Several things lately have reminded me of this conversation from Return of the Jedi:
Obi-Wan: So what I told you was true, from a certain point of view.
Luke: A certain point of view?
Obi-Wan: Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.
And then I read this blog post, which tied into it perfectly.
This is the quote that really fit what had been on my mind.
We could all edit our WIPs forever and someone will not like our work. No work will be “immaculate.” That’s a lie. We cannot write books (or blogs) by committee. It’s a good way to go crazy. Just accept not everyone likes what we have to offer. – Kristen Lamb
Princess Leia: I am not a committee!
🙂 Of course I had to add the Leia quote.
They say, “write what you know.” If you are writing fantasy, you can’t really “know” a lot of it – there is a great deal that you have to create, take from history, or tweak from the masters who have gone before (I count all mythologies in that category). If you are writing science fiction, you have to project – take the technology we have today, and imagine greater things in the future. Star Trek is an obvious example of this. I don’t need to go into the ways in which Star Trek tech has influenced the world – William Shatner hosted a show about it.
But no matter what you write, your experiences shape your writing. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to avoid. And it’s a good thing – your writing won’t sound authentic if you don’t draw from your own experiences.
However, there will always be people out there who have never experienced certain things that you have. Or ANY of the things that you have, possibly. Despite the uber-melting-pot the world kind of thinks it has become, thanks to the internet, there are still many things which divide us. Class, race, regional differences. Age. Gender, transgender, lack thereof. Politics. Disability, education, even fields of work and all of the various day to day experiences involved in that. An upper class New England feminist who grew up believing she could do anything she wanted, experienced zero or no setbacks in her life, graduated college, and had no problem finding a job in her chosen career is going to have a very different set of life experiences and views than that of a middle or lower class girl who grew up in the southwest, never went to college, had kids early, was a stay at home mom for several years, then ended up divorced and trying to find a job which would pay more than minimum wage while going back to school.
When reading, we have to assume that others have had different experiences than we have had. We can’t read a book and say “Well, that’s a load of crap. No one would ever do that” – because you never know. Someone out there might. We might dislike the character for doing what they did, but we can’t just say “that could never happen.” People do a lot of crazy stuff.
Unless, of course, it’s just physically impossible. 🙂
And for those who are going to say that my two examples are extreme stereotypes?
Yes. They are. They are clichés. Clichés and stereotypes, however, are usually around for a reason – they have a grain of truth to them, or they did at one point in time. I had a someone go through and point out several moments of “non-political-correctness” in my rough draft. I wanted to tell the person to lighten up. I have a character joke that he has a lax attitude about love because he is French, though his family hasn’t lived there for 500 years. I was told that the joke was racist. Really? Who is going to tell Pepe Le Pew that he can no longer be a hilarious cartoon character because he is not PC, at best – racist, at worst? Political correctness is out of hand.
Back to the word count…