Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ignoring your inner editor

Over the past three weeks or so, I've been completely wrapped up in NaNoWriMo- National Novel Writing Month. It's been more of a challenge this year to get to 50,000 words in just 30 days, but luckily I'm stubborn, so I'm going to keep going until I get there.

As I was getting some writing in this morning, a hot issue in the writing world came to mind: Diversity. Embracing diversity is important for a lot of teenagers, so it's also a pretty hot topic among those of is who write for teenagers.

Diversity is a wonderful thing. We're all so different, and it's always great to come together despite our differences and include all sorts of characters in our stories. But a few months ago, I read a rather unsettling article from a rather well-known author (who, for obvious reasons, I won't name). In an otherwise good article about diversity in YA fiction, said author told all of her fellow authors that if we didn't have at least one character in each of our novels who was in some sort of minority-race, sexual orientation, anything else that set them apart from the "typical" protagonist-we were in the wrong.

As an author, I find this tremendously unsettling. We're always taught to be authentic, to tell a story that needs to be told in the way it needs to be told. And it's great to include characters in a story that are different from you. But I'm bothered by the idea of sticking a "token" minority character in a story just to fulfill a quota for social acceptance in the writing community.

I being this up under the topic of inner editors because this is something I've gotten pretty good a turning off. When we sit down to write, we often hear voices in our heads-our peers or friends or family telling us our writing isn't good enough. I thought I had learned to shut these voices out, until I read this post all those months ago. Now every time I write about a character significantly different from me-whether they're a different race, gender, sexual orientation, whatever-I wonder if I'm writing them that way because that's who they are, or if I'm afraid of being labeled dismissive or close minded if I don't write them this way.

The protagonist of my NaNo novel is an attractive blonde teenage girl. Her love interest is a Native American boy, and her (former) best friend is Hispanic. I love that her new love interest is so different, both in looks and personality, than her jerk of an ex (who also appears on the story). And I cheated a little bit on NaNo this year, and am expanding a short story I wrote years ago, before I was aware of the diversity in YA issue and how big it was. So I know I'm not writing them this way because I want to subconsciously fulfill some socially acceptable quota. Yet I'm the scene I just wrote, where my pretty blonde protag gets chosen for a date over her equally pretty Hispanic friend, I wonder if some people will think I'm being close minded, dismissive, or maybe even racist.

I guess I still have some work to do on shutting up that pesky inner editor voice. How do you deal with your inner editor? Whose voice do you usually hear?

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