"Heavy Subject Matter"
I just listened to the latest Writing Excuses podcast the other day. They have a lot of great advice from published authors, advice far better than anything I could offer, and I highly suggest you check them out here. The latest topic was "Writing Heavy Subjects," or in other words, writing about potentially sensitive topics like race, gender, or sexuality.
I'll be honest, I'm someone who believe in writing whatever you want. If you write something terrible, so be it. If someone finds it offensive, they don't have to read it. If nothing else, it documents the thought process of people who we could really use some incite on.
That said, I was really impressed with Writing Excuses' take on the matter. I was waiting for "not your experience, not your story," but instead I got a much more more nuanced approach. Summed up (and mind you I'm summing up half an hour of details from a traditionally fifteen minute show into one little blurb) it is this: If you only write from your experience, you'll only write very closed off, potentially boring things. But if you're going to write from another's experience, weigh the risk of damage you might do. It's not, "don't write it," it's "consider whether what you're writing will hurt that community."
Now, I'm ready for people to disagree with me. I'm fine with that. I encourage discourse. I love to hear what others think and, in general, I don't think there's too many wrong ways to look at a situation. In this case, I think those guys are pretty spot on. They treated the subject matter respectfully.
So what do you think? Is it okay to write about other people and cultures if you're not part of that? Don't forget to give that episode a listen, because they explain it far better than I ever could.
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Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.