The other day, I came across a thread that essentially boiled down to whether or not authors should write characters outside their own demographics.
That’s an interesting question, I thought.
If you are a living, breathing human being, then you’re probably aware by now — there are billions of us, and we’re all different.
In my case, not everyone is a neurodivergent-hetero-cis-white-man.
If those were the only characters I was “allowed” to write, then what’s the point? I’d just be writing about villains and good ole boys, which sounds terrible. Not to mention, no one would care to read such stories.
I want to write for everyone. I want the stories I craft to be reflective of that, which to me, means a diverse cast of characters.
What this is all about
As I put the final touches on a character, who is nothing like me, I saw the aforementioned thread. It unsettled me. But I didn’t let it stop me. I’d worked too hard to not hit “Publish.” (Well, “Schedule”)
What I’m referring to, is my Kindle Vella serial novel Season of the Monster. Where readers have been introduced to Bernie. A transgender man, who needs to tell a story from his childhood.
But Bernie is more than this one chapter. He’s lived his own life, and he’s going to be playing a bigger role to come. In the meantime, his narrative allows readers to glean something integral to the story’s progression.
Of course, I refuse to spoil that something — meaning go catch up here, before reading further.
I hope all readers of Season of the Monster can see what I am talking about.
Though, in my first draft, something didn’t sit right with me. I ended up delaying the release of his chapter almost four weeks. I needed to figure out what was wrong.
So, I researched. I talked to people. I got on Reddit, Twitter, Email, DMs, — asking questions and getting feedback — and for some reason, people obliged.
Little did I know how emotional this journey this would be. There were some tears shed along the way. The genuine responses didn’t just help Bernie, they helped me.
Truly, this post is a thank you. But also, a word to the wise.
Write your characters, and do so with authenticity. Meaning, do the research. Have hard conversations. Vacate the comfort zone. Our human experience is not universal, meaning our characters experiences can’t be either.
Gratitude isn’t enough, but it’s a start
Which is why I want to acknowledge a few amazing individuals who went above and beyond to help Bernie and me.
To my sister from another mister, I am so grateful that you opened Messenger and responded to a text out of the blue. Your insights on dead names, pronouns, and the individuality of everyone’s experience became an ah-ha moment for me.
Stylistically, you were there for Bernie too! You made sure I was aware of the warning signs that could have led to stereotypes and tropes. You are truly insightful and wise, thank you for helping to keep Bernie genuine! So Live.
Appreciative doesn’t begin to describe how I feel! It meant so much that you and Lan were both willing help after nothing more than the word of a mutual acquaintance.
Hannah, thank you for putting in a good word!
If it weren’t for your feedback, I may not have gotten through some morbid self-doubt. When I sent over that email, I feared Bernie couldn’t stand on his own. But you helped me remember how expansive our identities really are.
Hopefully I’ll see you around the #WritingCommunity!
I don’t think I can say thank you enough. Our chats were fundamental for me. I can’t imagine many strangers taking the interest you did in ensuring Bernie wasn’t a trope, but a strong character in his own right.
Not only that, but the way you educated me on social and surgical transitioning, as well as hormone therapy, were invaluable. Your genuine vulnerability meant more than words can express. Thank you for sharing your kindness and your strength!
As always, thank you for being the best CP! I owe you a metric ton! Thank you!
Lastly, but certainly not least. You are my best friend, my significant other, my Fall Pumpkin Spice Iced Latte, and the best dog mom out there. Thank you for being there when my stress and anxiety boil over. Who knows where I’d be without you. I love you lots and lots.
If you or a loved one are trying to better understand transitioning; how to aid a loved one in the process; how to have conversations about transitioning; or how to personally begin the process; please visit the National Center For Transgender Equality.
If You’ve Enjoyed “Season of The Monster“
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