A little background. This started as a Facebook comment on an article that a friend shared. After writing the first paragraph, I realized I had quite a bit to say and so turned it into my own post on my personal Facebook. After looking at it, I thought ‘hey, maybe I should share this to my own website, seeing as how it concerns my thoughts on writing.’ So, this will be familiar to any of you who are also connected to me there. Anyway, here it is.
I am a white male author who wants to create awesome works of fantasy with high level of diversity. And as such, there are several things about this that get to me.
One is the general implication that it is all male writers. Sure, you could argue that there is an implicit “not all” in there, but the theme that took off was simply “describe yourself like a male author would”. We all know that there are plenty of crap writers out there, so a part of me wonders why paint with such a wide brush.
Second, this seems to support a belief that it is impossible for male writers to depict accurate female characters. Maybe that is just my insecurity talking, but jeez. I would never think to generalize that women could never depict men, so it troubles me whenever I see the calls to “stay in your lane” in terms of writing.
Especially because there is also a push for more fiction, especially genre fiction such as fantasy, to be more diverse. I certainly want more diverse worlds to immerse myself in, just as I want more diverse voices bringing me those worlds. Which is why I don’t want the pressure to be, “by the way, you are only going to be capable of writing the gender and ethnicity that aligns with your own.”
I love reading, and I’ve read authors who are skilled chameleons, representing a multitude of viewpoints and backgrounds for their characters. And I’ve read authors, regardless of gender, who only seem capable of writing characters that seem to mirror their own personalities.
And let’s not forget that developing skill is an ongoing process, and what might seem clumsy in a debut novel can become quite good in a fifth or tenth work. So I also worry that actions like these can do more to discourage the attempt than serve as instructional.
I don’t know. Maybe my view would be different on a warmer day. Or maybe it would be different if the linked article shared the author’s tweet that set this off. If there is one thing that all writers can agree on it is that how words are used matters. And it seems odd that this article includes the criticisms with actually providing what he said that brought on those opinions.
Enough out of me. I’m going back my stories where I will do my best to represent characters that are very different from myself in terms of age, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity. I hope my readers will appreciate my striving for more and more diversity in my works as I continue.
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