15.34: Writing Deliberate Discomfort

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary Robinette, Lari, and Erin

How do you proceed when the story you want to write includes elements that make you personally uncomfortable?  In this episode we step out of our own comfort zones to examine this challenge, and to offer some strategies to you.

Credits: This episode was recorded remotely, and mastered by Alex Jackson


Write a short story from the POV of a character with whom you disagree.

The Lamentation of Their Women,” by Kai Ashante Wilson

6 thoughts on “15.34: Writing Deliberate Discomfort”

  1. The pinpricks of distress hit our quartet, Dan, Mary Robinette, Lari, and Erin, as they talked about how and why you might include deliberate discomfort in your writing. Your own discomfort, your readers’ discomfort, why is it in there? Pay attention to puppies, consequences, and marketing. Listen to your beta readers! A little bit of discomfort goes a long way? Lots of interesting discussion, available now in the transcript in the archives.

  2. Here’s a question your topic inspired in me: Have you ever been disturbed by what you thought of for an evil character to do? As in created that character’s path and then thought in horror “Did that really just come out of my own mind? Why would I think of something that awful?” Is this an advantage or disadvantage to a writer, being able to think of something that is exactly right for that character but utterly outside of the boundaries of acceptable human behavior?

  3. Finally, I’ve caught up!
    4 months ago, I discovered Writing Exuses, and now I have listened to every episode.
    What am I going to do now, you ask? Re-listen to all my favorite episodes :D

  4. You only talked about sexism and racism, but there are other things that might make a reader or writer uncomfortable. For example, hurting people. One of my favorite games is GTA V, and there’s a mission where the player has to torture a guy (an innocent, at that), and it’s for a good reason storytelling-wise (showing how evil other characters are, corrupt government agents who are forcing you to do this; and on a larger scale it’s a commentary on the dehumanization governments do), but I hate doing it every time I go through the game’s story.

    1. I agree that there’s more to being uncomfortable than including discriminatory behavior. My discomfort towards my writing is related more with atypical human behavior.

      That said, I still got a lot out of the episode and might relisten to write down some of the advice.

      Thanks for the great episode guys!

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