Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Perceptions Matter

The other day, I was included in the photo shoot for the annual report at the nonprofit organization where I work. From my perspective, the key contribution I made was when the photographer was setting up the first shot. He was going to have me at white board, looking like I was leading a meeting.

“I don’t think you want to have the middle-aged white guy leading the meeting,” I said.

Almost immediately there was agreement around the table. A moment later, a woman whose family is from India was at the white board.

The characters experience the story. And perceptions matter.

As an author, you need to know your characters, but I think it’s at least as important to know how your readers will see your story.

I’m not arguing for being politically correct (whatever that means these days). But I’m saying we’ve seen a lot of the same stories. There's room for diversity.

We don’t need the story to be about the middle-aged white guy all the time. As a reader, I’d like to know more about the 20-something Indian girl; or better yet, the Native American woman in urban America.

There’s lots of stories about teens who feel like fish out of water. I mean, that’s what being a teenager is all about, right?

But what about the third grader from Egypt, or the second grader who moved to mainland U.S. from hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. There are so many stories that can be told.

What are their stories?

Usually, when I talk about these things with other writers, the chief argument is that they need to write what they know.

I get it. But it’s also true that to learn, we need to explore the unknown.

What are you writing? Could it be made better by changing the race, gender, or orientation of the protagonist?

Give it a try, even if it’s just a writing exercise. You might surprise yourself.

No comments: