Does Censorship Belong In The Writing Space?

Hey guys! I’m so sorry for the delay in getting this week’s episode uploaded, I was having a few editing problems but it’s up now! One minor mistake to note, during the part where I talk about the movie Hard Candy I briefly mixed up the plot with a different movie. In Hard Candy the main character is not getting revenge on her sister’s behalf, she is simply a teenager who suspects the man of being a predator and that’s why she’s seeking revenge. Everything else I said about the movie from the way they did a brilliant job at tackling an uncomfortable conversation in comparison to other works who tried and failed at that still stands!

I also wanted to take the time in this post to talk about censorship in case you aren’t able to listen to this week’s Podcast episode for any reason. I want to make sure everyone can be a part of this week’s conversation!

I got the idea for this week’s topic after I read this article titled “The 10 Most Famous Banned Writers Of All Time.” https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/articles/the-10-most-famous-banned-writers-of-all-time/

I briefly mentioned three of the authors on this list. I talked about Judy Blume, Vladimir Nabokov, and J.K. Rowling. Judy Blume is an author who often tackles subjects related to puberty, teenage sexuality, and even things like birth control. All of these factors make her one of the most banned authors in the United States. I’m sure seeing Vladimir Nabokov’s name on this list does not surprise you. Nabokov is the author of Lolita, a book that has been surrounded by controversy since the author tried to get it published. This book was banned in several different places for its blatant themes of pedophilia. We will get more into this work later on in the post. Lastly, The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling has been banned in several states for its themes of occultism and witchcraft.

Now that we have some real world examples to work with, I wanted to discuss the difference between a banned book and a challenged book. In an article called “Why Books Shouldn’t Be Banned” posted by user cbo1094 they dived in deeper to these definitions. https://the-artifice.com/books-banned/ The American Library Association says “a challenge is the attempt to remove the written material while a ban is the actual removal” (Artifice 2019).

So, what’s bad enough to get a book banned instead of just challenged? This article also went on to explain the biggest reasons books are banned. The American Library Association data shows the biggest reasons for a book being banned are “racial issues, damaging lifestyles, blasphemous dialog, sex, violence/negativity, witchcraft, religion, politics, or just age inappropriate” (Artifice 2019).

Now that we know the history of banning books, do I think that books should be banned? No. Hear me out. I believe that we should use adequate trigger warnings especially for teenagers, refrain from romanticizing harmful ideals, and we need some sort of system in place to help give viewers a place to talk out their feelings. However, I think banning books all together is pointless. A lot of subjects in these books are subjects that are uncomfortable but necessary to have. Banning these books won’t make those needed conversations go away. It will simply prolong the inevitable conversation until a different outrageous literary work comes out.

I understand wanting these controversial books out of children’s school curriculum and libraries, especially when it comes to a novel like Lolita which wouldn’t be age appropriate for most High School students. I even understand being enraged by these books, but silencing these author’s from sharing their work entirely is unsustainable and ineffective when you look at the whole picture. I want to pose my next question to you directly. Do you think that these books themselves are harmful or mainstream society’s interpretation of them are harmful?

To illustrate this point I want to dive deeper into two books; 13 Reasons Why and Lolita. It seems like an odd comparison but both of these books illustrate a similar point. I’ll start by discussing Lolita. I’ll be the first to admit that I am completely biased against this book. I find the plot repulsing and the writing style completely overrated. This book is about an adult man trying to justify the sexual attraction he has for a little girl by claiming she is just one-of-a-kind while we are encouraged to ignore the obvious truth, the main character is an absolute creep.

Do you know what’s even creepier? The fact that when I was 15 years old with a horribly corny blog, I would see other girls my age trying to replicate the exact fashion and mannerisms of the little girl who starred in the Lolita movie. What do I mean by replicating her mannerisms? These girls would want to make sure they appeared as fragile and docile as a child but seductive enough to gain attention from older men. It was pretty heartbreaking and uncomfortable. You’ve probably seen this same phenomenon from celebrities like Lana Del Rey and Melanie Martinez.

I was a die-hard Lana Del Rey fan when I was a teenager, but I have to state the obvious. She portrays herself to be soft and delicate, so that troubled older men will want her. A lot of her songs are about how these older men treat her horribly but she bears it because of her undying loyalty. This disturbing phenomenon is more apparent with Melanie Martinez though, who has worn a bib and pacifier in some of her promotional material. I want to make a point to say that I don’t think these women have bad intentions but they are promoting a disturbing subculture nonetheless to their fanbases full of teenage girls. It’s an act that is seen as “edgy” and an ironic take on society, but it really does more harm than good. I don’t think these women should be censored or banned but I do think we should discuss this phenomenon that is occurring in front of us, so we can learn from it.

Another book whose plot was romanticized in an unexpected way was 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I find this book to be a little more complex since we also witnessed the book’s adaptation into a Netflix TV Series in modern times. I read this book in High School and absolutely loved it.

The plot is about a girl named Hannah Baker who is experiencing depression once she moves to her new High School. Hannah Baker is experiencing bullying by classmates, arguments with her parents, and traumatic incidents. All of these things lead up to her wanting to end her life and she leaves 13 tapes behind to every person she feels contributed to her wanting to commit this tragic act.

Right off the bat one point that landed negatively on many readers was that they felt this was a revenge plot and teaches teenagers that suicide is the ultimate act of revenge. Like I said on this episode, I really can’t argue with that because there’s no clear messaging in the book to offer a counter-argument to this.

In my opinion the book did one thing extremely well. It took textbook signs of depression like giving away your valued possessions and making drastic changes to your physical appearance and showed how your friend could be showing these signs very subtly. I thought it did a good job at reminding the reader to check in with their loved ones.

Now, here’s where the dumpster fire started. This book that covered a plot as heart wrenching as a teenager committing suicide was now going to be a TV show. It’s one thing to read about this subject silently in your head without being provided images, it’s another to see it all come to life right in front of your eyes. The show uses their actors who are definitely not the age of normal High Schoolers and gets them to dramatize these scenes of teenagers drinking alcohol, experiencing sexual assault, and dealing with trauma. You know who is watching this show? A lot of teenagers and those teenager’s parents. There’s no doubt this show sparked an intense emotional reaction from its audience across the globe.

I’ll quickly make a note of what I condemn the show for and what I praise it for. In the very last episode of the first season Hannah Baker takes her life. She does this in an extremely graphic scene that some critics (including me) say could be triggering for self-harm and suicide survivors and a twisted “how-to” guide for a vulnerable young viewer who might be having thoughts of suicide. We need to talk about suicide and depression. We need to discuss the facts and end the stigma. This show did all of that without including this scene. Once this scene was included we surpassed the need for awareness and ended up landing in unnecessary shock-value territory.

Had this show and book been marketed to adults instead of remaining in the Young Adult’s section for years, I might have a different opinion. Since it was marketed to teenagers I still believe the graphic nature of this scene was not needed and the next couple seasons that this show put out continue to perpetuate a harmful message to its viewers.

One thing that I want to praise the show for is including adequate trigger warnings. It has been years since I watched this show so I can’t remember if they put warnings before every single episode, but I know that they did have warnings for most episodes. In addition to this, they had the actors from the show directly speaking to the audience and encouraging them to reach out for help if they were experiencing thoughts of suicide or depression. Since I consistently ask for shows and books to do better with providing trigger warnings, I wanted to make sure I praised the show for doing this.

The dumpster fire continued after several people around the world finished watching the first season of this show and took their outrage to social media. I will note that I did not see a general consensus about this show. It seemed to be a fairly polarizing show, either you loved the rawness or you hated the portrayal. Media outlets had a field day with this public reaction beginning to share poorly researched studies that stated this show contributed to increasing suicide rates within its first couple months of releasing.

This study has been consistently challenged by several researchers but that didn’t stop media outlets from continuing to share the study. There are several petitions to this day that are online and want this show taken off Netflix. I don’t think it should be but I can definitely understand why people would want it to be. It’s a polarizing harmful show that sometimes romanticizes mental illness and presents itself as a toxic revenge plot.

Just like Lolita, after 13 Reasons Why released teenage girls begin to share edits of Hannah Baker online, casting her as this almost fantasy whose outcome they wanted to replicate. It’s important that teenage girls don’t feel alienated in their thoughts of depression but this show handed them a character who romanticized their mental illness and tempted them with a dangerous fate.

It’s not even the book or show itself. It’s the fact that we don’t really know what to do next. After vulnerable teenagers who aren’t completely cognitively developed digest this toxic material, they need a place they can discuss it with an adult/mental healthcare professionals. We need to have the flexibility in schools to have class discussions about popular works like this so that teenagers have a place to talk out these confusing thoughts that this show might have kicked up. It’s anxiety-inducing thinking about how many teenagers only have themselves and their peers to try to work their way through complex topics like depression and suicide with.

Let’s sum up my opinions for this week’s episode. Books should not be banned. This act is unsustainable and will only prolong the inevitable until another work discussing the same topics come out. There is a need for placing these books in age appropriate environments and figuring out a way to have constructive open conversations about them. Romanticizing these works can become even more harmful than the work itself. It’s our responsibility to watch the message we share and spread when it comes to tricky topics like this.

Let me know if typing out today’s episode was easier for you and if you’re able to access my Podcast on Spotify. I really have a goal to have the content I share on my Podcast reach all writers no matter where you are or what experience level you have. I will see you in next week’s episode!

Prompt: Write About A Thing You Need

Someone told me to write a poem about the thing I need

And all I know are the things I want, things that stem from greed.

Years of a numb kind of drunk

No awareness of a spirit already sunk

Lungs filled with smoke

An empty laugh at a warm joke

The only indulgence I missed

The only discernable mistake

The first name on a long, long list

Was letting you go, allowing it to break.

How to Write a Horror Story

Hey guys! So I have a new goal…I want to learn how to write a horror story! Normally I come on this blog to teach you how to do something I’ve already taken the time to learn but on today’s episode I thought we could learn together! So throughout the episode I reference an article:

https://blog.reedsy.com/how-to-write-a-horror-story/

This article simply gives tips on how to write a horror story. I also review my progress from January until now when it comes to my writing journey. I talk about what I have done, I talk about my future goals, and I ramble on for a solid 15 minutes about a crazy underdeveloped plot. It’s a lot of fun, come join!

I hope you enjoyed this episode and I will see you in the next one!

P.S. It’s come to my attention that this Podcast is not available in all countries so I was thinking about making it a video podcast and uploading it to YouTube as well so it can reach more people. Let me know if that sounds like something you would enjoy watching!

What’s the Obsession with Toxic Relationships all About?

Hey guys! Welcome to this week’s Podcast episode which was all about discussing why toxic relationships are so popular in fiction books, especially when it comes to YA fiction. Keeping in theme with the format of the last couple episodes I start this podcast by proposing this question, I give you real examples, and then we end on a positive note by discussing what we as writers can do to prevent ourselves from indulging in this toxic narrative. I used the Twilight series, 50 Shades of Grey series, After fanfiction/movie, and 365 Days movie as examples. Enjoy the episode!

Confession

I’m afraid that I have unintentionally painted a lie,

Dressed up and celebrated in sweet short lines.

I’ve told countless renditions of our devastating goodbye,

But never once took ownership for the mistake that’s all mine.

I have a habit of hiding behind a wide innocent gaze,

So when a betrayal occurs, you’re the obvious choice to blame.

But I’m guilty of keeping secrets that will make your head spin,

Manipulate a well-meaning love into a game I want to win.

This time these lines are an obvious confession,

Not coated in honey or a victim of my selfish suppression.

I did something wrong and you never even noticed.

I did something unforgivable and it kills me to know this.

Emily Duncan: Racism In The Writing Space

Hey guys so I can’t get the podcast to load how I normally do on here but yesterday I released an episode about the Emily Duncan controversy. The main focus of this episode was to discuss diversity and inclusion in the writing space, not to harp on the actions of one person. I wanted to make sure that I hopped on here and included every link I mentioned throughout the podcast:

Instagram Post About Emily Duncan Controversy: https://www.instagram.com/p/CNaZ61Er6UW/

The interview where Catherine Hardwicke talks about working with Stephenie Meyer: https://popculture.com/movies/news/twilight-author-stephanie-meyer-racist-twitter-new-book-reveal/

Sam Reimer’s essay about the racism in Twilight: http://film.byu.edu/aperture/?p=187

An interesting article about Hermione Granger’s Racial depiction and character description: https://bookriot.com/white-bias-in-literature/

2019 report on diversity in children’s and YA literature: https://bookriot.com/diversity-in-childrens-and-young-adult-literature/

THE 2018 STATE OF RACIAL DIVERSITY IN ROMANCE PUBLISHING FROM THE RIPPED BODICE: https://bookriot.com/the-2018-state-of-racial-diversity-in-romance-publishing-from-the-ripped-bodice/

WHERE IS THE DIVERSITY IN PUBLISHING? THE 2015 DIVERSITY BASELINE SURVEY RESULTS: https://blog.leeandlow.com/2016/01/26/where-is-the-diversity-in-publishing-the-2015-diversity-baseline-survey-results/

Articles to read when you’re learning how to write characters of a different race:

https://midnightbreakfast.com/writing-people-of-color

How To Shorten Your Poetry

Hey guys! I shared a video today discussing how you can make sure you’re being intentional with your poetry by adding a couple steps to your editing process. Poetry doesn’t need to be short to be good but it needs to be intentional! Feel free to comment your thoughts down below, I can’t wait to hear them!

I made sure to attach the draft I referred to throughout the video so you guys can get a feel for how I personally edit. The perfectionist in me hates uploading a draft because I want everything to be perfect but I really hope you guys are able to use this as a guide to improve your editing process.

The Movie Antebellum: What Went Wrong?

Before I even begin this post I just want to give a major warning not to read this article if you want to see the movie Antebellum and you don’t want to hear what happens. I’ll see you in the next post!

I am a long-time lover of horror movies, Janelle Monáe, and Gabby Sidibe so I was surprised to see that I hadn’t even heard of the movie Antebellum. I started by watching the trailer and it looked amazing. From what I gathered from the trailer this movie was about an African-American woman who was an author on some sort of mission. The trailer was so vague that I couldn’t figure out if that mission was her trying to write a new book or do some sort of research.

In the trailer, it cuts back and forth between the main character in modern times and then what appears to be flashbacks or maybe even nightmares she is having about the past during slavery in America. There is one scene where she is in her hotel room in the middle of a yoga lesson and then she is interrupted by a nonstop pounding on her door. When she answers the door there is a little girl standing at the end of the hallway staring at her. Maybe this is just me but I got major throwback vibes to The Shining when those twin girls are standing in the hallway.

My conclusion that I drew from the trailer was that this author was somehow going to be jumping into different unpleasant time periods. So when the movie began with scenery that depicted the lives of slaves on a plantation in America, I wasn’t shocked because I had already gotten a glimpse into this scene in the trailer.

What did surprise me was how long the movie covered this time period. It must have been at least a half-hour before I started to get confused. In the trailer the character had clearly been living in modern times for most of it so why was the majority of the movie taking place in a completely different time period? The main character who was called Eden on the plantation by white slave masters was enduring hardships that many slaves in America went through.

After spending the first half-hour of the movie understanding that Eden had one failed attempt at escaping which resulted in her getting branded, you begin to root for her and another slave on the plantation they refer to as ‘professor’ to escape the plantation successfully. All of a sudden the movie jerks back to modern times and the woman who has been referred to as ‘Eden’ throughout the entire movie is now a successful author whose name is Veronica. 

With a little patience and a lot of confusion, you begin to figure out that a lot of the white ‘slave masters’ you saw on the plantation at the beginning of the movie are popping up in the background in modern times around Veronica. At first, I couldn’t figure out if this was some sort of nightmare, illusion, or flashback. However, finally, maybe an hour into the movie you realize that this entire movie has been taking place in modern times. The scenes of what seems to be typical slave life on the plantation are actually taking place during modern times.

I know. It sounds confusing. Basically, this whole movie takes place on a plantation in New Orleans that has been transformed into a Civil War Reenactment Park. Yeah. It’s pretty twisted. Once you learn that plot twist you feel a punch to the gut once you look back and reflect on all of the brutal punishments and horrific treatment that was doled out throughout the entire movie. There are a lot of little snippets into all of the ways that racism presents itself in modern times and there’s a sobering reminder about the history of slavery in America. 

Overall the acting was excellent, it was well filmed, and the plot was definitely original. So when I went to look at what ratings it received from critics and checked the YouTube comments for the trailer of the movie I was surprised to see how enraged a lot of people were at this movie. This outrage sparked for a couple of reasons.

The first reason is people are tired of seeing companies profit off black trauma. I agree. Black representation isn’t just needed in serious films that discuss the traumatic and brutal treatment of black people in our history. Black representation is also needed in every other genre. 

The second reason that I realized people were upset is for a reason that I have discussed here on my blog before and gotten a lot of feedback about. It’s that same sharp plot twist that famous authors and movie writers love to use as often as they can. I’ve talked about how having an extremely shocking plot twist towards the end of a Fiction Novel can actually take away from the reader’s experience and quite a few of you reached out to let me know that you agree.

WIth Antebellum what made people so mad is that you practically got through three-fourths of the movie before they delivered the plot twist. You spent so long trying to gather your thoughts and connect the dots that by the time the movie ended you had lost your attachment to the characters because you were still trying to understand who everyone actually was. Not only that but the ending (major spoiler alert) seemed to lose sight of the main character, Veronica’s motivation.

Veronica was referred to as Eden on the plantation because they gave all of the ‘slaves’ on the plantation new names once they arrived. The movie ends with Veronica leading three of the twisted white men who had spent the entirety of the movie torturing black people and regurgitating neo-nazi propaganda into the ‘burn shed’ where she set it on fire and killed them. Veronica kills the woman who had been in charge of hand-selecting every black person on the plantation by smashing her head on a statue of Robert E. Lee. Then she rides on a horse with a torch in her hand to the entrance of the reenactment park as police officers arrive.

That’s not necessarily a bad ending, right? She got revenge which she deserved. However, her main motivation for escaping the plantation was to reunite with her daughter and husband. You assume they reunite in the end but you don’t know for sure because the movie never shows you or even tells you that. It’s a heroic meaningful ending but they left out an essential part of the main character’s motivation which honestly resulted in an unsatisfying ending.


When I talk about how the overused concept of plot twists can take away from the reader’s experience when we talk about writing stories on this blog, this is exactly what I mean. It can be a well-written original plot twist but if it happens at the expense of the character development you’ve spent so long creating for your readers to learn from, is it actually worth it?

Modern storytelling shouldn’t be a competition for who can have the most shocking plot twist. Modern storytelling should be about consistent character development and effectively leaving some sort of lesson or gift for your audience.

Confinement

Fifteen reminds me of her long black hair and the splash of freckles on her skin

She’d tie her flannel shirt around her waist before we climbed the chain-link fence

I didn’t know it then, I was too petrified to indulge in a forbidden sin

It was mesmerizing, I stayed on her hook happy to live in suspense.

She had a wild heart, she had a vile mouth and I strangely lived in envy

I was playing a role she was living my truth, I didn’t know what I was feeling.

She tells stories like me but she stretches them out until the fiction becomes almost deadly

It was an unfiltered admiration, a mindless infatuation and then one day it all hit a ceiling.

I liked the parts of her that were wild and free but always kept a little sweetness

There was a wicked side but I turned a blind eye, eager to keep her on a throne in my mind

She’s gone now and I’m grateful for that but I still savor the bits and the pieces,

Because of her I’m forever freed, there’s no version of me living confined.