5. Be Authentic (plus Sensitivity Readers)

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Know what you're writing about. I once made the mistake of writing a pair of awful foster parents into a story because I thought it was a common occurrence. As it turns out, it's a common stereotype. A beta reader, who happened to be involved in foster parenting, debunked it by telling me what it was really like. I was so embarrassed that I completely removed the foster aspect of my story. I knew nothing about it, and therefore had no business writing it.

The same goes for character types. Avoid the stereotypes. Basing pieces of your characters on actual people you know helps make them more real. More believable. If you're unable to talk to a member of the minority group you want to write about, then do some research. Then, after you've written it, locate a "sensitivity reader" for those parts. A sensitivity reader is usually a member of the minority who goes over your pieces and lets you know if it feels accurate. Lots of people online are willing to help, because they are eager to break the stereotypes too.

Does it seem like overkill? To the lazy writer, yes. But if you are serious about honing your craft and putting the best work out there that you can, then you do what needs to be done to get it right. Lazy writers will never earn a living from writing, and they'll have a harder time finding a following of readers as well.

While we're on the subject, I wanted to touch upon a hot-button topic. There's a movement for diversity in stories. We're encouraged to write about people of color and LGBTQ. It's a great movement, but if you know nothing about it, then don't write it. Otherwise you run the risk of perpetuating stereotypes, which goes against the whole point of the diversity movement. If you really do want to write it, then educate yourself. Interview members of the class you want to write about. Read about the culture. This will make your writing authentic. Those who notice it will laud you for it. Those who don't know the difference will learn a thing or two.

CHAPTER UPDATE:  Staci_the_Writer makes a great point about researching other aspects of your story. For example, if your character is an archer, then it makes sense he would use certain archery terms, and do things a certain way while using a bow. Put some effort into knowing your subject, and it will make a difference. Readers can tell when you know what you're talking about. (Just don't go overboard with the details.)


If you would like to be a sensitivity reader for other Wattpad writers, go ahead and comment here or send me a message. I will add your name to the list below. Be sure to tell me what your "specialty" is, for example, LGBTQ, Latino, autism, cancer survivor, wheelchair-bound, stutterer, or whatever it is you deal with on a daily basis that is often misrepresented in stories. I'm italicizing that last part because I don't want a laundry list of everything you deal with. Just the misrepresented ones, like health conditions or cultural background.

If you're writing about a subject you have limited knowledge of, and want to check your facts with someone who has lived it, check the list below for sensitivity readers who can answer your questions. I've listed their Wattpad name along with with what they can help with. I suggest contacting them via private message rather than a comment. Remember to be courteous and tactful. These people are doing you a favor!

Now here's that list:

MitsuhaMiyamizi - LGBTQ+, OCD, ADD, ADHD, depression, and social anxiety

TheKillerTurtle - LGBTQ+ and depression

RobynTheWriter827 - Stuttering

CarolineBarron123 - Social anxiety, panic attacks, death of loved one from cancer

Creative_Life - Depression and anxiety

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