Lately, I have become afraid to write characters who come from different backgrounds, cultures, abilities, or lifestyles than I do.
I might offend someone.
I know… a little dramatic. But sometimes we need to laugh, so we don’t lose our minds.
I constantly think about characters I have written and wonder…
Did I do it right?
Will someone read it and hate me forever?
What if I could have done it better, differently?
This thinking (overthinking) will stop all the writing. Twitter is full of advice, well, opinions on this. So many people telling groups that we need diverse characters, but those groups can’t write them.
I’m all for diversity. Everyone’s stories have an important spot in the world.
And everyone has the right to tell the story in their own way. So many books, so many characters and so many opinions about them.
But there has to be a level of acceptance.
You can’t make everyone happy. Though we try. One person finds something they don’t like in our work and we bend over backwards to “fix” it, and it might not be broken.
I dislike…A LOT…when people discuss what could have made a book, movie, story, TV show…or any art better. Feel free to disagree with anything out there. Feel free to voice your opinions about why certain things bother you. But DO NOT state how to “fix” it.
It’s not your art.
Let me say that again…IT’S NOT YOUR ART.
If you think a premise, a character, a story would have been better written a different way…WRITE IT YOURSELF. Don’t bash the author for what they “should” have done.
Artists aren’t here to give you the art you want, to paint the world in your favorite colors. They are here to offer their views, to share how they see the world, and incidentally share parts of their worlds with you.
Do we need to worry about offending people…Yup.
Writers need to do their research if delving into a subject they know little about. Other countries, other cultures, religions, people outside your sexual orientation all need to be represented as honestly as we can get. And stereo-types? We need to break those suckers apart.
But writers have no obligation to write their stories or characters to anyone’s specifications except their own.
As long as the character is honest and consistent, to himself and the world, as long as the words weren’t written with malice…there needs to be an amount of acceptance from those who find offense, who don’t agree with how it was written. Accept the other person’s views. Accept how they decide to portray their characters. They did not write it to offend you or anyone else (and if they did, well, that’s a whole other thing). Most of us out here do not want to offend anyone, but we do not want to tip toe around trying to avoid possible trouble. We want to write the stories that appear in our minds. We want to portray our characters without fear of being hunted down and hung before the masses.
A lot of worry. A lot of overthinking. A lot of feeling not good enough.
I’ve decided to let the fear of doing wrong go.
Will my book offend someone? Maybe. Probably? I have no idea. I accept that. I also accept that I am writing without any hate towards anyone. I am writing my characters and my stories the way I want to tell them. My characters will express themselves the way they need to, for the story. My character is not intended to represent a group of people.
If people don’t like it? Okay.
If you want to tell me why…GREAT! I will listen. I will take those opinions and learn…grow, but I can’t guarantee those opinions will change what I write.
Because my words, my characters, my worlds are mine.