Vol. 8 — Writing the Other: A Practical Approach
by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward
During the 1992 Clarion West Writers Workshop attended by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward, one of the students expressed the opinion that it is a mistake to write about people of ethnic backgrounds different from your own because you might get it wrong—horribly, offensively wrong—and so it is better not even to try. This opinion, commonplace among published as well as aspiring writers, struck Nisi as taking the easy way out and spurred her to write an essay addressing the problem of how to write about characters marked by racial and ethnic differences. In the course of writing the essay, however, she realized that similar problems arise when writers try to create characters whose gender, sexual preference, and age differ significantly from their own. Nisi and Cynthia collaborated to develop a workshop that addresses these problems with the aim of both increasing writers’ skill and sensitivity in portraying difference in their fiction as well as allaying their anxieties about "getting it wrong." Writing the Other: A Practical Approach is the manual that grew out of their workshop. It discusses basic aspects of characterization and offers elementary techniques, practical exercises, and examples for helping writers create richer and more accurate characters with "differences."
"Along with personal experience and examples, the book presents exercises
to help writers step outside their own ROAARS. The exercises, developed
from workshops the authors have conducted, reward writers with learning
more about developing characters—including those who are 'just like'
themselves—and understanding past and present stereotypes."
"The book is excellent. I highly recommend it. It should be read by every
'dominant paradigm' writer for that is its true audience. Recommended also
for schools, colleges, and creativity workshops, and sociology classes."
"[...]a timely book. Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward, two Seattle-based science
fiction authors, have developed a useful, nuts-and-bolts approach to
creating fully realized, well-rounded characters substantially different
"Just raising awareness about this writing challenge is a literary
service[...]Such exercises clearly help flex writerly muscles."
"This book can help interested writers develop characters to exhibit the
complexity of the human experience (and, since we're talking genre here,
multifaceted non-human experiences as well)[...] What I like best about
this book is that Shawl and Ward encourage people to acknowledge their
fears and concerns, but also to try anyway." (read the whole
ISBN: 978-1-933500-00-3 (13 digit)