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I asked a question here on how to avoid political issues when I have a witch MC named Kem who is nonbinary, and a few people suggested that instead of including any kind of transphobia towards Kem, I should talk about how discrimination and anti-witch sentiments exist in Kem's world. I know that there is a stigma around witches and the wiccan religion, and touching on that or making it a plot point could either aid or impede my story. But I am still on the fence about including anti-witch bigotry in my story.

Do bigotry and other conflicts like it make a story more interesting? In a story centered around a group of people who have experienced persecution in the past, is it essential to talk about bigotry?

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    Is your character a spell caster out of fantasy or a follower of Wicca? – Rasdashan Feb 9 at 7:46
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    Why is this question getting downvotes? Is it not a valid question? – weakdna Feb 10 at 16:05
  • Your question is not really clear to me. Is your witch a spell caster or a follower of Wicca? If the first, there would be fear and suspicion - which is not necessarily bigotry. If the latter, it would be bigotry. Please specify – Rasdashan Feb 10 at 16:35
  • @Rasdashan they are both a follower of the Wiccan religion and a spell caster. – weakdna Feb 10 at 16:36
  • In which case, her spells won’t work so it is bigotry. If her spells worked it would not be bigotry – Rasdashan Feb 10 at 17:00
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Conflict makes the story interesting. If there's no conflict of some sort, if everything your characters want - they get handed on a silver platter, then you've got no story.

Does the conflict(s) have to include bigotry? Not at all. Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series, an Urban Fantasy set in modern-day Chicago, include characters of every shape, gender, colour and species in sight. And I do not recall any bigotry whatsoever across 15 novels and two short stories collections.

No bigotry in Asimov's multiple Robot stories either, unless it is some people's suspicion of robots (but most of the time that's similar to people not liking TV or computers, when those were a novelty).

If bigotry adds a meaningful aspect to your story, include it. Doesn't have to be real-life bigotry either: consider how in X-men, there's the negative sentiment towards mutants. If bigotry adds nothing, don't shoe-horn it in. There are multiple real-life issues you're not including. Why should bigotry get preferential treatment?

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    +1, Exactly. And since I don't enjoy writing bigotry, I don't! There are a million conflicts just borne out of "A and B want mutually exclusive outcomes," Like "what A wants will cause harm to B." Greed for money and power is evergreen, so is one person wanting to effectively own or control another. – Amadeus Feb 10 at 20:05
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Writing about a character who doesn't encounter any discrimination can come across as unrealistic if people of the same description in the real world frequently experience discrimination. Depending on how it is written, it could seem either like a wishful fantasy, or a deliberate whitewashing of real-life conditions. Even people who don't personally experience prejudice are often profoundly and psychologically affected by pervasive social conditions of prejudice directed at people like them.

If you're writing an invented fantasy world, you are well within your authorial rights to decide that this is a world where X group does NOT experience prejudice. Keep in mind, however, that your readers will need to suspend disbelief for this, just as they do for your magic or your futurist technology. You'll also want to make sure it's internally consistent. You also might spend some time thinking about who DOES experience prejudice in your world, assuming it is NOT group X. The risk you're running otherwise is that your portrayal of this person might seem shallow and inauthentic --more of a flavor than an identity.

Finally, if you want to write a realist story about a minority group, and not include cultural conflicts, your best bet is to set the story entirely within a subcommunity composed only of people from that minority. For an example of all of the above done really well, I would recommend Ursula LeGuin's Left Hand of Darkness, as a very believable, nuanced look at a world where EVERYONE is non-binary (except the narrator).

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Since her spells work, the other people probably won’t care how she calls herself. They will be afraid of the potential harm she could do. Other witches might have taught them that such power, while it can be used for good, usually isn’t.

Bigotry would not apply in this case. If she wants to get some of the townsfolk to help her, she must overcome their fear and suspicion of her power. This could be useful to your story as it will cause conflict and create impediments to her eventual success - assuming she does succeed.

It is not essential to mention the possible persecution of witches, but understand the terror the normal people would feel knowing a stranger with powers to ignore the laws of nature was visiting and might wreak devastation upon them.

I have a character in a dark line of work who often defends himself, telling sometimes those who’ve know him most of his life that he is still the same person. What he does is not who he is. In your scenario, people would care little for who she is, but greatly for what she is - someone with the ability to destroy them.

The other people would have learned from bitter experience what witches and warlocks are capable of.

Patricia Wrede wrote an intriguing novel called Daughter of Witches - it deals with people terrified of the potential harm a witch might do and burning all witches. A few strangers come to town and things get interesting. Read it.

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Searching that page for the word witch only found matches on your question and my single comment, which was not replied to. Reading through all of that question and its answers as they stand now doesn't necessarily tell the whole story, but I feel a bit awkward now. If I set up enough cognitive dissonance in your mind you felt like you needed another question to address it, I'm very sorry. This was not generally where I was going with my comment, although I considered it a possibility. But I was more thinking in terms of admiration, respect, and appreciation - Granny Weatherwax's gender and orientation would never come up, unless someone were asking for guidance that was related to it, because she was feared and respected. As far as we know, she was a straight cis woman, but apart from Discworld making it clear witches were supposed to be women, a difference in her gender or orientation wouldn't have mattered to the story significantly. One of the books would've needed some different pronouns.

There are other notable witches that I could comment on, but I don't think any of them have quite Granny's stature. Locasta-Tattypoo from the Wizard of Oz probably wouldn't change at all due to a difference in gender or orientation. Other than her pronouns, I don't think we get any insight in that direction at all with her. Glinda, also from the Wizard of Oz, on the other hand... we still don't get any insight into her gender or orientation, but we do get a significant vibe that she is loved and appreciated enough by the good people of Oz, and feared enough by the not good people of Oz, that we can be confident her gender and orientation wouldn't be any kind of an issue for her socializing with people.

Speaking about Kem, for their gender or orientation to be mentioned in the story, it should matter somehow. But how exactly that matters could be managed in a great many ways. For example, it could just be that Kem has difficulty identifying with gender binary people. Or maybe they just confuse people, but not in a manner that antagonizes people. It could be that they mostly focus on helping out other people of non-standard gender or orientation. It would feel a bit odd, however, if we learned that Kem was in some manner gender queer in the first paragraph, and it never had any impact on the story ever.

It could also be that Kem's gender and orientation are never an issue, because that isn't ever an issue in the world of your story. It would be nice if it wasn't an issue in this world. But since it is an issue for some people in this world, I think it's important for it to matter in some fashion in your story for it to be a detail worth mentioning in your story. But it's your story, not mine. I only respond because you asked and I like to be helpful.

You don't need to include elements in your story that you want to not be in your story. It's your story. Your story would likely be more interesting to a wider audience if you have some form of opposition. But that opposition could be whatever you want it to be. It also doesn't have to be opposition to Kem specifically. I've read many stories that were just the main character helping other people with the things that gave those other people problems.

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