Thursday, January 15, 2015
The Point of Writing Books (Amy K. Nichols)
Do I feel wholly unqualified to write them? Absolutely.
Back when I started writing, I wrote a POC into a short story. When I workshopped it with a couple of other writers, I pretty much got the smack down. Can't recall now what feedback I got on my writing or the story itself. All I heard was, You can't write this character. You're white.
That pretty much scared me off writing diverse stories. Since then, my M.O. has been to focus on the emotional heart of my characters, keeping physical descriptions vague, and to leave the writing of diverse characters up to those with the authority to write them.
I'll just say it: I'm afraid. I don't want to offend anyone. I don't want to do it wrong.
Which makes it all the more...ironic? interesting? that there's a new voice whispering in my ear. A voice I can't shake. I know I have to pursue this story, though. And I know without a doubt it will plant me firmly into diverse books territory.
Did I mention I'm afraid?
But I love this character so much. I need to see where the story goes.
With risk of sounding incredibly cheesy, is it possible the answer is love? Love your characters and stories so much you write them true to their nature, even if it takes you into places that scare you? Steve Almond once said, "Love your characters at all times." I figured that meant don't judge them when they make decisions you don't agree with, or have compassion for them when they're caught in difficult situations. Maybe it also means love them for all the ways they're different than you.
So I'm going to listen to this voice, and I'm going to tell the story that needs to be told. Will I offend people? Probably. Seems inevitable, to be honest. Will I do it wrong? Yeah, I'll probably do that, too. But maybe I'll also capture the emotional truth of this character and write a story that resonates with someone out there who reads it. Someone who needs it. Which is the point of writing books, isn't it? Diverse books in particular.