This is a tough post to write because it edges near things that I prefer to discuss in private. We all know the topics that can stir a massive fight. Issues that draw out the emotions and typically block rational discussion once the trigger is pulled. I won’t even list the areas here because I’m sure we all know them. Instead, I’m going to ask a simple question:
How do you touch on these in your stories without causing the fight?
First, let’s admit that people are going to see what they want to see. Someone that goes into a fictional story with an agenda will find a way to satisfy that agenda. I write fantasy adventure with an ensemble cast, but I still get the rare complaint that falls into one of the forbidden topics. I tend to ignore them because I don’t write my stories with these subjects in mind. Ignore might not be the right word. I don’t publicly react and I look at how I can adapt to remove the complaint from happening in the future. This really is hard to explain when one focuses on not starting a fight or holding onto neutrality.
Another thought is if we should focus on these topics if they aren’t part of the story. They can subtly turn up, but there are books I’ve read where it feels like such topics consumed the actual story. Reminds me of trying to see the road through a thick fog. Not to belittle the issues, but it’s always strange to read a story that doesn’t focus on them and somehow gets overshadowed. Though, I do wonder if that was only my perception and the author never noticed/intended for it to happen.
So, what do other authors do when it comes to ‘taboo’ topics? Are they impossible to avoid in today’s world?