I recently wrote a pitch for a tv movie. It was about two people involved in a real estate flip who fall in love. I’m thinking—cool. You are selling the whole package–the white picket fence and the happily ever after and the hardwood floors and subway tiled backsplash. No brainer, right?
The person I pitched it to asked could I make one of the major characters black. I balked. I said ‘no’. It’s because I write what I know. I’m not black. If I were, I would write about my experience.
The idea that anyone can write any character is nonsense. We write based on our personal experience. I can’t write with any authenticity what it is like to grow up in a third world country. I’ve been there. I can imagine. But anything I write would be so fake. It would be as if I were writing what it was like to be an alpha male. I can imagine the character. I can try to inhabit the character, but I will inevitably fail.
Maybe it’s because I’m not a great writer. But then I think about Dickens and Shakespeare and they wrote, basically, what they knew. White guys in various circumstances.
I write about white women in various circumstances. I won’t apologize for that. I write what I know.
Please let black women write black romances and black guys write black romances and gay guys write gay romances….and so on and so on. Let the community inform itself.And let the publishing community and the consuming public embrace that diversity. Because who is better than telling you a story about how it is than someone who has lived it?
To me, the key to diversity is getting people of colour, of different ethnic backgrounds or sexuality at the keyboard. Write your stories. Write them well. And then dare the fucking world to ignore the spark you have placed on the page.