Monday, May 27, 2013

An Uncomfortable Confession

A couple days ago I was watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix and grumbling to my husband about how there are barely any non-white characters on the show. This came after a scene where a black man was depicted unloading a van and then gets eaten by Dracula (double whammy of a person of color depicted in manual labor and then being instantly killed off). And I had a very uncomfortable realization. In the WIP I'm editing now (my second book), I don't really have any significant non-white characters either.

I sat there thinking, "Wait - can that be right?" And it pretty much was. I had one fairly minor Asian character, but that's it. Now, I've grown up (thankfully) in a non-prejudiced family. My grandmother was one of the few white teachers who volunteered to work in integrated schools when they were first mandated in the 1950s, and my mother is famous for making a gift to NAACP in honor of her extremely racist in-laws during her first marriage. I am a huge promoter of diversity of all kinds.

Recently the HBO show Girls, which is fairly new and exploding in popularity, was called out for the same thing. The creator, writer and main character Lena Dunham had to admit that she had made her show with an almost entirely white cast of characters as well. And when you look at it, a lot of the TV, movies, books, magazine pictures, etc. have mostly white people depicted. What disturbs me about this, as evidenced by my own writing, is that even for people who consider themselves fans of diversity, we can sometimes slip into white-centric thinking unconsciously.

So, for the WIP in question I've gone back and reevaluated my main characters and made sure that there is diversity in the mix. And it's something I'm going to have to be conscious of in my writing from now on. They say to write what you know - but just because I'm about as white as you can get, other than a little Native American blood, I don't want to "write white" (and I frankly think that piece of writing advice is not the greatest anyways). Diversity is beautiful, and our writing can only be better by sharing it.

What about you? If you take a good, hard look at your cast of characters, what do you see? I know I'm not the only one, based on a ton of the books I've read. I'd love to hear your opinions below.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Art of Stopping

Confession: I'm a workaholic.

Aside from my creative writer side, I have a very type-A personality. I thrive on goals and deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise. I like to always have something going on, and I write, edit or query pretty much every day (in addition to working more than full time and dealing with kids, husband and multiple pets). But every now and then I have to do something that's rather hard for me. I just have to stop.

So, I haven't posted in a while because I needed to replenish a bit. Work has been stressful, and I've been sick several times this year, and I found myself in the unusual (for me) position of not knowing what writing project I wanted to work on. I was querying one book, and immediately started a new one, which I usually do to distract myself from querying. Then I got some great feedback from a couple agents on the book I was querying, and suddenly I went into a bit of a tailspin. Should I edit? Should I push through and finish the first draft of my current WIP? I really just wasn't sure.

Thus, I stopped. I recognized that I needed to really make myself take a long break and just BE. Which is very unnatural for me, but I did it for several weeks. I was lazy and watched lots of Buffy, Vampire Diaries, Game of Thrones and Castle. And after a bit I started to feel back to normal, and the feeling got stronger, and now I think I'm almost back to where I need to be.

I've decided to pause on the new WIP and work on edits on two books. Then, querying shall begin anew! I got great responses from agents and writers alike on these, and I know the areas I need to work on. So, that's the plan. What have you been doing lately?