Blogs by Stephanie Silberstein
The G-d Controversy
12/23/2008 9:42:14 AM
I knew I was writing about something controversial... but I didn't think how I choose to spell the name of G-d was it.
A few days ago I joined Scribophile. Scribophile is an online writer's community, in which writers can post works for others to review. They have a nifty points system in which you earn "karma" for reviewing others' works, which in turn allows you to post your own. This is supposed to weed out attention-seekers and others who want not to give but only to receive.
Anyway, once I'd earned enough points to post something, I decided to share my first chapter of Shades of Gay* with the community. I figured it would be a good way to gauge the probable market response to the book, get it in the public eye, and gain insight into what might need to be revised. I was particularly interested in how readers would react to the subject matter. The novel is written from the point of view of a gay teenaged boy, and the first chapter ends with the protagonist masturbating to a gay fantasy. Incidentally, the protagonist, like myself, is Jewish and observes the tradition of spelling G-d without the O.
Here's a sample of the comments I received:
"First off, what's up with the G-d stuff? I don't think it's been considered obscene to say "God" in full since like the 1800s. Just change it; it's distracting."
"I don't really understand why God is censored, but other than that I like it."
"First off, I really enjoyed this story. It flowed well. It was concise and straght forward. The God thing kind of stopped me in my tracks. I was skimming, trying to decided if there was anything I could help you with and got slapped it the face with that. I agree... change it. "
"Even if it's for religious reasons, the G-d thing is going to be really distracting to the vast majority of your readers."
"I could comment on the God thing. Again. I agree...it is distracting. Way too distracting because of its oddity... When you write for the general public, it's got to fit in certain parameters. It has to have punctuation and wording of some sort that makes it understood. It has to be understood. I'm sorry if you can't use the word God on the page. You are not speaking it, your're writing it. If you can't, then don't at all, because it is irritating."
I'm writing about gay teenagers and people's main concern is that I used the word G-d instead of writing it out??? A word that I used TWICE in the entire first chapter is that irritating and distracting to people?
Maybe this is a good thing... maybe people really and truly aren't bothered by gay kids expressing themselves. I only wish for a world where it was so.
But I somehow doubt this is the case. I suspect that people are hanging onto this non-issue in order to avoid the bigger issue, which is that of their feelings about gays, especially after having been inside a gay person's head for four pages.
I honestly am not sure what the right thing to do is. I know you're supposed to care what the market thinks, especially if you want to sell books. I ignored the market altogether on the first try, creating Winter's Silence because I wanted to. So far I've had exactly 2 sales and I'm not sure why... but could little things like this be the case?
At the same time, I'm having a hard time believing that this is REALLY such a big deal. Also, Arthur's religious beliefs are going to become important later in the story... it makes no sense to edit them out because readers are bothered by the presence of a dash rather than a letter O.
I am writing Shades of Gay because I have something to say about the way gay people suffer in America's small towns. About the way they are treated by schools, religious institutions, "friends", and family. About how difficult it is to survive being a teenager and being gay.
None of this is particularly new but the way I'm putting it together is, and I want people to read that story and to understand something they didn't understand before.
If people don't like the book because it is pro-gay (whatever that means), that's one thing... but to not like it because the protagonist writes G-d instead of writing out the word?
This is not the battle I meant to fight when I wrote this chapter.
* For those of you who are interested, the first part of Shades of Gay is available here at AuthorsDen, and the entire chapter is available at http://www.authspot.com/Novels/Shades-of-Gay.302889
More Blogs by Stephanie Silberstein
Narrow Path Publishing gets a makeover! - Monday, May 04, 2009
30% is too much... - Thursday, April 16, 2009
LGBT Happiness Store open (companion to Shades of Gay) - Monday, April 06, 2009
Getting caught up - Tuesday, March 31, 2009
SIms 2 Videographers - contact me - Saturday, March 14, 2009
Shades of Gay on Facebook! - Wednesday, March 11, 2009
GUEST BLOG: I'm a coward, not a heart breaker - Wednesday, February 18, 2009
In Memory of Wolf - Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Snow Day!!! - Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Shades of Gay: Back Cover - Sunday, January 18, 2009
The G-d Controversy - Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Autism in the South - Monday, December 15, 2008
Crossroads - Tuesday, December 09, 2008