How culturally accurate should a writing project be?

Obviously, you can’t hold the concept of what’s “right” from culture to culture. It’s not about comparing the standards of one culture to another. Let’s get that out of the way. it has NOTHING to do with that. I’m saying this first, because it’s the hobby of the Internet to jump to conclusions about what people are talking about.

Now for proper context, what I’m asking is, is it alright to show criticisms for culture or belief systems when you are trying to present facts and accuracy about them?

But for one of my current WIPS, I am torn between trying to give proper details about modern life of a country, and avoiding trying to paint things too negatively. Treating negative aspects of a culture like they don’t really exist seems kind off in my mind, and obviously, OBVIOUSLY, I’m trying to focus more heavily on the positive aspects anyway.

Now, I don’t even mind changing things if people don’t want to hear it, but I would be lying if I didn’t say a little bit of me wasn’t leaning towards wanting to hear that people would at least want to learn as much as they can about other cultures, even if it isn’t always positive.


Many writers of fiction use the fiction to emphasize the qualities of a culture they desire to discuss. Sometimes this may mean being very accurate about something and sometimes it means exaggerating an aspect or even minimizing something else.

Fiction is a key to discuss “what if” as well as “why” or “how”.

As the author, you lead the discussion of whatever you highlight or minimize.


This… Is a very tricky question, actually. Sadly it’s kind of a situation where you can’t really please everybody. Some people will be offended if you point out the flaws in certain cultures, whereas other people will be offended if you pretend that flaws in certain cultures don’t exist.

I guess the most helpful advice I can think to give is, stay clear of stereotypes, but stick very firmly to facts. For example, if you wrote a story set in Japan where the main character is a giggling, kawaii school girl who has a habit of clumsily tripping over and falling on her male classmates, and spends her free time watching tentacle hentai… Then yeah, people are probably going to be offended by that, because it’s not what Japanese people are actually like, it’s just a weird stereotype.

If, on the other hand, you wrote a story about a woman living in Saudi Arabia, dealing with the struggles of not being allowed to leave the house without a male escort, this is definitely not offensive, because women in Saudi Arabia not being able to leave their house without a male escort isn’t a stereotype, it’s a fact.


If a culture in a story is completely flawless, it’d probably come across as flat and unrealistic (unless you were writing an utopia). It’d also mean taking away an opportunity for a character (and a player) to grow and evolve.

As @Eiwynn had said, fiction is a great way to light up different subjects, thus provoking a response in a reader, perhaps even challenging their view on certain topics.

On the other hand, if said negative aspects include sexism, racism or any other kind of discrimination, you have to thread with care. And for me, one of the most important points are:

  1. A player has a chance to determine how they feel about it, maybe even have a chance to try and fight/change it (but is not forced into challenging it)
  2. The negative aspects are not constantly shown into our faces.
  3. Other characters are not ignorant of these negative aspects.

Case example: in Guinevere your character is pushed into an arranged marriage (in some cases without her consent) to a person she had never met. That is one of the flaws of Arthurian culture and it creates a wonderful tension in the plot. A player can choose how they feel about the situation and act accordingly.

Both Welcome to Moreytown and Choice of Rebels: Uprising include cultural problems and you can always do a quick research on how (successfully) they addressed them and what techniques they employed.

Basically this.


Culture is complicated, and it’s important not to impose your morality onto a culture just to criticize them, especially in a historical setting, a lot of culture and tradition is a product of it’s time. Also no culture is without fault, but no culture is also without merit


I think it really differs between readers.Some people would feel offended if you were not being accurate enough, while some other people would feel offended if you were telling the harsh truth.You can’t please everyone when it comes to culture,especially when politics related.
For me the the attitude matters more then accuracy(for art works).The Nightingale is great,while The Farther Adventures of Robinson CrusoeI is offending.I prefer the authors taking a more personal angle,observe and tell,not so much judgement and conclusion,unless it’s intended to be political or academic(like Matteo Ricci’s great works).Taking movies for examples,I‘d say Antonioni’s Chung Kuo,Chris Marker’s Sans soleil,Jean Renoir’s The River were masterpieces this way

I think it depends on how you write about that culture.

If you’re just throwing facts here and there that you heard from people, read on the internet and saw on the media then probably your information is not going to be accurate and possibly will end up being pretty offensive.

However, if you are doing a deep research on the matter, contrasting information, talking with people from that culture and using legit sources then it shouldn’t be offensive as long as you know what you’re talking about and respect boundaries.

If your intent is to accurately present the facts, then I would withhold your criticisms of the culture and the system as much as possible. If you really wanted to include a criticism, then you should probably signal to the reader that that’s your opinion and not factual.

Blockquote If you really wanted to include a criticism, then you should probably signal to the reader that that’s your opinion and not factual.

So I think I should be giving this a little more context.

Don’t be getting the wrong idea. I already said you can’t really compare societal norms of one culture to another, but I am well aware that’s what some readers are going to want to do that anyway, which a few have already done. It’s not about my personal opinions really, but just the general fact people can’t be stopped from drawing their own conclusions about intent and context regardless of how it is actually meant.

Case in point, a couple of people on a different site gave me criticism because somehow my WIP seems to “demoralize western views.” One of them saying that if something wasn’t done about it, they would boycott it.

Now. I will do almost anything for fans. But what I cannot do is change their own delusions. There is nothing like that that implies, condemns or praises any one culture over the other. Clearly the thing to remember, is a couple of people aren’t the majority. Whatever you think of them being right or wrong, isn’t the point.

It raised an interesting thought in mind about if people are going to purposely draw their own criticisms to certain cultures, it can’t really be stopped, so why should that bar me from acknowledging stuff that journalism and modern research has covered about that culture?

I feel like if people actually want to understand people better as a society, that starts with understanding other places in the world outside of generalizations and stereotypes about that culture and being able to look at in a modern light, whether or not that always gives it the most positive social image to other groups.

But once more, societal norms between two cultures can’t really be compared.

P.S. As a general rule, I don’t like making responses longer than what someone’s statement was, but there you go.

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I don’t think you need to be 100% accurate when presenting a culture in your writing but you should just at least get the ‘big thing’ right, like if you write about ancients greece and they stone gay people to death, you’re simply not writing about ancients greece anymore at all or if you write about a muslim dictatorship and they welcome gay people, you’re simply not writing about a muslim dictatorship anymore

also forget about ‘positive aspect’ or ‘negative aspect’ just describe the culture as itself without passing judgement and let the player and the characters (i mean, the casts won’t all have the exact same opinion about their cultures, it would make little sens unless it’s about a realy hardline group) have their own view point of what is good and what is bad in said culture

but all that is just my opinion, if it’s not where your inspiration lead you, don’t force yourself