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RayBright said:
When everything's racist--nothing's racist. Don't write to please anyone other than yourself. The outrage mob doesn't read.
Everything's not racist.

That's something people say to excuse the racist comments of those in the groups they identify with. It's pretty bad advice to tell someone to keep an unfunny joke that comes across as very racist, just because. That's how people get one-starred into oblivion.

How about giving the man some real advice instead of trying to dumpster his book's chances at success?
 

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Herefortheride said:
Yes, Leesa. You are correct. The same crowd will complain of "cancel culture" if the market rejects their poorly thought out plan.
If the people the writer is portraying use that language, then the writer can, in fact, should, reflect it.

This has nothing to do with "cancel culture." It's about truthful writing. Of course, no one forces the public to buy one's book, and if it isn't selling, them's the breaks.

Again, and this seems to have been lost in the fray: as long as the writer doesn't endorse the racism.

I wonder what some of the people here would make of Philip Roth's older Jewish characters (his parents especially) who say lots of stuff about "the goyim"? It's a very offensive word and indicates contempt. Also, there's a section in Portnoy's Complaint where Portnoy's mother is shown being racist towards their maid.

Roth was just writing the truth. And the truth hurts.

What is the point of writing PC pablum?
 

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TromboneAl said:
In my latest book, I have one line that has a Chinese accent. Here it is:



My narrator warned me that I might get some bad reviews from people who think it sounds racist (that's why I added the line talking about it sounding racist).

I understand what he means, but I'm wondering why that's true for Asian accents but not for others (Southern, Swedish, German, Italian, French, etc.)."

What do you think?
Actually, Al, I have a slight amendment to make to my earlier comment.

The character isn't speaking in a "Chinese accent." It's a caricature of a Chinese accent.

In some way that should be indicated.

But I stick to my original point. Don't write in fear.
 

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D.E.M. said:
The character isn't speaking in a "Chinese accent." It's a caricature of a Chinese accent.
It's not even that.

This: "putting on my best halting Confucius accent" tells the reader he's using an accent. One the reader must imagine, because there is no accent indicated in the following quote. In and of itself, that's fine. Accents in fiction are quite often pointed out this way, leaving it to the reader's imagination to fill in what they "hear". (Although I don't think there's actually a "Confucius accent".)

This: "But, grasshopper, kidnapping poor, defenseless attorney easier than killing woman who own assault weapons."

Is a caricature yes, but one of speech, not accent.

An accent isn't about words used, not used, or misused, it's about how words are pronounced. As I pointed out previously, many people speak perfect, grammatically correct English, and have an accent. Those are two separate things.
 

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D.E.M. said:
If the people the writer is portraying use that language, then the writer can, in fact, should, reflect it.

This has nothing to do with "cancel culture." It's about truthful writing. Of course, no one forces the public to buy one's book, and if it isn't selling, them's the breaks.

Again, and this seems to have been lost in the fray: as long as the writer doesn't endorse the racism.

I wonder what some of the people here would make of Philip Roth's older Jewish characters (his parents especially) who say lots of stuff about "the goyim"? It's a very offensive word and indicates contempt. Also, there's a section in Portnoy's Complaint where Portnoy's mother is shown being racist towards their maid.

Roth was just writing the truth. And the truth hurts.

What is the point of writing PC pablum?
I don't think you understand the conversation. Maybe read the thread before going off on [politics].

Edited at the brackets. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
 

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Herefortheride said:
I don't think you understand the conversation.
Ditto. I've repeatedly stated what the OP has written shouldn't necessarily be removed/altered. It depends on what he's after, and if this portion achieves what he's after.

I suspect the intent here was humor, and if so, in my opinion, it fails. It simply isn't funny. Again, my opinion.

If, on the other hand, he's wanting to portray the character as someone who makes bad, unfunny jokes only he thinks are funny and others roll their eyes at, then perhaps it works.

I suspect Roth wasn't writing caricatures. Caricatures by definition aren't "truth". Nor is there anything wrong with writing unlikeable, bigoted, jerkwad characters. But, I get the impression that's not the goal in this particular case.

Nor have I said I consider the portion in the OP "racist". Out of touch, maybe. But again, perhaps that's what the author is after for this character.

My comments regarding the "don't write in fear" crowd were general comments, and I stand behind them. I'm not one to jump on a PC bandwagon, however those putting up books for retail sale with complete lack of regard for what is marketable and what is not are, well, to put the kindest spin on it I'll say, "misguided".

There's a very wide margin between "I write whatever I want" and "PC pablum".
 
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By all means use the variant on the 1920s/1930s "Confucius say" joke here if you have to have it, and if your character will use this sort of joke throughout the book.  But at least drop the part about it being an accent, which it most certainly isn't, and perhaps re-write to say something similar to: "I held up my finger. 'But Confucius say, kidnapping poor defenseless attorney easier than...'"  Eliminate "grasshopper" to keep from mixing a 1930s joke with a 1970s TV show.  The revised version also makes Nancy's comment about fortune cookies more believable.
 

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Herefortheride said:
I don't think you understand the conversation. Maybe read the thread before going off on [politics].

Edited at the brackets. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
I think I understand it just fine.

I don't think you understand the point that I'm trying to make, and I doubt that it's worth it for me to spend time here trying to make you understand. I have made myself clear.

Do not write in fear of the cancel culture PC police.

Edited to remove a sentence. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
 

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TromboneAl said:
In my latest book, I have one line that has a Chinese accent. Here it is:



My narrator warned me that I might get some bad reviews from people who think it sounds racist (that's why I added the line talking about it sounding racist).

I understand what he means, but I'm wondering why that's true for Asian accents but not for others (Southern, Swedish, German, Italian, French, etc.).

What do you think?
Well Al, I think you got your answer. A lot of people will find it racist, so if your intent is to appeal to the widest possible audience, take it out. There are a lot of over sensitive people who will take offense at literally anything. That's the world we live in.

I think you did fine in distancing yourself, the writer, from the racism.

And anyway, what's really the big deal about a caricature of a Chinese accent? It's not like black face. Let's face it, what we really are walking on eggshells about is America's horrible history of slavery and racism and Jim Crow. What happened to other groups of people doesn't compare.
 

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Herefortheride said:
I don't think you understand the conversation. Maybe read the thread before going off on [politics].

Edited at the brackets. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
Excuse me, I did read the conversation and thought it was hijacked by people who were not responding to the OP.

And who appointed you my censor? I'll write what I want to write. I responded directly to the OP and if you don't like it, tough.

Only the quote was edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
 

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Lessa said:
Agreed. It had nothing to do with Mark Twain and Charles Dickens writing with "no fear" regarding what "PC can get in a twist about". The suggestion otherwise simply shows ignorance of the time.

I'll also repeat, the quote in question in the OP isn't an accent. It's not even an attempt at an accent, beyond telling us the speaker is using an accent. Accents are about pronunciation.

I'm not in the automatic remove it group, because characters can of course be written to say and do all sorts of cringy things. It depends on the intention here. If it's humor, it fails IMO.

I'm also laughing a bit at the "write with no fear" crowd, wondering if they're also the sort who would go on to whine if their books don't sell and/or attract slews of poor reviews. IMO authors who simply want to write whatever they please, for their own pleasure, with no regard whatsoever with readers or reader expectations, probably shouldn't be trying to sell their writings to the general public as a consumer item. Doing so while having the expectation consumers will buy and enjoy it is...a bit naive.
Oh, the "write with no fear crowd" - would that be me? Because I was the one who advised OP to "write with no fear"?

Yeah, I am part of the "write with no fear" crowd. I'm call myself WWNF, for short.

And no, I don't whine or complain if the world won't make me a best seller. Maybe my fellow WWNF's do, but I don't.

For the record, not surprisingly, you utterly twisted my meaning. "IMO authors who simply want to write whatever they please, for their own pleasure, with no regard whatsoever with readers or reader expectations, probably shouldn't be trying to sell their writings to the general public as a consumer item. Doing so while having the expectation consumers will buy and enjoy it is...a bit naive."

Stop. Please please stop. You have read your own meanings into my words. I never wrote any of that.

And don't tell me that I'm naive. I know the way the world works.

Now, I realize that you won't listen, but for any stray person who does, here is what I mean:

Write whatever you want. But if you want to write honest fiction, do not write scared. I gave Philip Roth as an example; there are many others. He was harshly criticized, mostly by Jews, for writing an honest portrait of his own people's foibles. Now, it's a different thing when one is writing about other people - but that's not what the OP was doing. He was simply asking a question, and I feel he got tackled, and the thread became hijacked by the woke agenda.

For the record: cancel culture is real. The "woke" have taken over the discourse (which of course includes publishing) and they've literally created a scorched earth. Nothing will be safe from their cultural blowtorch. One of the ways the woke cancel culture gaslights the rest of us is to enforce speech codes, and when anyone protests, they get shut down.

Edit: I want to make something clear here. "Lessa" didn't have the guts to address me personally. S/he didn't say to me, "I disagree with you." I can handle disagreement. No, s/he slightingly and contemptuously referred to what I wrote and then went on to twist its meaning and attribute to me imaginary words. That is unacceptable behavior.
 

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Herefortheride said:
This! Just because someone's work was full of "normal" racist phrases and language from the time doesn't mean you should be using that during a totally different time. I cringe reading the way Twain wrote about black people. It wasn't a style it was just the racism of the day.
You obviously don't know what you're talking about.

Twain was reproducing the African-American dialect he heard. Yes, it existed. Read Charles Chestnutt, an African-American author, and any of the African-American authors of the 19th-early 20th century. They did it too. There are African-American speech patterns of today. I had a black boss who used the pronunciation "ax" for "ask." If I wrote about him in a book, I'd use that pronunciation.

Cringe away.
 

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Hey D.E.M, what do you think of this? (it's a quote)

"I was reading a book (about interjections, oddly enough) yesterday which included the phrase "In these days of political correctness…" talking about no longer making jokes that denigrated people for their culture or for the colour of their skin. And I thought, "That's not actually anything to do with 'political correctness'. That's just treating other people with respect."

Which made me oddly happy. I started imagining a world in which we replaced the phrase "politically correct" wherever we could with "treating other people with respect", and it made me smile.

You should try it. It's peculiarly enlightening.

I know what you're thinking now. You're thinking "Oh my god, that's treating other people with respect gone mad!""

-Neil Gaiman
 

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Herefortheride said:
I cringe reading the way Twain wrote about black people. It wasn't a style it was just the racism of the day.
There's so much wrong with this statement; I don't even know where to begin. Read up on Twain a little, esp. Huck Finn.
 

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baldricko said:
Just to add to what D.E.M. posts above, Mark Twain and Charles Dickens to name just two authors of classics still held in school libraries (containing plenty of dialogue PC can get in a twist about these days) showed no fear, so why should you?
Twain was actually pretty liberal for his time, a supporter of rights for both women and blacks, and a lot of his writing is satirical. Huck Finn has also been controversial for numerous reasons ranging from atheism and anti-southern attitudes to the coarse language and portrayal of black characters since it was published, so it's nothing new. It's a complex work that was meant to offend and criticize as well as a product of its time. I don't think OP is intending to write something like that though and is probably more concerned about commercial appeal.
 

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For background characters with only a couple of lines, I don't mind using coloquial language.
"Y'all come 'round back. Gots som'in to show ya." I don't care how they make the character sound since it's a one off. The accent is whatever my MC hears. For MC's, I'll use a light smatterin' of accent, words like "Y'all" or whatever would suit the character, however I use them sparingly because they can throw the reader out of flow. I'll write, "Y'all come around back. Got something to show you," he said in a southern drawl so thick flies could stick to it like molasses. Let the reader insert their own accent. As for being racist, unless one is making fun of the accent, using it as part of a character ain't racist. This is coming from a Georgia boy living up in New Yawk (New York), surrounded by Yankees (anyone from above the Mason-Dixon line). Trust me, my accent attracts more laughs of derision than sighs of sexuality up here. I've even had a manager call me both stupid and lazy based solely on my accent (though thankfully not for long. It's amazing how quickly things turned around after I was named head of compliance review. I still see him sometimes, though I never answer yes when he asks if I'd like fries with my order).

D.E.M. said:
You obviously don't know what you're talking about.

Twain was reproducing the African-American dialect he heard. Yes, it existed. Read Charles Chestnutt, an African-American author, and any of the African-American authors of the 19th-early 20th century. They did it too. There are African-American speech patterns of today. I had a black boss who used the pronunciation "ax" for "ask." If I wrote about him in a book, I'd use that pronunciation.

Cringe away.
That they did, and in some parts of the country, still do. And it wasn't just African-Americans that did it during the time period. The accent and methods of speech were also found among the poor white populations, indicative of a wide spread, pervasive lack of education without respect to race. You want to hear the accent for yourself? Go visit the Appalachians. People really should study history more instead of jumping on the revisionist bandwagon.

As for the OP. Making fun of accents isn't limited to Asians, but if you look at American History, Asians have always been portrayed in a negative light, much more so than any immigrant group. We have created laws specifically aimed at the Asian American populations in the US, in specific violation of the 14th amendment. We didn't even try to pretend Separate but Equal with them and even went so far as to enprison them during the war without regard to their civil rights.

It's a world wide phenomena, an us vs them mentality. There's an ass in my office who thinks it's hilarious and entirely appropriate to make fun of my southern drawl, and never considers what I may think of his accent.

Personally, I say the OP should write it that way. Don't go out of your way to offend people unless you let them know ahead of time it's part of your plan, and if you personally find it offensive then by all means, remove it. If not, and a listener is offended by it, oh well.
 

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Let's keep it civil, folks. D.E.M., your posts in particular are bellying up to the line, tonewise.
 

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RayBright said:
When everything's racist--nothing's racist. Don't write to please anyone other than yourself. The outrage mob doesn't read.
This!

Lessa said:
Agreed. It had nothing to do with Mark Twain and Charles Dickens writing with "no fear" regarding what "PC can get in a twist about". The suggestion otherwise simply shows ignorance of the time.
No, I am perhaps more well read of that period of time then most (specialist scholars aside). As one post already states above, Mark Twain wrote satire. The books are kids stories only on the surface. They are much deeper than that.

Charles Dickens indulged in naturalism in his writing, and that indeed was 'of the time'. He has been accused of all manner of sins, chauvanism and an apologist for British imperialism, and racist descriptions of some characters (which he toned down in his later books). So, could racism be found in his books, yes. What Dickens did endeavor to do was raise awareness in the middle class of the plight of the poor and oppressed. He was a champion of the antislavery movement as was Mark Twain.

Standing up against slavery and against the inhumanities of his time was brave and these writers were above all brave. You need to be brave as a writer. You need to be prepared to reveal parts of yourself in your books, points of view, that one day you might look back on and cringe. That's how we grow as writers.

Starting off wishing to offend no-one is not going to help you write good books.

Especially books that stand the test of time. Good fiction should at the very least widen the world of the reader, and they should reflect elements of the real world rather than distort it. Good fantasy and science fiction does that.
 

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Fortunate, I haven't read Gaiman but I like his take, there.

Paranormal Kitty, I haven't studied Twain so it's interesting to read your comments regarding his leanings on those issues as well as his literary intentions.
 
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