Let’s Talk about Diversity (3): The language of a character

I know that it has been a while since my last diversity. And I know that I am about to offend a lot of people.  It is not my intent, but it’s bound to happen. I was scrolling through my tumbr feed and came across an interesting article. It was originally posted on the DIYA – Diversity in YA blog, but it was linked back to an article on the Lee and Low Website. In case you don’t know, Lee and Low is a publisher that focuses on publishing works that focus on POC in science fiction.  Here’s the link to the article, which is actually a response to a writer with a question about writing cross-culturally.

Is my character “black enough”?

First, I would have to say that I agree with Whitman’s response, wholeheartedly. It depends on the culture of the character, more than the culture of the reader.  I hate when I am talking to someone who is speaking in ebonics, or the more politically correct black vernacular English. I know that is a trait of where you grew up, but to me it just makes you sound uneducated.  But, the truth is that there is a large portion of people who do not agree.  But with writing, it all comes down to the authenticity of the character. Just as there should be a purpose for murder, rape, suicide and violence in a story, there should be a purpose in using ebonics.

As far as writing cross-culturally- I’m all about it. If it is done with the intent of being true to the character and not derogatory to the race.  When I first started out, I noticed that most of my characters were white and with that all of my writing sounded off. I don’t know anything about being white and it was all weird trying to get the dialogue and mannerisms right. I knew all about being the only black girl in a white group, and my characters were a blend of my experiences and someone I made up in my head. In a word-inauthentic.  And if black people are offended that a white person is writing about a black person, my only advice is shut up and tell your own story!

Writing feedback is important. But, from my experience writing groups are not. I had a bad experience with the last one I was in, and my writing has improved since I left it.  One of the problems that I ran into was that the members were not big science fiction/speculative fiction and that’s what genre most of my writing fell into. So, you can’t really get relevant feedback if the readers don’t have any experience with what you’re writing.



Always Shine!



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