Writing Prompt #5 -- taboo. (Not the party game)

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 18, 2009 -- 9:12 p.m.

I should make up a label just for excuses. Mostly, I've just been tired. And I took my cousins out to the sand dunes, and I've been having lots of activities in a new church.

It has always been really hard for me to make friends. I'm a very self-conscious person and I don't have much to talk about since I'm not "plugged-in" culturally. I rarely watch T.V. or movies. Most of the day I sit at my computer, being generally a boring person. So I fail at the small talk. I run out quickly. "So what have you been doing all week?"

Writing. Godsplay reached its 90,000th word today (probably closer to 94,000) so we're almost to the finish line. Hurrah! The problem is, I have to revise everything because I basically snapped the plot in thirds. That leaves things a little incomplete. I'm actually happy about it, because I realized that either I was going to have to slice up characters or do sequels, and I'd rather do sequels.

Enough with the excuses. Let's have today's writing prompty-ness.

Title: "Taboos"
Genre: Any
Type: Setting

Every culture has its taboos, be them religious, cultural, or whatever. Some people have taboos around certain foods. For example, most cultures have a taboo against eating other people. I think David Eddings had a culture that violated that taboo, much to the disgust of some other cultures.

Often, fiction books feature clashes between two distinct cultures. You can make the culture clash even more painful by featuring taboos. What if you have a party and one member violates a taboo that disgusts everyone else? More conflict, even if it's beneath the surface, is always a good thing when it comes to books. How does one explain the inexplainable--like if someone just thinks "eww," but they can't explain why it's "eww?" Survivor episodes have been dedicated to the grossness of eating chicken feet/brains, etc. Grubs as local delicacies.

Mmm, I'm on a food thing tonight. What about taboos as places? Your adventurers need to go to a local temple to save the world, but it will make them outcasts as doing so. In my book, there are a whole caste of untouchables, ala Indian culture, who handle the dead. Taboos can be useful class conflicts, race conflicts. Interracial marriage taboos? Piercing taboos? Anything can be a source of depth to your world.

And you don't even have to have cross-culture clashes. My family had some personal taboos that other families don't. I have some personal taboos--like I don't drink milk and I don't like to watch other people drink milk. I don't know why, it just grosses me out for no apparent reason.

Think of some of the taboos you might want to explore, something to round out your characters and settings. Describe them and, if you want, also describe why that taboo developed. It could be a mythological story or an evolutionary reason--for example, maybe the A'rreoskites have a taboo against eating brains because it spreads "mad dragon disease" or the equivilent.

Anyway, they don't have to be taboos that would make sense to us. The most interesting cultures can be polar opposites to our own, as long as they are believable and comprehensible. If they're alien, they don't have to be believeable.

"Don't put your finger in his splooit! That's taboo!"

And this is how classic drinking games get born.


  1. Luisa Perkins said...

    Congrats on the word count! Outstanding work.

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