Seeing Oneself “Represented”

In today’s Journal

* Seeing Oneself “Represented,” or…
* A Further Note on Copyediting
* New Novel
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Seeing Oneself “Represented,” or Write Fiction for Fiction’s Sake

There has been a great deal of talk in recent years about people with various surface differences seeing themselves “represented” in fiction. The other side of the same coin is a great deal of talk about “cultural misappropriation.”

Representing any one group or sub-group is not the fiction writer’s job. The fiction writer’s job is only to tell a story. Hopefully s/he will tell it well enough to entertain the readers.

If you attempt anything beyond that—if you harbor any conscious thought (and they are conscious thoughts) to “represent” any group based on

  • nationality;
  • national or tribal creed;
  • religious affiliation;
  • political affiliation;
  • body type; or
  • skin, hair, or eye color,

you’re walking a fine line between “representation” (Yay!) and “cultural appropriation” (Boo!)

And in today’s Bizarro world, in which the listener or reader’s Perception somehow is given more weight by society at large than the speaker or listener’s Intention, you really are better off just writing a story and letting the critical chips fall where they may.

After all, everyone has (and in this country is entitled to), their opinion. At least that’s the concept. But the concept applies only to readers and critics. Okay, and writers, but only when they aren’t writing fiction.

The writer’s opinion has no place in a work of fiction. But then, anything external to the story (and you are not part of your characters’ story) has no place in it.

Likewise, if you’re simply reporting a story as it unfolds, and if you’re doing so accurately, you have absolutely nothing to apologize for. You are not responsible for the characters’ opinions. You are responsible only to report the story accurately. (Um, that’s one more reason to write into the dark.)

If we can go beyond those surface differences for a moment, most people are the same. From that point, they are subdivided into two broad categories: Those who believe they have the right to control how others think and speak, and those who don’t believe that.

The difference between those two groups is stark.

The first group is small but easy to identify. They are so vocal they’re hard to avoid, even if you’re trying to avoid them.

The second group is much larger and is not as easy to identify because only a small percentage of them are vocal. Even then, they express their opinion only when they’re among like-minded friends.

The rest of the second group, upon hearing something they consider ludicrous, generally only smile and nod and go on about their lives.

Which brings me to characters. Like all other real people, the characters in any good story are all different.

I will only discuss my own characters. I have only my own perception of other writers’ characters, so I can’t speak on their behalf with any authority.

Like all real people, my own characters exhibit various surface differences. (Refer to the bulleted list above.) And note that just because a surface difference isn’t specifically named, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

For example, my own racial heritage is a mixture of different groups. But surface differences don’t matter to me, so I let people believe what they will.

My POV characters are generally the same kind of mixture, and like me they generally don’t talk about it because there’s generally no reason to talk about it. Talking about it would be external to any story I write.

My POV characters all fall within the second group. Like their real-life counterparts, they are mostly the non-vocal, non-insistent, live-and-let-live (up to a point) smilers and nodders.

My secondary characters are often readily identifiable by surface features and actions. With regard to the groups, some are vocal and some are not. For example, are there any non-vocal terrorists? Definitely. They’re the ones who don’t announce their intentions or take “credit” for creating havoc and misery.

Yet at no time in any story or book have I consciously written any characters who were either “representing” anyone but themselves or who made me guilty of “cultural appropriation.”

I have no doubt there are some readers out there who would disagree with that statement. Which is fine. They’re entitled to their opinion, even when that opinion is wrong and doesn’t matter in the slightest to my characters. They’re all just living their life.

Me? I’m not trying to please or annoy anyone. I’m just a storyteller.

A Further Note on Copyediting

Yesterday I announced I’m copyediting for others again. See that post here.

I also added a new Copyediting page to the Journal website. Finally, I also received a few questions. In response to those

  • I don’t usually continue with my own writing when I have a copyedit to do unless my brain gets too foggy to work (conscious mind) on the copyedit. Instead, I focus all my attention on the copyedit until it’s finished. It’s important to me to get the copyedit back to you as quickly as possible.
  • I won’t copyedit a work that doesn’t need a copyedit. Back in the day, I occasionally received a well-written story for copyedit. When I did, I simply returned the manuscript and refunded the money. Because writers are browbeaten into believing anything they write is “bad” or “needs help,” some of those writers didn’t believe me. Go figure.
  • If I only note a couple of problems, chances are I’ll correct them for you, explain why in a comment, then return the manuscript (and your payment) to you explaining that you don’t really need a full copyedit as long as you fix those few places.

Any other questions, feel free to leave a comment or email me. I’m pretty good at correcting misunderstandings.

New Novel

I started a new novel and wrote a little yesterday. I’m three chapters in, and the POV character still hasn’t revealed his or her name. (grin)

But then a copyedit came in, so probably no more writing until I get that done and dusted.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

Copyright’s Discovery Rule

Report on Spanish-Language Digital Book Markets

The Numbers

The Journal………………………………1040

Writing of Blackwell Ops 25: No Name Yet

Day 1…… 3243 words. To date…… 3243

Fiction for May…………………….….… 12977
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 316762
Fiction since October 1………………… 619820
Nonfiction for May……………………… 13140
Nonfiction for 2024…………………… 167480
2024 consumable words……………… 484242

2024 Novels to Date……………………… 8
2024 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2024 Short Stories to Date……………… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)……………… 90
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……… 239
Short story collections…………………… 29

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing are lies, and they will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

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6 thoughts on “Seeing Oneself “Represented””

  1. I have trouble with the authors who initially get “bombarded” by twit-tw*ts who haven’t read their latest work. The writer feels the need to immediately apologize for causing all the sins in the world over and over again, pulls their story, and promises never to do it again.

    Then comes the endless television interviews/podcasts/tikingtock videos where a certain level of contriteness is expected to happen. That will keep it all going in an endless cycle. Apologies all round and I’ll buy the next and the next, basically.

    But of course their work was “speshul” doncha know, and a few hurting rear ends are more important than people who actually might want to read their work. With the short attention span of all of these opinion writers, I’m surprised more of the authors don’t shut up, not respond, and wait until the next storm blows in, which is usually a day or two later.

    Personally, I’d value the free publicity and hope people line up to buy my product to see what all the fuss was about.

  2. It’s all BS, anyway. My biggest hero growing up was Walter Payton, legendary running back with the Chicago Bears. We couldn’t be more different, physically or personally; in fact, the only thing we had in common was our college major – GRIN!

    But Sweetness inspired the hell out of me, and still does, for the content of his character, not the color of his skin, his gender, or anything else.

    • “the content of his character”…… That’s EXACTLY it, Peggy. When I feel inclined to judge people (privately, for my own use) I compare their actions to their words.

  3. The representation thing has always been ‘funny’ to me. I belong to an ethnic minority (Acadian) and I have Moebius Syndrome, a very rare congenital disorder, and I have only ever seen one Acadian represented in anything and I’ve never seen someone with Moebius Syndrome.
    And guess what?
    Doesn’t bother me.
    This hyperfixation on race, sexual identity, or gender is weird, to say the least. I’m all for ethnic pride, I’m proud of my own heritage, but there’s a fine line between having pride in certain things or wanting to see certain things to forcing others to create their work the way you want it made.
    Not to mention even when people try to do it their way, these same people will then turn around and complain they did it wrong and they ‘offended’ them.
    These issues are why I left social media save for YouTube. A lot more peaceful that way.
    Write what you want, write as best you can, and move on. It is that simple.

    • Couldn’t have said it better myself, Matt. Lovely land down there, Acadia. I spent some time in the area several years ago (Lafayette, Eunice, etc.) and loved it. Rich culture.


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