch on such things.

    My bad for picking a poor example given the audience.

    See, given my views above, my response to this is, Huh? What does slavery in a fantasy world that doesn't exist have to do at all with slavery on Earth? I truly don't think that the author was trying to make some kind of reference to slavery in our world; he was just using it as I would have - as a plot device.

    Granted, sometimes allegories are really cool and I enjoy them. I loved how Alien Nation dealt with racism. It's really cool how sci fi was used to take an issue and look at it by removing some of the emotion.

    But that doesn't mean that every reference to anything has to be an allegory. Sometimes things can just be plot devices.
     
  20. If we want to have serious discussions this kind of general and flexible policy is needed. Sure, it'll have a few hiccups, but that's to be expected. And I do like this policy, some discussions lately have gone off the rails into crazy town a bit too far. So, let's keep an open mind about this whole thing and wait to see how this plays out. Then as situations come up and test the boundaries of this guideline we can get a clearer set of guidelines. As an aside, I am not endorsing deliberately testing the boundaries. I am merely recognizing there will be future threads that test the boundaries.
     
    Nihilium 7th likes this.
Loading...

Share This Page