This week I am turning over the blog to Eric Trant, who is on his Women on Writing Blog Tour. I read his new book, “Steps,” Monday of this week. It was quite a bit darker than the books I’ve been reading lately, so it was quite a surprise. If you like to expand your boundaries this could be the book for you. While it is listed as a Sci-Fi, my opinion is it could also be listed as a Thriller or Horror story, too.
Take it away, Eric…
“Bigotry in Writing, Part I: How Much is Too Much?”
What a topic, eh. Bigotry. That’s a sensitive one, and if you tend in any way toward the literary side of writing, you will at some point find yourself looking through the eyes of a bigot, molding the world into something a little more tilted than it already is on its imperfect axis. Bigotry is a deep, dark, and dirty hole (as we say in the oil field), and you can’t see the bottom no matter how far you lean over and peer into it. And if you lean too far, you may consume your own soul, and find yourself tarred and feathered, tied to the pole of a faceless lynch mob crushing you with virtual stones and emoticons until you are nothing but an internet smudge.
That hole goes down and down, down, down, darker and darker until you reach what? There is no ending to it, but at some point you’ll have to stick a pin in it and say to your muse: Okay, buddy. Enough is enough. You made your point.
But how much is too much? How much is enough? That answer changes with every generation, but I’ll take a swag at it, because this topic is near-and-dear to my heart. And if it is ~not~ near-and-dear to your heart, as a writer and a human, it should be.
So you’re drawing up your characters, and you realize one of them is a bigot. You’ll probably start with the obvious and most popular bigot — the black-hating, Southern white male. Ah, that’s the ticket! You crack your knuckles, congratulate yourself on such originality, and the muse whispers, But wait, there’s more. You then extrapolate this into a homosexual-hating Christian. Not enough, whispers your muse. Make him a wife-beating, slang-speaking, male chauvinist Redneck. Hammer to chisel, now, and you’re moving fast. He’s a fat-hating athlete, too, one of them thar foot-mah-ball players who stuffed kittens in the trumpet player’s horn. Oh, and he must hate cats. He’s a Southerner, so he must hate them damned Yankees, too, and all Southerners love guns and hate pacifists. We’re on a roll, baby!
And so on, and on, and on, and dreadfully on… until you dig such a deep, dark, and dirty hole that even your muse stands over the lip, points into it, and says, Man, dude, I’m not going down ~there~. Are you nuts?!
At some point you have to stop. You do not want to create bigots so offensive that Dear Reader slaps the book on them.
It is your job to ~engage~ Dear Reader, not repulse them.
You want to create readable, publishable, thought-provoking characters, not a walking diatribe of mouth-spittled hate that may, if you are not careful, highlight just how bigoted you are against Southern, white, Christian men (for example).
Trim away the excess. Bevel the edges. Soften the blow. Round out your bigots into someone human, believable, and gasp, might they even be ~likeable~?
Remember Archie Bunker? Remember George Jefferson? Do you recall those two loveable, hateable, despicable, humorous bigots? You couldn’t help but like them. You couldn’t help but cringe at their outbursts.
Show some redeeming qualities. Even bigots are not all bad.
Did I really just write that? Yep. And I made it bold. Sure, some people are pure evil, but who wants to read about them? I don’t. Your readers don’t. Your publisher absolutely does not. I’m telling you, give them some good qualities, or they will die unread in your own personal slush pile. That, or you’re liable to wind up on the wrong end of a smudging.
Look back at the sitcoms, and you’ll find episodes of Archie and George where they showed their good side, where somehow the quarter flipped inside and came up tails this one time. And let’s dive deeper into it. Maybe they are bigoted for what seems to them to be a good reason. Find that reason. Help us understand ~why~ they are bigoted, and you may flip something inside yourself, and better yet, you may flip Dear Reader.
Do not generalize!
Note the exclamation point. I mean it. Do not generalize!
Note how the sitcom writers surrounded Archie and George with family and friends who both tolerated and denounced their behavior. Head shakes. Smirks in the background. They did not approve, but hey, what are you gonna do? That’s just Archie. That’s just the way George is.
And yet, these other characters were the same race as your bigot, the same family, generation, gender, and so on. Clearly, they do not share the same bigoted beliefs just because they are white, black, Southern, male, etc.
Being different is part of the human condition. We are not all the same. Do not generalize. That thar is where you get tarred and feathered, and that thar is how you chunk the reader and earn anti-fan stalkers.
Well, those are my few little thoughts on how to handle bigots in your writing. The list could go on, and on, and dreadfully on, but I am facing down the muse: Enough is enough, buddy. It’s just a blog post.
But as I mentioned, this truly is a near-dear topic for me, and if it is for you, please share your thoughts and experience with the rest of us.
Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novels Wink and Steps from WiDo Publishing, out now! See more of Eric’s work at
Steps is a well-written science fiction novel you won’t want to put down. Following the Peacemaker family through their battle of survival will keep you on the edge of your seat as you wait to see what obstacle is next.
“Society is falling to a ravaging virus, and the Peacemaker family is stranded in the mountains of Arkansas. Forced to band with a group of deserted soldiers, they battle to survive starvation, apocalyptic cataclysms, and a growing number of dangerously infected wanderers. As their dwindling number struggles against ever-increasing odds, they realize they are not alone in the wilderness. A large creature is present in the hills, at first seen only as a fleeting shadow. Now the family not only faces impending death from the unstoppable virus, they must also deal with the mysterious giant, whose footprints signify that he knows where they are.”
Paperback: 218 Pages
Genre: Sci Fi Publisher: WiDo Publishing (May 21, 2015) ASIN: B00Y3A9AZE
Twitter hashtag: # StepsTrant Steps is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon
Until next time…be kind to each other…and to yourself!