1. I’m afraid this article left me wondering and thinking about something quite different than the author intended, namely: Why does a small, context-less snippet used solely for a writing example have to include the phrase “dark-skinned slaves”? It shocked me, and I’m a white Canadian; I can’t imagine how upsetting it might be to some readers whose ancestors were brought to America by force to see slaves casually included in this example just to provide mere colourful window-dressing for Garth’s building project, and treated as nameless props in a paragraph about how to write more effective prose. As part of a larger and more meaningful story that paragraph might be OK, but here… I really wish the author had used a different way to describe the workers.

    • Hi RJ,

      Thanks for your candid response! I appreciate your thoughts. To me, the detail isn’t “window dressing”: it tells the reader a great deal about this particular world setting, giving context to a scene that otherwise would not say much about this society and its problems. So to me, the detail says this society shares the same issues with racism and race-based slavery that our society tragically had, and were I to write the snippet into a larger story, that would figure heavily in the setting and probably the plot. To me that particular wording is an example of how good writing doesn’t just create stronger visuals, it also reveals things about the story.

      But since this particular essay is about good word choice, I didn’t bring any of that out. So I do take your point about posting a paragraph without context. Just wanted to respond and let you know I appreciate your comment and gave it some thought!

      • Thanks for your gracious reply, Rachel. I certainly agree that the choice of that description tells us a lot about the world and setting of the story. I was just concerned that in this context it raises issues and creates an impression which could be needlessly painful to some readers, when a different sort of example could illustrate the same point without that added baggage. Thanks for understanding what I was trying to say.

  2. Kathy E says:

    Re the ‘dark-skinned slaves’, that drew my attention too. My initial reaction was a little different from Ms Anderson’s (although I understand and agree with the tenor of her comment). My reaction was to wonder whether the purported story would be historical or set in an alternative history/universe (given that this is appearing on a speculative fiction website). Interesting the range of reactions already, isn’t it?

  3. I write a lot of alternative history, so (again if I were actually writing this story) it would be both spec-fic and historical. And yes–really interesting to see the reactions! Thanks for pitching in!

What do you think?