Hell's Half Acre (hells_half_acre) wrote,
Hell's Half Acre
hells_half_acre

Unsoliticited Writing Tip - #2

Firstly, I hope all my American friends on here had a great 4th of July! May your country only improve with age and maturity :)

Some of you guys liked my fic-reading induced rant on Saturday (was that Saturday? Friday? Who knows) Anyway, there was a request for more such posts, so here's another one:

FOREIGN CULTURES:
When writing about a foreign culture, even if you don't THINK it's that different than your own, there are amazing little things that you can get wrong.
This is really unavoidable. But whenever possible, try to have your fic read by someone from that culture.

Someone (a guest no less) just had their shoes on, in the a Canadian household, in WINTER.

Listen, I’ve had dorm rooms that you could cross in 6 steps. 5 of those steps were ALWAYS done in socks… and to this day, if I have to go more than one step into my apartment to quickly grab something and I leave my shoes on to do it, I apologize TO MYSELF.

It's just amazing what can throw someone out of a fic.

Now, this is SO SMALL AN INNOCUOUS. This isn't a rant saying that you have to be perfect - this is more me saying that you are inevitably going to get something like this wrong. You just will. And, you could argue, this one isn't even as bad as the old J2 fic I used to read that had frequent snow (and snowstorms) in Vancouver.. (seriously, just because you cross a border, that does not mean the Pacific North-West is no longer a temperate rainy climate)... but, at the same time, it IS just as bad... because as soon as I read that this person, was wearing his sneakers in the kitchen... I was out of the fic immersion, and yelling at that cute boy to get his ass back to the front door and take off his shoes like a civilized person - and did he not realize the amount of salt, sand, and slush, he would have tracked through that house?!

Anyway, folks, just because Canada is next door to you, and just because we speak a common language and watch many of the same TV shows, doesn't mean we're exactly the same. We take our shoes off at the door, in all seasons, and if we don't want to, we always check with the owner of the house before leaving them on... only THEY can tell us whether shoes are allowed to stay on (and some people DO keep their shoes on, but for the most part, I find those people either come from Away, or they haven't cleaned in a while and don't want you to get your socks dirty.) Your first action when entering a Canadian home is always to either take your shoes off, or say "shoes on or off?" if there doesn't seem to be a place to put shoes by the door or you notice your host has left their shoes on. An exception to this is if you were invited over for a summer BBQ/yard-event and the way to the backyard (where you will once again need your shoes) is through the house.

We also do say "sorry" a lot. It's not an admission of fault, it's the equivalent of saying "I acknowledge that just happened, and I wish it hadn't" (this is why we say sorry when people bump into US, not just when we bump into other people) or "I acknowledge that I may have just interrupted you and/or spoken too long - what were you saying?" or "I can't hear you, please repeat that?"...or "You seem upset, I don't know why, but if it's because of something I did, please know my intention was not to upset you"....or, in some cases, it can mean "WELL EXCUSE ME FOR EXISTING AND ALSO FUCK YOU!"... all depending on the circumstances and inflection, of course.

Anyway, yeah, I know I've gotten stuff wrong about America and Britain in my fics. I called Tower Bridge London Bridge, and no one caught it... it probably actually is STILL wrong... maybe because no one actually realizes that I meant Tower Bridge. I probably didn't describe it. Listen, I've never been to London... my point is, we all do it, but it's important to be AWARE of it, and if you're trying to get something IMPORTANT right, then it's, well, important, to be aware of your weakness and to seek help with correcting them.

Getting Canada wrong isn't that big a deal - but if you get a more oppressed or underrepresented culture or group wrong, then it can be an offensive disaster, and no one wants to do that! So, never assume that you know things, unless you are actually a member of that group/culture. Always ask when you can, or research heavily when you can't ask.

And who knows, maybe this fic writer is Canadian...but like... a weird one? Maybe they're from away? Who knows. All I know is that the sneakers in the kitchen threw me right out of my ability to actually believe they were in Canada.
Tags: writing tips
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