The Hazards of Writing What You Know


I wrote this post two and a half years ago. In the wake of the Orlando shootings and the discussions about issues related to that horrible event, I feel it’s relevant to make these points again.

Hopes and Dreams: My Writing and My Sons

by Lillian Csernica on February 16, 2014There seems to be more and more talk these days about the importance of diversity, inclusive viewpoints, and using language that carefully avoids triggers and hostile buzzwords.

What we have here is a mine field.

Let’s consider the Bogeyman of our times, the Straight White Male (SWM).  How is a SWM supposed to write about characters with whom he has absolutely nothing in common, no points of cultural similarity or emotional resonance?  As a drastic example, just to make the point, imagine a single, childless SWM attempting to write a story from the viewpoint of an African-American lesbian who has two children from a relationship that occurred when she was a teenager.  Even if the SWM knows a woman who fits this description and goes to her for research and feedback on his manuscript, he’s still in the position of a deaf person…

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2 Comments

Filed under editing, Family, Fiction, Goals, historical fiction, history, Lillian Csernica, neurodiversity, perspective, publication, research, Writing

2 responses to “The Hazards of Writing What You Know

  1. These are some of the reasons I write about a refugee community whose members are elves. My characters suffer many of the same things I have seen human refugee groups go through, but I am not Cambodian, or Vietnamese, or Laotian, or Hmong, or Mien…so if I wrote such stories about them, I’d get it wrong. I can get it far more nearly right with elves because I am looking at what they all have in common in this kind of situation, including the guts to keep on going in the face of staggering odds.

    Liked by 1 person

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