I am writing a story about fictional events in several nations all over the world. Much of the plot is influenced by ongoing practices of many nations. (e.g. - torture, extra-judicial killings, big nations bullying smaller ones into economically lopsided treaties, destruction of natural resources, genocide, etc...) This includes some actions done by my own nation (U.S.A.) as well as several other nations.

I don't want to omit these actions and policies, because that would take much of the tension and conflict out of the story. But I don't want to annoy or offend people of those nations if I describe the actions their governments do on their behalf. (Side note: My story also mentions many of the positive altruistic actions done by many countries, and how those actions contribute to the plot.)

My first thought is that people have written about horrible atrocities before and pointing out that dictatorships and democracies do these is fair game. People have written about slavery, colonization, genocide, economic exploitation, etc... many times before.

Is there anything foreign governments would do about it? Other than throw my books into a bonfire.

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    In a word, no. The examples are too numerous to mention. I'd stay from slights against Mohammad, but you could certainly, say, go after Egypt for their (lack of) policy against domestic violence.
    – Stu W
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 12:47
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    If you don’t want to offend, you almost certainly have to stop writing. Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 9:04
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    Although I mainly agree with the other posts here, take a look at The Interview. It had North Korea threatening to point (more) missiles at the USA. But it was done by very public and popular writers/actors, so it was hard to ignore. Shouldn't be something you have to worry about if you have to ask. But you might not want to travel to one of those countries to research your next book until the dust has settled.
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 9:46
  • The beauty of stories is how powerfully they can show/convey a message, or challenge a wrong worldview or action. Pretty much In any good story, you are going to be challenging and possibly offending some people who either struggle with the wrong action you are challenging or accept the worldview that you are showing to be wrong. Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 21:43

5 Answers 5


You can write whatever the heck you want. Don't worry about what other governments will say; all they can do it ban your book.

Unless your book reaches international fame and is a hit all over the world, governments will not pay any attention to it. They may catch wind of your book, but unless a multitude of their people are reading it and they perceive it as propaganda that needs to be destroyed, you're fine. You will not start a war with just a single book unless thousands, or perhaps millions of other people rally to the same cause and twist your book into something altogether different.

As it is a fictional story, most likely people will not take it that seriously. Make sure you emphasize its fictional state and veer off the trodden path a bit.


One of two things will likely happen.

By far, the more likely is that it will reach a small audience of Americans, you will get your "props" from that handful of Americans, and that will be it. Most foreign governments know that the American government disapproves of them, and will not pay attention to a "no name" American author.

The other possibility is that your book, or more likely, a book like yours, becomes the modern equivalent of Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Then some governments will be offended, and censor your book, but Americans, plus other "first world" readers, plus some citizens of the offended countries will praise it highly. In that event, it could be in line for a Nobel Prize. (But, this, the second possibility, is far less likely than the first.)


That depends a great deal on the country you are writing about and the country you are living in. And on how famous you are or how successful your book is.

The United States has a pretty strong tradition of free speech, so you can criticize the government very freely without getting arrested or persecuted.

North Korea, no so much.

If you are living in country A and attack country B, and country B is an enemy of country A, there will likely be no repercussions.

Similarly, if you attack Christianity or Buddhism or Judaism, people may object, they may throw counter-criticisms, but that's likely to be the end of the story. But attack Islam and your life may be in danger. Make jokes about rednecks and people will laugh. Make jokes about homosexuals and you may be charged with a hate crime. Etc.

If you're famous, or if your book sells millions of copies, people you offend will take notice and maybe there will be some reprisals. If you're like most writers on this site and your book sells hundreds of copies, it's likely that no one will particularly care. It's pretty common for powerful people to say, "Nobody has read this book. If we make a big deal of it, then everybody will read it to find out why we're making such a big deal of it. Better to just ignore it."

  • "criticize the government very freely without getting arrested or persecuted." yeah right, as a non-US citizen, write an anti-US book and see it emerge when you try to get a Visa/Green Card/Citizenship...and see what happens. Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 20:11
  • i know a friend of a friend. US bred and born, a native bostonian. as a teen he send several anti-US president and bomb threat e-mails. 10 years later the FBI is still monitoring him and periodically send teams to watch and follow him, plus some burocratic harassment, searches and being on the no-fly list.... If they could, they would remove his citizenship and send him packing.... freedom of speech? Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 20:24
  • if you become famous then yes, they can not touch you, it would make too many waves. that is "freedom of speech" for capitalists. same thing outside the US you get a "fatwa" you are golden, because that means enough people have been offended, means you are famous, means you rate state, MI5, FBI, or secret service protection. You are in a 3d world country, you write a best seller you are too know to be bothered or "disapear" and a dozen countries offer you azylum. Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 20:33
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    @reed Okay, let me clarify. In the U.S., freedom of speech means you have the right to criticize the government. It does not mean that you have the right to kill people or blow up buildings, or to threaten to do so, or to encourage others to do so. Freedom of speech in the U.S. certainly isn't perfect. If you want to protest cases where someone got in legal trouble for political speech, I might well agree with you and join the protest. But the FBI has been watching your friend ever since he threatened to kill the president and blow up buildings? Sorry, I'm not joining you on that one.
    – Jay
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 6:05
  • alright, i was mostly ranting anyways...i lived in the US for a decade and was often offended by double standards and hypocrisis concerning freedoms....besides, that particuliar person, from what i gathered, does appreciate all the attention. Commented Apr 3, 2016 at 16:56

It depends more the the people that you are offending. You are living in the United States (along with me), so you are fine. You are protected by Constitutional Rights to say whatever you want about the US without being arrested or whatever.

However, if you are attacking a religious group (like the Islamic faith) or cultural group, or another people group, then you will offend someone. Take care when doing so.

Similarly, I don't think other countries can do anything about it, although the people in said country may be offended by your book. Like you said, they might ban the book or toss into a bonfire, but that's about it.


Look up what happened to the Tron cartoon series, specifically why it was "cancelled".

  • Please elaborate; this isn't helpful as an answer if you don't provide the basic details of the case...
    – Standback
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 21:29

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