Guest Post by Deborah Nam-Krane
Today, I welcome back my friend, Deborah Nam-Krane, a FANTASTIC author, whose new book, THE FAMILY YOU CHOOSE, debuts TODAY! Deb is here to talk about “How to Write about Taboos”, which she does a masterful job of in her new novel. I was lucky enough to read an advance copy, and it blew me away!
In The Smartest Girl in the Room, one of the main characters commits a crime to, well, get some justice for another crime. I had some reasons for that development, but I wanted the reader to walk away with two feelings: sympathy and disapproval. Hopefully my readers understood what my character did, but at the end of the day, I wasn't making a lifestyle recommendation.
In the sequel The Family You Choose, no one breaks a law, but someone breaks a rule; we are definitely into taboo territory. I'm very aware—and have been for years—that this story might horrify some. I'm equally aware that it might titillate. While I'll accept both reactions (I don't really have a choice), I'm not courting either. So how can I make sure I minimize those possibilities?
First and foremost, I go back to rooting the story in the characters. By the time people finish the novel, I think they will understand why the story plays out the way it did. It isn't about speaking to an issue or manipulating my readers to get a reaction; it's about what happens when someone thinks she or he can get away with anything. (Who that someone is will not be expected.) The taboo isn't the story—the characters who set it in motion and the ones who got caught up in it are.
Another important consideration when writing about something "forbidden": ask why it is so. It's not enough to write to a word; you have to address the considerations surrounding it. Why is it offensive? Is it inherently dangerous? Is there an uneven power dynamic? What's the root of the concern…and is there anything that can be done to flip it, and would doing so help or compromise the characters?
It's rewarding to follow your character on their journey, but it can also be exhausting to do so when they insist you ask all of the questions that surround uncomfortable choices they've made. When we have characters that find themselves in such a situation, our job is to humanize them by making the reader understand, even if they don't approve—and sometimes even if we don't approve. One of the harder parts of writing, but also one of the more rewarding.
About the Author
Deborah Nam-Krane has been writing in one way or another since she was eight years old (and telling stories well before that). Her series, The New Pioneer debuted in March with The Smartest Girl in the Room. The sequel The Family You Choose is available today. And until October 5th, you can download the book for free from Smashwords. Use code TQ97C. Don't feel bad about getting it free—but please leave a review!
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