Last night I read a post by SC Author over at the Write Inclusively blog. It was on the ever-thorny subject of writing marginalized perspectives from a position of power. Now, you can ask twenty different people this question and get twenty different answers. This isn’t a topic that anyone can agree on. And really, it doesn’t matter. Because people can write whatever the fuck they want, and the pushback from marginalized groups will always be pushed aside in favor of majority opinions.
But for those folks who truly want to do better it can help to approach it from a different direction.
I like to think of writing, all writing, as playing the game Two Truths and a Lie. If you aren’t familiar with the game it involves telling a group of people three “facts” about yourself, two of which are true and one that is not. The group of people then has to guess which fact is the lie. If you’re good enough at selling the lie, you win.
This is how writers, especially new writers, should think about writing books. Your job as an author is to have just enough truth in your story (universal truths, personal truths, whatever) that readers will also buy the bullshit. That is the secret to writing a successful story (easy, right?).
The key here is that marginalized groups have a helluva bullshit detector. They see that shit coming from a mile away. And they’ve seen it a billion times. So when you have a stereotypical sassy gay character that swishes across the page they aren’t going to make it very far before they commence to eye rolling and give your story a big ole “NOPE”.
So don’t think of writing marginalized characters as some overwhelming task, think of it as selling the lie. Just like with any other character who may not be like you. I wouldn’t write a cop, because I know I couldn’t sell the lie in a way that wouldn’t make cops everywhere sit up and take notice in a negative way.
If you can’t sell the lie of writing from a marginalized perspective without your privileged assumptions coming into the way, don’t write it. But if you think you can take on the challenge, go for it.
Just don’t expect accolades for attempting to write a little more truth into your lie.