Let me preface this musing with some information, albeit obvious information. I am a white heterosexual male. My family–both my mother’s and father’s side–are European mutts. Mainly English, German/Austrian, and Czech. I’m also of the low- to mid- class, this depends on the time in my life.
By that definition I am of a privileged class with no boot print on the back of my neck and no glass ceiling above my head to bar my ambitions. There is no room to complain. All doors are open. All I need to do as a low-/mid- class, white, heterosexual male is to turn the knob.
Okay. I guess.
My point is, I fit into a particular class of people, some would say a class with few challenges. I am not female or of another race or a particular sexual orientation. We are all different. What I’m getting at is that our experiences, outlook, beliefs, struggles are unique to that category we are born.
As a writer, though, I can’t just write about my particular category of people. Not all my protagonists, heroes, can be like me. Or rather, those characters shouldn’t be. Especially if I strive–and I do–to speak to readers, who are all different from myself.
There’s an old adage in writing… write what you know.
That’s rather limiting today.
Read any blog or website about film, novels, comics. Every poster or writer is clamoring, no, they are demanding diversity in the stories they read. They want strong female protagonists., like themselves The next Buffy Summers. They want their a hero who is gay like him or herself. Readers are diverse. And the characters they read about should be diverse too. When opening a book, readers want the book to become a mirror, they want to see themselves reflected back. No one wants, not every time, a Medieval Euro inspired setting. Instead, readers want worlds inspired by the Orient, the Middle East, take your pick.
As a writer, I constantly wonder about telling the story of a character who’s shoes I haven’t walked a mile in, let alone a step. What do I know about the struggles a woman or those of color have had to endure/face for equality? I can’t comprehend crowds of people saying I can’t/shouldn’t be married to the love of my life. Open doors. Closed doors.
Writing is about voices. Writers always talk about finding their “voice”. When you find your voice as a writer, you’ll find your stories, your audience, and your audience will find and know you. Writers have our styles. That’s what “voice” means. A signature of sorts. But in reality writers speak many voices, the voices of their characters. They have to find each of those voices, one for each character so that he/she may be heard and understood. I always tell my wife, “There are too many voices in my head randomly shouting at me.” She looks at me like I’m crazy. You have to be crazy to be a writer… or maybe you’re a writer because you’re more than a few noodles and a whole lot a shrimp short of a bowl of linguine?
I can’t say how a writer searches for and finds those different voices. Nor can I say how to tell a story from a prospective of a young gay woman in an oppressive society ready to tear her down, who must find courage and strength to be the hero of her own story.
But I’m going to explore. Those are the stories need telling. I enjoy reading those stories and I want to write those stories too.