Thursday, September 29, 2011

Writing 101: How To Write a Banned Book

In honor of Banned Books week, this Writing 101 post is a joint effort from both Michael and Lauren. We’ve put together some fun tips to help you write a banned book. So, fasten your seat belts, make sure your seat is in the upright position and place your tongue firmly in your cheek. It’s going down.





1. The material was considered to be "sexually explicit".

You ever heard the phrase sex sells? Well, sex also gets your book banned. The number one thing to include in your potentially banned book is “sexually explicit material”. That's not as vague a term as it sounds.


We all know that sex doesn't happen in real life. Authors make it up. It’s common knowledge that the stork brought us all here...unless you believe in other alternative theories...



There's no reason to ever include sexually explicit material in a book unless you want your book banned.


Dear author, if you want to get your book banned by the powers that be, you can’t be afraid to get down in dirty in your fiction. The key here is details, details, details. You want to include every bump and every grind. The act should go on for pages, maybe even the entire book. Go crazy. Then go crazier!


And while you’re sexing it up, consider giving readers a double wammy and hit'em with some homosexuality.




Caution: Never include anything homophobic or anti-gay because your book will never attain banned books status. We checked. (“We” being highly skilled journalists and thorough investigators of such things.)




2. The material contained "offensive language".


Have your main character and people around them swear a great deal. Real teenagers are not exposed to such depravity in their day to day lives, so the appearance of such in fiction is bound to exert a bad influence on them. Soon they will be swearing with abandon and parents nationwide will cry for the censorship of your work.


But wait, it gets better. As you well know by now, including sexual violence in your book is a surefire way to raise hackles. But if you want to really guarantee bannination, there’s one more step you can take: give that violence a name. 

Oh, yes, you know what I’m talking about. The r-word. Alright, sometimes teens get assaulted--but they definitely shouldn’t know the proper name for it! That’s just vile. Someone might read a book, stumble across that dangerous and disgusting r-word, and decide they want to try it out for themselves. Worse still, reading a book like Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson might encourage teens to, well, speak up for themselves about their own experiences. Make teens rock the boat, get your book banned. Easy.




3. The materials was "unsuited to any age group".

Your potentially banned book should be unsuited to any age group. But how exactly do you write a book that’s unsuitable for any age group? Very easy. If your book should never have been written in the first place, you’re on the right track. If that's what you have in your sock drawer, polish up that story now and get it into the first library on your block. They will be sure to ban your book for its unsuitableness.


If you haven’t written something like this yet, here’s how you do it: first you must use each and every one of the the tips in this award winning article. But you must go even further than that. You must offend your readers with every chapter, every paragraph, every sentence, every word. Shoot for a masterpiece that is entirely unreadable by any one.




4. The material was written in 1995.


According to the ALA's chart, 1995 was the year that most books were challenged/banned since they’ve been keeping track of such vital information.


Here’s what you need to do, Biff. Wait for Doc and Marty to go rescue Jennifer. Then steal the DeLorean! Make like a tree and get your ban worthy book to 1995! Tell your younger self about how crappy the future is because of climate change and that he/you should invest in Apple products.


Wait. I mean, give your younger self the banned book you’ve already written and tell him to publish it as the eBook. He’s going to say that no one reads eBooks to which you’ll respond, “Do it, Butthead! I’m from the freakin’ future.”


Hopefully, when you come Back to the Future you’ll be able to look back on your historic banned book that, by its very existence, has created an alternate reality where you’re the king of like banned books or whatever. You’ll also be married to Lorraine and have shot and murdered George McFly, and climate change will still be a reality. At least, you invested in Apple!

“Last week I was in my other, other Benz.”


5. The material contained “violence”.


Teens live really peaceful lives and are unfamiliar with the concept of violence, except for what they see on the news, TV and movies, video games, at home, at school, and on the street. The point is, it’s important to shelter them from it in fiction. Adults don’t want them to get any ideas or, god forbid, see their personal experiences reflected in what they read. Wait, I mean, what personal experiences? I think we’ve established that real teens are not exposed to violence.


So if you open that dangerous door, dear author, you are well on your way to angering adults and getting challenged. Of special note: hate crimes, sexual assault, and domestic abuse. Those are the kinds of violence society really wants to sweep under the rug.




6. The material upset governments.


Governments are actually the only entities who can ban and have banned books completely from society. They can enforce a ban legally through the court system and can punish infractors with penalties.


The only reason this item isn’t number one is because different bodies of government vary on what criteria causes a book to be banned. Usually a government will resort to censorship when there are political, religious or moral issues with the written material.


Now normally, you're a meek, respectful, and polite author. But that attitude will not get you a banned book. Your job is to upset, anger and be a down right meany-pants. You must vilify your political opposition. Your religious arguments should be one-sided and inconsiderate of the majority’s belief system. Also, don’t forget to demean the opposite sex and include other immoralistic values. Speak your dark, infested mind.


There is no one way to upset governments. So combine all of our advice in one giant smorgasbord of ban worthy material.




7. The material upset parents.


Parents always know what’s best for their children. They are never wrong under any circumstance. And children are incapable of thinking for themselves. They don’t know any better. They’ll read any old thing you put in front of them and will likely suffer a lifetime of traumatization when exposed to certain fiction.


This is where you come in dear author. You must offend these parents if you want your book banned. Parents must disagree with the value of your book in every way. You must make them take umbrage with your fiction so strongly that they have no choice but to do what's right for the entire first world and force their opinions on the rest of society, who will no doubt listen and agree.


We are all aware that there is never a choice in which books to read and which ones to simply not read. We're all forced to read every single book that has ever been written, so banning books is a great way to protect us from like the Big Bad Wolf and stuff. Not only does banning books free us of the tedious nature of making a choice for ourselves, it also scares authors away from writing great stories...I mean, inappropriate material. As a society, we’ll force authors to churn out tame fiction for the masses that never challenges our lazy minds or provokes critical thought.


Deep topics in books aren’t open for discussion and shouldn’t be. Engaging in analytical discourse is a pointless endeavor. Banning is always the answer to everything. It is not a knee jerk reaction at all. Who cares if no one's read a word of your book yet to know for sure if it's actually as bad as we think it is? If it merely sounds like it's harmful to our children--Banned! Parents are your saviors!

“I’ll tell you where you can find fantastic beasts. Not in this household!”






8. The material upset schools and libraries.


Schools and Libraries have challenged more books than any other institution between 1990 and 2010. Aren't our children lucky to have such filters?


As we’ve seen from item number 7 above, parents are very capable of deciding what's appropriate for their own children and for everyone else. However, why should schools and libraries let parents do all that hard work?


Shouldn’t parents instead rely on another entity that can make that choice? You know, the same way parents remove the freedom of choice from their children...and everyone else.


In all reality, parents don’t really know any better than their children. They’ll probably just allow their kids to read any old thing. But even if they are awesome filters for their own households, they may not catch everything. They need schools and libraries to back them up or to do the job entirely.

Plus, what libraries and schools absolutely don’t need more of is books. They’ already full of them. You can help them out by writing a book that they will surely ban. It makes total sense.


Everything you applied to parents in the above item, you must apply it to schools and libraries as well.




Topics to Avoid When Writing a Banned Book


Don’t worry yourself writing about serious topics such as abortion, anti-ethnicity, racism, or as mentioned above, homophobia, which doesn’t even make it onto any lists at all. Not that many people care strongly enough about those topics to ban them from books. People are pretty much chill on those.


Also don't try to offend Community Groups and Prisons. They are both the least likely groups to ban your book. And one is instead more prone to shanking. The other we can’t can’t even tell you about because we’ve never been to prison. But we’ve heard stories of sexually explicit violence that’s unsuited for any age group and would especially upset any parent, school or library in the year of 1995.





But Why Write a Banned Book?


Simple! You ever noticed how much publicity those things get? Word of mouth is the best way to get your book flying off the shelves, and no news spreads faster than outrage. First comes the outrage from parents, schools, and libraries at your audacity to write such a book. Then comes the outrage from “free thinkers” who don’t think any books should be banned. Before you know it, your name will end up on the news and in lists all over the Internet. And just like J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, you will be rolling in the dough.


Another reason some people might put forth is that banned books are often so honest, raw, delightful, and painful that they make everyone sit up and take notice for good or bad. And we hear some people like to write honest books. But it’s also okay if you’re just itching to write a scene with some blood and guts flying. As we have thoroughly demonstrated by now, it’s not the thought that counts, it’s the banning!

30 comments:

Racquel Henry said...

I love this post! Great job! I definitely want to write a banned book lol. :)

Holly Dodson said...

You guys are so full of awesome! What a great post!!

Athena Grayson said...

Haha--I need to print this out and put it up right next to my computer. Only none of the librarians I've ever encountered or had the pleasure to know would do anything besides hand out that banned book to anyone who wanted it. My local librarians are very protective of their books' rights to exist and be circulated. Also I know many teachers who are fully on board with getting banned books to the student body. Now, school *boards* and local governments, on the other hand... ;)

Michael L. Martin Jr. said...

@Racquel - We all should write ban worthy books! :) Thanks for the comment.

@Holly - Very kind of you to say!

@Athena - There are many awesome librarians/teachers/people out there who thankfully appreciate freedom of choice in books. Thank you for the comment.

Lauren Hunter said...

"And one is instead more prone to shanking. The other we can’t can’t even tell you about because we’ve never been to prison."

I am still loling over this. (Not laughing at my own joke, mind you, that one was all Michael. ;)

Bailey Hammond said...

"Plus, what libraries and schools absolutely don’t need more of is books. They’re already full of them. You can help them out by writing a book that they will surely ban. It makes total sense."

Haha! And now it makes sense that they're happy when I take books!

Ghenet Myrthil said...

So funny!

Becca said...

I love this post, but the Back to the Future references made it perfect.

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Natalie Marrujo said...

Okay. Great job on the guidance. I would like to make my essay collection from funsies to get banned - it's on my blog! Also, there are drawings added to this collection. I love to read banned books because I already read Alice in Wonderland before and am ready to explore real-life issues when it comes to writing a banned book - I perfer a YA trilogy about a Deaf demigod with a mysterious, dark past. Thanks for the steps for me being a writer.

Natalie Marrujo said...

I almost forgot... how about an essay about my imaginary boyfriend's life chronicling from conception to where his story actually begins. This is going to be so funny to get it banned due to the sexual content, it's grown-up, violent, and very long. It contains mild language that may find offensive and few paragraphs about a twelve-year old self in whom after his best friend and first love since daycare was killed, sheds off his good boy image and went the darker, edgy side of self for a few years until a miscarraige happens on New Year's Eve to just break up with his girlfriend and leave to work hard so he can move on with his life which may find objectionable for some people. I get it now to write it down. Thanks so, so much. I know my 1995 self do not exist yet because I wasn't even born yet, I was born in 1996, am now 18 and can move along to grab dangerous ideas to collect finally.

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