How and why do I write about characters so different from myself?
I’m a white female; my main character is a young man. He is bisexual. I’ve also written several persons of color, both African American and Latino, or Negro and Mexican as they were politely known in 19th century Texas— when and where my novel takes place.
I’m an explorer of places and people. I want to know. What was was it like to live then? For everyone, not merely the white folks who have been given most of history’s attention, particularly in East Texas.
Therefore, I began by reading books by and about diverse writers.
I also attended a number of diversity workshops and hired sensitivity readers for my book. Drew Hubbard of Pride Reads was particularly helpful, and I find his blog entertaining and supremely useful.
What is that cliche we all want more than anything?
But how do we get there? Where do we start?
With the person next to us. Our neighbor. That family across the road or in the next block. That individual we know nothing about.
But what if we did know them? What if we discovered they were a lot like us underneath?
I’ve been discovering that things happen to me at the most opportune times.
Like magic, if you want to call it that.
Aging has helped me to attempt to live in the present, to not yearn so much for what I don’t have, so when I went for my usual walk, I tried not to be upset by the trash or the cars going by. Just enjoy the trees, the shrubs, the bit of nature that was actually along my path. In particular, the two large eucalyptus trees across the road, seen before but not truly noticed. How tall they were, how far they reached into the sky—the two tallest trees in the neighborhood! Here came a small red car that pulled over in front of the two trees and a woman got out. She hurried to the one tree and hugged it. Really? I stopped and watched. She went to the larger tree and hugged it. Was this truly happening? I yelled across, “Aren’t they magnificent?”
“Yes, she said happily in a slight accent. “I love them. They restore me.”
Then she got practically trotted on her toes back to her car and drove off.
Connection. That’s what I felt. She was Latina, and I felt such a connection. To her and to the world at that moment.
Do such things ever happen to you? Do you take note of them when they do?