selenay: (writing)
[personal profile] selenay
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.)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-12 03:25 pm (UTC)
choirwoman: (books)
From: [personal profile] choirwoman
Yes, so much yes! (If editors wanted *me* to smooth out and Americanise stuff, I'd get a 'stet' stamp instanter.)

My spouse has a set of translated-into-Dutch Paddington books in which all the cultural references have been taken out, probably because "Dutch readers won't get that anyway", making the whole story so incomprehensible that he didn't know what the Guy Fawkes and Christmas stories were about until he read my English copies as an adult.

I write fantasy that way too, and it annoys me when a writer thinks they have to explain everything: explanation breaks immersion for me. My beta readers chide me sometimes for not explaining, and then (when I agree with them, which is not always) I try to be clearer *without* explaining.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-07-16 01:35 am (UTC)
conuly: (Default)
From: [personal profile] conuly
There's also glossaries or appendices. I've found those helpful both when reading fantasy and when reading books from England or Australia. (And let's face it - to a New Yorker, stories set in rural England are just as fantastical as those set on a space station or in Middle Earth or wherever.)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-12 03:53 pm (UTC)
dirty_diana: colored pencils sit in an empty latte cup. (Default)
From: [personal profile] dirty_diana
Okay, googling a term and learning about something new doesn't even sound like the end of the world? People are weird.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-12 06:20 pm (UTC)
paranoidangel: PA (Default)
From: [personal profile] paranoidangel
My aunt had a book published by an American publisher (she lives in Australia) and they made her change everything to Americanisms, even though it was set in the south of England with English (and one Irish) characters. She did manage to convince the CEO to allow her to include "shite" but decided after that that self-publishing was the way to go. (And then I didn't read them after that because there was too much sex in them and that's just weird when it's your aunt)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-12 07:07 pm (UTC)
lost_spook: (writing)
From: [personal profile] lost_spook
Fight for your rights to a coconut shy! Or possibly to throw coconuts at editors, whatever.

;-)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-12 07:19 pm (UTC)
havocthecat: shego facepalms at stupid people, and everything else (kim possible shego facepalm)
From: [personal profile] havocthecat
Honest to fuck, I get so annoyed by the Americanizing of everything. What if I want to be confused about something from another culture and learn about it from context or have to research it? Why should I be forced to have it spoon-fed at me or reordered to make my worldview more comfortable? I DON'T WANT MY WORLDVIEW MORE COMFORTABLE.

(A coconut shy looks like a bottle toss! Only with coconuts instead of bottles. I researched it. See? Not that hard! And I could mostly figure it out from context anyway. Though now I want coconut-based baked goods.)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-07-16 01:36 am (UTC)
conuly: (Default)
From: [personal profile] conuly
Y'know!?

Though I imagine I know all about coconut shies anyway because of Neopets. I mean, I probably don't, but I imagine I do.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-07-17 04:33 pm (UTC)
conuly: (Default)
From: [personal profile] conuly
Oh, carnival games are always rigged. That's gonna come through loud and clear. But them getting smashed, now, never thought of that.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-12 07:34 pm (UTC)
katlinel: Two female skaters, holding on to one another (Default)
From: [personal profile] katlinel
I applaud your stand on this. I remember reading, for example, the Katy books when a child and I was fascinated by things I didn't understand, such as the jumbles. It was clear from context that it was a cake with a hole in the middle, but I always hoped to find out, one day, what exactly it was, this not-quite a ring doughnut. And now it's so easy to find out such things, I don't see why it's a problem. Surely your writing group could work out what type of activity a coconut shy is, regardless of the specifics of it, which probably don't matter. Colour can be provided just through encountering the unexpected, even if every detail of that colour is not immediately clear to the reader from a different background.

It reminds me of discussion around privilege, in that the less-privileged take on the work of understanding and adapting to the more privileged norms and mores in order to survive.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-13 05:19 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
Yes! I have never in my life seen a coconut shy, but I know what it is from reading other books.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-16 08:08 am (UTC)
luckykaa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] luckykaa
It does make me sad that people only want to know about stuff they already know about. I guess it does take you out of the story if you have to pick up a device and google something.

Still, even if I didn't know what a coconut shy was, I'm sure I'd be able to piece it together from the sentence about trying to knock a coconut off it's stand. It seems a much better way to handle it than removing the reference. And that's assuming it matters.

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