May. 12th, 2017

selenay: (writing)
This week, I went to my monthly critique group (which was held at a Mexican place where I ate the best veggie chili ever and sampled churros at last, but I digress) and the short story I'd written provoked some interesting discussions about culture and so on.

I live in Canada, but I grew up in England lived there until around nine years ago. So most of what I write is heavily influenced by where I grew up and I make no bones about happily digging into the weirdness that hides under the tourist version of England. The specific story I wrote was all about the destruction of the world, triggered by a meeting at a village fete.

And thus, I included a coconut shy, because it's one of those staples of a fete. Baking and vegetable competitions, Morris dancing, vicars benignly watching people lose their rag when they can't knock a coconut off its stand. Except it's a thing that's unknown outside Britain and my readers had to look it up, which was when we started discussing whether a story is marketable if its set so firmly in the minutiae of its culture that there are going to be references people outside that culture don't get.

And I pointed out that there are references in North American lit--including in their work--that I've had to research, but because things get American-ised, most people over here don't realise it. They're not used to having to dig in and learn. It's standard fare for people living outside North America. I mean, I cannot count the number of times I had to double check that Unspoken (by Sarah Rees Brennan) was supposed to be set in England, because so many references and terms had been shifted that it was a strange experience for me. I'd really like to read the British-published version, to find out whether it was done for all versions or if the Brits got a less confusing experience.

It was an interesting discussion, because we're not even talking about two cultures that are far apart on the surface. Same language, same racial background, our histories are tightly tied together. And yet, at times, it can feel like we're so far apart.

My conclusion was that I'm going to keep writing the way I do and throwing in references, and if readers need to look something up, hooray! Education! If editors one day want me to smooth out and Americanise stuff...I'll cross that bridge when/if I get to it, and I'll probably find the line I won't cross.

(Hint: the line will probably when someone tries to take out my coconut shy.)

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