Is there such a thing as being too controversial?

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Callum
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Is there such a thing as being too controversial?

Post by Callum » October 15th, 2010, 7:14 am

It's been a while since I've been on the forums. My computer's been playing up (hardware issues - a £1000 laptop and it's broken within a month *le sigh*) so I haven't been able to type up my WIP, which is currently on a USB stick. Kind of strange having to write on paper...

Anyways, onto the topic I want to discuss - can a writer be too controversial? My WIP is a mixture of horror/supernatural thriller/psychological thiller and I want it to be set within the real world i.e. real day characters and events. I want to write about how the government (and other more mysterious and powerful forces) have covered up and spun their web of lies. In my story I have Death causing the fog in the cameroon which killed over 2000 people in 1986 and an Angel targeting a Daemon on a plane, killing it and the rest of the passengers survive the plane crash (bar one; the Daemon in my story) - the Colombia plane crash of August 2010. These two examples are but a few of many.

My initial worry is that IF I'm lucky enough to have an Agent who's interested in my work, would it be too controversial? It makes a good story and hits home since they all happened, but the last thing I want to do is disrespect those who have died in said events.

So, I ask you - can a writer be too controversial?

Thanks for your time.

(Sorry for typos/grammatical errors and what not; been a long night!)
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jzweig
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Re: Is there such a thing as being too controversial?

Post by jzweig » October 15th, 2010, 7:43 am

In my opinion, controversy comes in many forms. I think you have to worry most when it depends on how hot the topic is. You also have to keep your audience in mind and who would read it. You don't want to saturate a childrens' book with political overtones, it'll bore them, or they might night understand it.

It depends also on how you approach the subject matter. If your extreme one way or another, you'll get a reaction. If you're gray, you won't get as great a reaction ( at least that's how I view it).

That's my two cents :)
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Re: Is there such a thing as being too controversial?

Post by Margo » October 15th, 2010, 10:49 am

Having a controversial book didn't hurt Dan Brown at all. In fact, many sources on the high-concept premise include 'Topic is considered controversial or sacreligious' as one of the qualities of a high-concept premise. Take from that what you will.
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polymath
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Re: Is there such a thing as being too controversial?

Post by polymath » October 15th, 2010, 11:14 am

Controversy generates buzz. Contrarily, hysterical realism loses the power to excite curiosity when it's mere spectacle. As in all things writing, the story's the thing.
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cheekychook
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Re: Is there such a thing as being too controversial?

Post by cheekychook » October 15th, 2010, 12:04 pm

I think it very much depends on the particular issue, the way it is handled, and the timing.

There are agents (several) who openly admit that if a book even mentions 9/11 they stop reading.

Using 9/11 as an example you can look at movies to see how vast the difference is in how things are received. The films that have been made that openly honored the survivors/victims/families were still somewhat controversial, but were well-received (United 93, World Trade Center). Another film, Remember Me, which came out this past spring, was torn to shreds in reviews as it was claimed by a few very ill-informed reviewers that the event was used as a plot device. It was not. The film was meant to be an homage to those who lost someone or were lost in the tragedy, but the knee-jerk reaction of some people was that it was disrespectful. Disrespect is the opposite of what the writer/producer/director had in mind. The backlash was horrendous.

Controversial topics can add to a plot or add to tension, but real life incidents need to be mentioned very cautiously, and it should never come across as though they are being used or misappropriated for entertainment.
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Re: Is there such a thing as being too controversial?

Post by sierramcconnell » October 15th, 2010, 5:28 pm

cheekychook wrote:Another film, Remember Me, which came out this past spring, was torn to shreds in reviews as it was claimed by a few very ill-informed reviewers that the event was used as a plot device. It was not. The film was meant to be an homage to those who lost someone or were lost in the tragedy, but the knee-jerk reaction of some people was that it was disrespectful. Disrespect is the opposite of what the writer/producer/director had in mind. The backlash was horrendous.
I think that's mostly because it was, "Ooh, shiny Twilight actor I wonder what the- OMG IT'S A HIDDEN REFERENCE TO 9/11 THAT THING WE ALL FORGOT ABOUT."

I saw it. The movie was kinda meh up until that point. Rob Pattinson's acting was actually halfway decent but the plot was just trivial until they showed the date and it was like. "Well. Explains what the buzz was all about."

So people were ticked because they used Twilight to tease teenage girls into a movie and then they smacked them in the face. Most of which were probably little when this happened. They didn't need that. Granted, they need to remember it, but not like that.

As far as controversy goes, do it in the right way, and it's okay. Do it like that, and you're in for it. But the problem is, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." So you never know until the reaction whether or not you've done it.
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cheekychook
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Re: Is there such a thing as being too controversial?

Post by cheekychook » October 15th, 2010, 9:07 pm

Actually your reply describes why some teenybopper viewers were shocked but in no way addresses the critical attack the film and its makers received from many reviewers. Robert Pattinson (the Twilight megastar) actually signed on to do this film before he was a Twilight superstar....he stayed attached to the film because he liked the script and the message...he took on the role of producer toward the end of the filming of the project in order to protect the film's integrity when the studio was trying to take it in a direction other than what was intended by the writer and director. When Will Fetters conceived the idea for the film and began to write the screenplay Robert Pattinson had yet to even appear in Harry Potter let alone Twilight. My point is that 9/11 was not used or abused in any way in the film yet some critics chose to take a stand against it and eviscerate it because of the reference. The film, in the long run, did fine---it has a 7.0 rating on IMDB, which shows that viewer reaction was not the same as bandwagon-jumping-movie-reviewer reaction. Controversial issues sometimes spark reactions that have little to do with the work itself and everything to do with the controversy or it being in fashion to take a stand against it.
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marilyn peake
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Re: Is there such a thing as being too controversial?

Post by marilyn peake » October 22nd, 2010, 2:43 am

Great post, Nathan! Right now, I'm reading NIGHT PROBE! by Clive Cussler. Politics run through it, but the story is such an amazing thriller, that's what stands out front and center.
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Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

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