I’m writing something like the 7th draft of my novel. The characters have been pretty homogenous-everyone in my fantasy world was white, despite there being three different kingdoms. Over the past couple of years, as I slowly grew more aware of my predominantly European setting and focus in writing, it no longer seemed ok. I have friends who don’t look European. They matter to me and it bothered me to see how little representation people of color have had in literature. So to honor my friends, I wanted to include people of color in my story.
It seemed like a simple changing of skin and hair color for my characters. It wasn’t difficult to do at first, because I’d never really settled on what my characters had looked like anyway. And in the fantasy genre, as Janelle Garrett reminded me, the writer creates her own cultures and peoples: it doesn’t have to mirror ‘real’ life, but it should certainly avoid racist language and character typing.
Ok, I thought, this is easy! Just add some different skin colors in here, and voila! A little more representation in literature. Yay me.
Or is it easy? At this point the over-analytical side of my brain kicked in and I did what I’m good at: panic that my efforts aren’t enough.
Who am I, a white woman, to be trying to include people of color? What if I offend someone?? Should I scrap my characters and make them all black? But I can’t do that, because now we’re back to square one here, just a white girl who has no business writing about black people. Even ones in a made up culture.
Actually, getting help is a great idea. Asking friends for their thoughts helps me get out of over-analyze mode and they will tell me if I’m totally nuts or just a little. So that ‘s what I’m doing, asking for input.
And really, this is yet another opportunity for me to let go of perfectionism. I’m going to make mistakes as I learn to love my black friends and I already have. What matters is that I am humble and I am listening. That I am moving towards instead of hiding in fear of, basically, not being perfect.
So yeah. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m willing to learn. Because I love my friends.
So share your thoughts if you like, especially if you are a person of color. I value your comments.