Here is June's second blog post of the month. Yes! I did it!
This blog post, however, is going to be a little different because I updated you all a week ago on my writer and book things, and nothing has change there. I'll plug the usual bits at the end, but the meat of this post is something else.
Today, I'm going to talk about the critiquing of fictional work that portrays marginalized communities that is written by a person from a marginalized community. This falls in the #ownvoices category of things if you follow the literary world of Twitter. The idea to write about this was sparked by a tweet I failed to capture, but it provoked an excellent question and I wanted to pose it to my readers as well as anyone else that happens to stumble upon my blog.
I think I'll start this off with my own personal example, and go from there. In 2016, I entered a screenplay I had written into a diversity competition for screenwriters. I knew it was probably crap, but I wanted to do it to get a feel for the process and see if my script could pass muster in regards to formatting, "white space", and being engaging enough. The story itself wasn't anything too deep. It's about a guy who has been in love with his best friend since college, and when this other guy comes into the picture, he becomes an unwilling matchmaker, but it's his own damn fault. It's supposed to be more rom-com than drama. See? Nothing deep.
Now the caveat. My main character is a transguy. The inspiration came from something I didn't go through personally, but a scenario imagined in my head, so the story--to me--could only be about a transguy and his cis-female friend who he is in love with.
When I entered this pile of mush into this competition, I had low expectations and believed it would be cut in the first round. However, it didn't, and the script made it to round two. Kudos to me. The feedback I received from the judge that had read it were some great one. They pointed out areas that needed work, and I actually still look back on those so I don't repeat the same mistakes twice. But in their analysis of the my main character, Jack, they pointed out that him being trans doesn't add more to the story line, and he would be another cis guy in this same situation, which is exactly the point.
Here is the full analysis of Jack for any interested parties
My point in writing this story was to take something that we've seen a thousand times, but gear it to a different audience. This story was never about Jack being trans, he just so happens to be trans and in this situation. Yet, the judge wanted more angst and drama that was rooted in Jack's transness. It could be my fault for not providing enough drama in the story as a writer, but for this post, this situation highlights what I'm getting at
This brings me back to the topic at hand. When an individual writes a story where the main characters are marginalized in someway, and it isn't used as a source of angst or drama, it doesn't mean the writer has failed in telling a story. It has given depth and breadth to a group of people who are probably starving for something more than the angst driven stories that only end in tragedy or they are some poor imitation of a stereotypes before the character vanishes into obscurity.
And when these types of stories get written by those that come from marginalized communities then it is even better because it's validation, and not as just a writer, but as a person too. I mean, when a black woman writes a SciFi story where the main character is also black woman that becomes the ruler of Earth and saves it from total destruction it's satisfying. But when that story is read by others and accepted as is, then I'm sure pure elation happens. This is a good thing.
Yet, when someone comes out of the woodwork and says they want to see more of the "black woman's struggle" in the story, first, it makes you take pause. What exactly is the "black woman's struggle?" Secondly, why can't this story be about a carefree black woman who has an inner badass? Why does she need to go through some hardship to make the story believable?
In my case why, does Jack's transness need to be a point of drama? Jack is an average guy living his life, but has been secretly pining for his best friend for who knows how long. Why do I need to include a scene of his love interest rejecting him, and then changing her mind because she accepts him as is? I'm spitballing here, but you know what I mean.
Life is hard enough and we use TV, books, and movies as an escape. It's nice when these forms of media not only represent the varying nuances of life and the world at large, but it's even more enjoyable when the angst and drama isn't borne from marginalized aspect of a character.
In short,what I want to do is challenge people's thinking. If you're reading a manuscript or critiquing a script and find yourself needing drama or angst that is rooted in a character's difference, ask yourself why you want this character to suffer for being different.
That's today's blog post. I'll throw in a couple plugs here
If you haven't already, sign up for the newsletter which re-starts on July 14th. Also, if you sign-up for before the 14th's issue is released, you'll get a coupon code that will give you 50% off Murderous Profession when it comes out. I actually just got that back from my editor, so I'll be able to give a release date sometime in July.
Oh, here's another tidbit. When you sign-up for the newsletter you get a free book of your choosing, so why not do it for the free book and unsubscribe? Yeah, I just said that.
Almost forgot, July 1st-7th all my books are free on Smashwords as a part of their Summer sale.
All right, I look forward to your thoughts and comments on the post. This isn't a new thing, but sometimes, I have thoughts and need to get them out. Whether anyone reads them or not is subjective.
As always, if you've read a book by an indie or self-published author, take a second to review their work. Help get them some exposure.
Until next time...