Writing Exercise: Diverse Other

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Today’s writing exercise continues my present diversity kick.

Remember the definition for “The Other” in writing is – not you. If you are white, it means black or Hispanic. If you are cis-male, it means female or transgender. If you are straight, it means homosexual or bi-sexual. If you are able-bodied, it means dealing with depression or blindness. If human, it means aliens and elves.

“Writing The Other” is a hot panel topic at most writer conventions. Jim C. Hines writes about a panel he was on (click HERE). Biggest take away:

Most of the time though, when I hear “We’re not allowed to write _____ characters,” it’s an author talking.  Upon investigation, it usually turns out that nobody told our author friend that he or she wasn’t allowed to write these characters; instead, someone criticized him for doing it badly.

Well … yeah.  If you write flat, unrealistic, or just plain bad characters, you’re going to get called on that.  If all your women exist only to swoon and get naked for your hero (*cough* Heinlein *cough*), then people might complain.  They’re not saying you aren’t allowed to write women characters.  They’re saying please stop sucking at it.

Do you know the number one way to avoid sucking at writing The Other? Practice and review. Write and have The Other review it. Repeat until suck-age is less.

WRITING EXERCISE: Take one of your previous flashes and change the POV character to The Other. Adjust descriptions, dialogue, and behavior. Share with someone who matches The Other in your story. Ask them to specifically look at it for writing outside your comfort zone and LISTEN to their critique.

BONUS WRITING EXERCISE: Talk with The Other. Sit down with an Other – friend or co-worker – buy them food or a drink because this is going to take a little while. Talk to them for at least half an hour about they approach literature. And LISTEN. Limit yourself to questions only. Here are three to try, “What kind of books do you like reading?”; “What is your favorite author, fiction or non-fiction?”; “If you wanted me to know more about being (Other), what books you have read and liked would you recommend?”