How Politically Correct Should Writers Be?

A while ago a well-known author published a book about a rich, handsome man who pretty much had anything anyone could wish for becoming paralyzed in an accident. He and the woman hired to care for him then fell in love, but at the end he chose to commit suicide rather than carry on. This caused quite a few disabled people to be deeply offended, and this was pretty obvious in the reviews. Several suggested that she hadn’t done her research properly, or she would have realized that it was very insulting to those in similar circumstances in that it suggested that living in that way was so unbearable that death was preferable. Most of those real, live people strive for the best lives that they can. They don’t generally give up, and I’m sure that they have just as much joy during the course of their lives as anyone else, even though they have such huge challenges. I can see why they wouldn’t want to be seen as so broken that there was no point in being alive anymore. The book was a bestseller anyway, and most of the reviewers loved it.

The thing with fiction is that within reasonable boundaries almost anything is possible, and writers shouldn’t have to write while worrying about being politically correct. Without purposely being insulting to any particular group, our characters should be allowed to be as good or as bad as we want them to be. They can be weak. So weak that they get up nostrils. Or strong, crazy, opinionated, nasty, murderous, or prone to poetry. Our characters should be what we decide they will be. That’s what being a writer is all about.

So, considering all the things we already have to take into account when we’re creating our worlds and the people in them, I don’t think that we should be attacked for our character’s behaviour. One of the books that I’ll be publishing next year has a matricide at its centre. Already published books of mine have racists and pot smoking pensioners in them. I don’t see any point in writing at all if I’m going to have to sugar coat my plots and have all my characters be “normal”. If you’re going to read fiction you have to expect the unexpected. Look at Stephen King’s characters. I’m pretty sure that quite a few of them could be construed as insulting to all sorts of people. His “country folk” for instance.

I suggest, within reason, throwing the political correctness right out of the window when you’re writing, and make your characters just as weird, whacky, or whiny as you want them to be, or you’ll just end up stifling your own creativity.


Image Courtesy Pixabay

Author: jorobinson176

South African writer.

25 thoughts on “How Politically Correct Should Writers Be?”

  1. Well, first, the plot sounds pretty depressing. But just because many handicapped people have a really positive and satisfying life doesn’t mean someone else, with a different temperament, might not truly decide to commit suicide despite his love interest. Perhaps he thought he couldn’t give her the life she deserved. Anyway, there are always exceptions and authors writing fiction shouldn’t have to conform to the majority view — that’s one of the things that makes literature interesting — a different take on things.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My characters are totally un-PC and I’ve had no complaints, but then I write humor. The way I see it, those who don’t want to be offended can read something else…I do. You can please some of the people…….

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I agree and eventually,
    it’s impossible to write something that won’t offend anybody at all (we’d become paralysed). But I’ve had the weird experience of having my novella ‘Family, Lust and Cameras’ removed from some sellers because there is ‘pseudo-incest’ (two characters whose parents got married when they were teenagers, they are not blood-related, later end up in a bizarre relationship as the guy is a bit… weird). So, the characters could get married if they existed in real life, but I can’t write about them… (Amazon doesn’t seem to mind, but Apple and Kobo do). I’m not precious about my writing, but I found it ridiculous.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It seems people get all the more offended in today’s hyper social media state. If you you are going to write politically correct all the time your characters are going to turn out bland, boring…
    I happened to have liked your pot smoking pensioners. And let’s just face the truth, there are still very many racist people in this region of the world.
    Manny of the best sellers have controversial characters, plots and worldviews. Just look at Harry Potter for e.g. it landed on the banned book list for many Christian churches. I remember some of the most prominent speakers making whole sermons on the evil of that series…. I could go on and write an entire blog post on the subject….. my point is that life is not politicaly correct. Neither should our fiction be.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree with you that life isn’t politically correct. I am registered blind (I lost the majority of my eyesight at about 18-month-old). I don’t like what I consider to be sentamentalised portrayals of disabled people or works of fiction which portray those who are disabled as objects of pity. However it is not for me to tell my fellow authors what they should or should not write, although if, in my opinion a work of fiction portrays a person who is disabled in a misleading light I will certainly make my views known on the subject.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. How ridiculous! It’s just a story, not real life. The writer was just making up fiction, not writing reality. Some people just dont know how to tell the difference between the two. The plot is not her view on disabled in society, it’s just a story.

    Having said that, I understand… disabled people in general have so much judgement and rudeness to deal with on a daily basis, and I know this from experience on behalf of my disabled daughter, that it is possible to become oversensitive and on the defensive, and to take offence when none is intended.

    Writers have always written politically in the past, and still do today. But we dont have to let politics stand in the way of enjoying a good story. And writers should be free to write their own story as they see fit. We are privileged with freedom of speech in our part of the world, and should never be afraid to use it.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. If we all wrote, with the PC police providing running commentary in our brains, fiction would be the most, monotonous stuff, it would be like soda without the carbonation. Completely flat and uninteresting.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Very interesting point. My WIP takes place in 1880 Wild West America so I have a few cowboyesque characters who call my Native American character an Indian or a red-skin, because that’s how they would’ve spoken at the time. I feel bad about it, but I’m not going to sacrifice believability for PCness. I fully expect to get complaints when I publish.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Totally agree, characters should be real and controversial. I think, though, that issues can arise when the portrayal of said characters and / or the overall message of the book can be seen as un-pc or respectless.
    Writers and their work can have an influence on people and should always take care of how far they go – not to appeal to the pc-police but to be responsible.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. There is bigotry and then there is reality when writing. Writing the truth is never wrong in my opinion. Yet, proliferation of bigotry should not be allowed. Thanks for a great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Chuck hit the nail! Reality, bigotry, or just plain good manners have nothing in common. I think it’s wrong to paint all with the broad brush of political correctness. Good post.


  10. The character was a character first and a disabled person a very distant second. If disabled people choose to believe that this book is an attack on them, let them so choose. I’m sure there’s a market for books about heroic figures who overcome disability to lead fulfilling lives: that isn’t what the author chose to write. If you like a book, buy it. If you don’t, leave it on the shelf. But don’t whinge. Whingeing is very unbecoming. One of my books contains this on the first page:

    “I tried to explain. She’s a bit on the chubby side, Kathleen, which I like. Not a grotesque fatty; just a bit of a plumper. Real fatties, I don’t care for. I’ve got a pic I took of a thumper sitting on one chair when three would not have been too many. I took it from behind, which is the only way you could really bring yourself to look at her. Great blue denim bulges hanging down on each side. You’d wonder how anyone could let herself get like that.”

    I did get a complaint that I had been dismissive of people who were “weight-challenged”. Really? Well, I won’t mind if you don’t. Or, in fact, even if you do. It’s a story. Like it or leave it but don’t moan.


  11. Coincidentally, I’ve just written a brief article about realism in writing for a local newspaper (in Spain) because a lady who was about to buy one of my books, (a Memoir) asked “Is there any swearing in your book because I don’t like it!” I patiently explained about realism in writing and added that I don’t like gratuitous swearing, sex or violence, but I would be selling myself short if I wasn’t true to the character/scene or story. As we live in a democracy, we are indeed fortunate to be able to ‘write it as it is.’ We’d be robots if we all wrote the same, and how boring! Dealing with a sensitive subject can be challenging, but writers worth their salt, are – I’m sure – aware of their responsibilities.Only an out and out moron would deliberately offend. (By the way, I loved the book, terribly sad though I was at the outcome.)


  12. Hi,
    I am wondering this too. A guest author planned to curse in the guest post. I changed it. It’s my blog; I didn’t feel comfortable. I don’t know if there’s a definitive answer. Tweeted!


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