Lately I have read a number of posts from writers that follow a particular formula of:
“Writers of fiction should [include/exclude] characters who [are/do] this particular [identity/activity] to keep from being labeled as [bad word].“
I have answered a number of them in comments, but I’ve seen this formula often enough that I want a blanket answer that writers can save and reuse when this particular thought rears its ugly head.
Fuck that shit.
(I’m sorry, I don’t usually permit myself to descend to obscenity for emphasis, but in this case I feel that it is justified.)
What writers should do is write. What writers of fiction should do is write fiction. Not polemic, not consciousness-raising, not deconstruction of cultural imperatives, but fiction. Stories that people want to read because they are entertaining.
Anything–and I mean anything— that gets in the way of the story needs to be kicked to the curb, strangled and eviscerated and neatly wrapped in trash bags.
That most emphatically includes some hypothetical reader’s hypothetical criticisms of a book that you haven’t even written yet.
The fact is that some readers aren’t going to like your book and some of those are going to justify their dislike with whatever buzzword is currently making the rounds on FaceBook.
The other, and more important, fact is that there is no point in playing that game because you can’t ever win.
There is no objective definition of any of these “-isms” floating around the Internet. It’s Xist if you don’t have any X characters, but it’s also Xist if you write an X character into a story just to avoid being called Xist. If your X character is a villain it’s stereotyping, if your X character is a hero it’s pandering. If you show your X character as happy it’s downplaying the cultural suffering of X’s, if you show your X character as unhappy it’s promoting a view that being X is bad.
What’s more, while you’re dealing with the minute shades of Xism, someone is going to accuse you of being Yist.
This way lies madness, or at the very least never finishing your book because you’re too busy rewriting it to suit your critics.
Just write. Breath all the life into your characters that you can and set them free in the best world you can construct and tell the story that you were born to tell.
People are going to hate you because you have the guts to do what they can not. They won’t admit that, though, instead they are going to come up with reasons why your book is bad. Some of them will be valid, some of them will be utterly spurious. Use the valid criticisms to make the next book better, and ignore the others.
You are going to be labeled as [bad word]. You may get labeled with several [bad words] and some of them may even be contradictory. Accept that as part of the business and get back to work.