11 April 2013

Writing What You Don't Know

This morning, I discovered an article which prompted a comment from me, but I never finished the comment because it got to be too long for a comment. I decided instead to create this blog entry and link back to the article at the Florida Writers Conference Blog. Chris Hamilton's article reflects on the use of words which are hurtful, yet can be powerful in provoking thought. I think my response went off on a different tangent, and so, rather than detract from his article with my comment, here exists my post for today.

The protagonist in my first attempt at a novel was a lesbian. However, the story wasn't about her being gay, rather her struggle to gain her mother's acceptance was the underlying subplot, all while her best friend's wedding unfolded into a complete disaster.

I shelved it after chapter five simply because I had no clue with how to move forward. It got to a point where I couldn't write anymore because it didn't feel like my story. I think if you're going to write a gay character, especially a protagonist, you need to understand the struggle itself and not make attempts at including the character just to be all inclusive and risk exacerbating stereotypes, which would not have been my intent.


I began to question myself as a fiction writer. Would I be able to write from the perspective of a racist character, or one of royalty? I could make it up, but how convincing would I be and how effective the story? I found myself wanting to explore and write about things I don't know, rather than write about what I know.

When I got to chapter five and started developing the mother/daughter relationship, I discovered the story wasn't about my protagonist needing acceptance; it was about a daughter helplessly struggling for her mother's love and guidance. If you take the fact that the protagonist is gay completely out of the picture, this scenario could apply to anyone. So then I had to ask myself this question. Why did I make my character a lesbian?

Maybe we have these grandiose ideas of telling that deeper story, the profound thing too difficult for ordinary people to express in words. We want to be that artist who exposes the truth and realities of our evil society through the smoke and mirrors of political correctness, and then we, the artist, will provide that redemption to the rest of the world, who will now see through the glorious eyes of their savior. Not really.

You're welcome. That's what we want to say at the end of our stories. When people finally get it, the just and the righteous, when all prejudices have been lifted, when your inner critics have been silenced in your minds, and when you see your fellow humans as yourselves and you cry those tears of joy, know it is our intent to educate.

Why do you want to write the story you've chosen? What drives you? Is there a point you want to make with your story? If there is, let it be genuine, so that it is real and not gratuitous.

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