“Write what you know,” says decades of well-meaning writing advice. Unfortunately, where this has landed us is an industry that continues to perpetuate the myth of fantastical worlds where the only people who have agency are straight white dudes.
There are so many reasons for this, and I don’t want to go into them all here (many others have said it much better than I), but one of the reasons is a fear among writers that if we try to tell stories outside our own cultural experience, we’ll get it wrong. That we’re somehow not allowed to play in the sandbox of diversity unless it’s our own special brand of diverse.
That’s a legitimate fear. Getting the details wrong is worse than not doing diversity at all. But we’re writers – we should know how to research. There are plenty of books we can read, essays to explore, and real live people living these stories every day we can talk to.
It’s vital that writers from diverse backgrounds have their stories heard. As the first step toward true, diverse literature, it’s absolutely essential. But that’s only part of the issue. All writers can create characters that tell the stories of a real, diverse world. We’re all responsible for this representation.
Hell, we’re writing about shapeshifting werewolves and blood-sucking vampires and talking cats. Why can we do that, but can’t write a disabled main character? Why don’t we step up?
A character can resonate with anyone, no matter their background. Harry Potter appealed to countless people across the world, and not a single one of us share his wizarding abilities. Likewise, you don’t have to be a person of colour to get alongside a POC protagonist, and you don’t have to be gay to root for the gay hero.
When I was researching for Writing the Wolf, which has a POC heroine who experiences some awful racism that leaves her having panic attacks, I spoke to friends and other writers about their own experiences of racism and microaggressions. “You don’t know what it’s like, walking into a room and knowing you’re different,” a POC friend of mine said.
But I do. I am legally blind. I know exactly what it’s like to be in a room and know no one else there sees the world the same way you do, and that they’re all judging you for it. As soon as she said that to me, the whole story made sense, and the whole character of Rosa clicked into place.
My point is that racism, bigotry, sexism, ableism, homophonia … they’re all different experiences that at their root, result in the same feelings of hopelessness, of discarding the “other, of worthlessness and wrongness in the targeted person. These are universal human experiences writers can tap into. By finding that emotional link to your own personal story, you can, I believe, write diverse characters with greater depth and substance. And the world is better off for it.
Steffanie Holmes is a USA Today bestselling author of dark and steamy paranormal romance. Her books feature clever, witty heroines, wild shifters, cunning witches and alpha males who get what they want.Before becoming a writer, Steffanie worked as an archaeologist and museum curator. She loves to explore historical settings and ancient conceptions of love and possession. From Dark Age Europe to crumbling gothic estates, Steffanie is fascinated with how love can blossom between the most unlikely characters.
Steffanie lives in New Zealand with her husband and a horde of cantankerous cats. Learn more about Steffanie at her website: www.steffanieholmes.com. She also writes dark science fiction under the name S C Green.
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Writing the Wolf
Wolves of Crookshollow #2
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Sink your teeth into the hot new werewolf paranormal romance from USA Today bestselling author, Steffanie Holmes!
I need to escape.
After those racist bastards destroyed my home, I can’t face the world again.
I’ve rented a cabin in the heart of the Crookshollow forest. I’m going to lock myself away and work on my book. I’m going to write my story.
And I absolutely, positively WILL NOT think about Caleb, the hunky labourer who’s fixing up my cabin.
I won’t think about the way his eyes melt my heart, and his smile melts my panties.
I’m too emotionally raw right now. I can’t handle a fling, especially not with a white guy.
Especially not a guy like him. A guy who shags and leaves. I can’t handle any more heartache.
Rosa Parker – clever writer, black woman, total hottie.
The connection between us sizzles – there’s no denying it: this woman is my mate.
When I’m near her, all I want to do is claim her.
If only I wasn’t the biggest threat to her life right now.
With a rogue wolf pack after my hide, I can’t afford a distraction. Even a distraction as alluring as her.
I need to keep my wolfish instincts in check.
But I can’t help myself.
Rosa Parker has got under my skin.
And I won’t stop until I’ve made her mine.
Writing the Wolf is a standalone novel with an HEA. It’s the second book in the hot new paranormal romance series by USA Today bestselling author Steffanie Holmes. Read on if you love spunky heroines, pack politics, and a hero so hot he’ll have you howling for more.
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