Writing The Other (#SFWApro)

So I recently wrote WRITING THE OTHER: A Practical Approach by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward is a mix of Bad and Good Examples of writing People Who Are Not Like You, plus exercises for getting it right. This being a decade old, I’m unsurprised a lot of this is now familiar material (don’t stereotype, don’t focus your story on how discrimination upsets white people, get feedback), simply because there’s been a lot of discussion about this online since (and probably before, even though I wasn’t aware of it).  I think the exercises (crudely summed up, efforts to see things from the perspective of a different ethnicity, sexuality, religion, etc.) will be helpful. Though I wish someone would provide advice on thinking about this stuff in early drafts. It ought to be simple to keep “could this character be a different race/ethnicity/etc.” in my head, but I tend to reflexively go with white, be they men or women. In at least one case, I saw how I could have added a black character to the story but I didn’t figure it out until after it sold.

So, now that I’ve brought the topic up, here are some links which may (or may not) be useful:

•Jim Hines collected assorted guest posts on his blog which later became the books Invisible and Invisible 2. You can also find them rounded up here and here. It includes discussions of writing gender, sexual orientation, race and disability.

•NK Jemisin discusses the “Damned if You Do” complaint that there’s no point to trying to writing diverse fiction because you’ll get criticized no matter what you do.

•Malinda discusses some more complexities of writing the other.

•An old but good post on The Hathor Legacy shows how to and how not to do it by comparing the original Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle and the New 52 reboot. I really think this one is very good.

bluebeetlereachstars(Cover by Cully Hamner, all rights to current holder)

•Writer Anis Gisele argues (if I’m following her) that any attempt to use the voice of a culture/race/ethnicity or even person not your own is a form of privilege. I disagree completely, but I’ll include the link here anyway.

•A discussion of disability in Daredevil (the Netflix version).

•Five Writing the Other Fails (one of the five is much less enthused about Daredevil).

•In a recent speech, writer Lionel Shriver argued that if we worry about things like cultural appropriation, we won’t be able to write anything good. Responding with intense disagreement, we have Jim Hines, Foz Meadows and the Venus Moon blog.

I was going to add a bunch more links, but I’ll save them for another roundup post. I was also going to have some deep thought of my own, but I don’t think they’re formed enough yet to blog about.



Filed under Writing

3 responses to “Writing The Other (#SFWApro)

  1. Hi Fraser,
    Enjoyed this and other recent posts. You and your readers might like these episodes from the podcast–Writing Excuses (hosted by Brian Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal and Howard Tayler) ‘Casting Your Characters-Season 11-Episode 37’, which talks about how to make these decisions earlier in one’s work and ‘Examining Unconscious Biases-Season 11-Episode 22’. These are really rich discussions packed with lots of helpful hints.

  2. Pingback: Sex, intentions, time and cultural appropriation (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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