Thursday, June 8, 2017

Writing Diverse Characters & The Fear Of Doing It Wrong

Prolific author and blogger s.e. smith recently wrote about his thoughts about white people writing diverse characters and settings (smith is white himself), and it's pretty relevant right now. There have been increasing calls for more diverse representation in media. As smith points out, though, that push comes with a fear that many white authors are reluctant to discuss: the fear of getting it wrong, and the fear of being widely criticized. Could that be attributed to a sudden influx of angry fans? Smith says those discussions aren't really anything new:
One consequence of more open discussion about diversity is that nondiverse creators are forced to see that discussion. It’s not like diverse readers and creators just now started criticising works that have huge problems. Rather, those conversations were happening, often in the open, and no one cared or paid attention. Now, there’s enough momentum that they become highly visible, that it’s no longer possible to be insulated from them. Some nondiverse creators appear to be operating under the impression that there’s an army of mean people gearing up to descend on whatever they write to shred it to pieces as soon as it hits the shelves — or before. Often, that comes from a defensive position, because it hurts to hear that you did something wrong, or that something you worked on for months or years has major problems, and the instinctive reaction is to lash out to neutralize the criticism so you can go on with your life.
Smith goes into the difference between the fear of doing it wrong, and the fear of how you'll be perceived, and offers some pretty good advice. Another excellent resource are the annual "Writing The Other" workshops and classes offered by authors Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford.

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