Image of a Native American man from J.K. Rowling’s History of Magic in North America.
How do I know if I’m appropriating the traditions of another culture in my writing versus creating a respectful adaptation?
Admittedly, this isn’t an issue I’ve devoted much thought to in the past. Of late, however, following the J.K. Rowling #MagicInNorthAmerica controversy, it’s been on my mind a fair bit.
For those not familiar, #MagicInNorthAmerica has to do with a series of fictional monographs discussing the history of magic in the Harry Potter universe. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling recently released these on her Pottermore website to promote the release of the upcoming movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
**No movie spoilers**
A long time ago on a blog that’s now far away from a regular posting schedule, myself and a buddy had a debate about predictability versus surprise in fiction.
Quite unwittingly, this discussion arose on the heels of an entirely different examination of pantsing versus plotting.
(For the record on that account, I like to know where my story is going before I start and to rough out as much of the journey as I’m aware of up front, but I’m in no way wedded to it, nor do I subscribe to the notion that plotting will rob a story of the joy and magic of actually writing it. But you can read more about all that yourself.)
Believe it or not, I don’t spend all my spare time writing.
I don’t even want to spend all my spare time writing.
The reason for this is because writing is far too solitary a pursuit – the loneliest of all the arts in my opinion, due to it possessing the least impressive and share-worthy interim stages.
Glenn from TV’s The Walking Dead
Although I’ve never watched the show The Walking Dead, it recently became the subject of lengthy conversation in my writers’ group.
The discussion had to do with two specific characters: Michonne (whom I’m told I should consider cosplaying for Halloween) and Glenn, who is Korean-American.
That is to say, the discussion had to do with diverse characters.
What responsibility, if any, does a writer have to society?
This was the question I posted to the message board of the writer’s group I run to be the discussion topic for our next meeting.
I knew at the time of writing it that it was a provocative question – one that different people might interpret in different ways. Regardless, I was sure it would result in a lively, interesting discussion as my writer’s group meetings always are.
What I didn’t expect, however, was the overwrought response on the message board from an out-of-nowhere, aggrieved and impassioned troll.
The Daintree Rainforest, a tropical rainforest and UNESCO World Heritage Site along the coast of Queensland, Australia.
I didn’t expect to do any writing while here in Australia.
That is, not after I overcame my last-minute fervor to do lots of writing while in Australia – to write during as much of the flight as I remained awake for; to even finish my novel while abroad, if possible, and return home like a conquering hero.
In preparation for this, I scanned and PDF’ed an entire chapter of a reference book (since my WIP is historical fiction and thus research-dependant).
I also downloaded Evernote on both my iPad and phone so that I’d have two methods of inputting my deathless prose that would automatically sync as well as keep a backup in the cloud.
For the record, I don’t like short stories.
I’ve written about 10 of them over the course of my writing “career” thus far, and almost all of them are flops.
Not because the writing is bad per se (although some of them were written while I was still in high school, so neither is the writing deathless prose). Rather, they don’t work because they aren’t really short stories at all.
They’re novel back stories masquerading as short stories.
That just seems to be the way my brain works: my stories come to me novel length.
(If my WIP is any indication, my stories come to me trilogy length.)