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  • Shelly Powell

Should Authors Write From Different Races, Genders & More?

Last month the internet buzzed when Anne Tyler, who is 80 and white, was quoted as saying, “I’m astonished by the appropriation issue. It would be very foolish for me to write, let’s say, a novel from the viewpoint of a black man, but I think I should be allowed to do it.”

As writers we should be allowed to write anything that is a figment of our imagination. Where I think consideration should be placed is in authenticity.

Here are some tips to consider if writing different races, genders, or sexual preferences.

Be Clear On Why You Are Telling The Story

Appropriation, in my opinion, arises as a result of creating stories solely for the purpose of income. But when an author understands that there’s a possibility that a reader may connect or be offended with a character due to similar characteristics, it can be an excellent opportunity to be authentic.

Which message are you trying to convey? What story are you trying to tell? A writer from one ethnic group who is writing a story based off of a struggle (ex. racial inequality) may want to be sure the storyline resonates to the group of people impacted.

Starting a story with a passionate reason can speak levels.

Research & Immerse

I think it’s our duty as writers to create stories from all viewpoints. Not everyone from marginalized groups have a novel in them. And so, without us, these stories will never get told.

However, research and immersing yourself in themes outside of your own will help your work shine. One excellent way to be aware of the issues impacting different groups is by looking at YouTube videos, conducting interviews and putting yourself in your character’s shoes before writing your novel.

Use Inclusive Language

All social groups have specific language. However, not all black people speak alike and yet there are certain themes that are seeped in the culture as a whole. Using the correct language, when possible, whether you are speaking of races or genders, shows readers that you have taken the time to “see” and “hear” them.

Tip: Read the comment section where your target audience hangs out. It’s writer’s gold.

Consider Human Emotional Needs

When it’s all said and done, fall back on basic human needs. We all have a desire to eat, feel safe and be loved. Through our basic needs, we connect despite the backgrounds.

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