Writing the Other

Writing the Other During the 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 differ

  • Title: Writing the Other
  • Author: Nisi Shawl Cynthia Ward
  • ISBN: 9781933500003
  • Page: 332
  • Format: Paperback
  • Writing the Other

    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 aspiriDuring 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 accurate characters with differences.

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      332 Nisi Shawl Cynthia Ward
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      Posted by:Nisi Shawl Cynthia Ward
      Published :2018-07-15T11:51:50+00:00

    One thought on “Writing the Other

    1. Paolo Chikiamco

      I bought a physical copy of “Writing the Other” last year, but now that there’s an ebook edition out, I decided to write a review that will hopefully encourage more people to buy and read this very important writing. book. We Filipino authors especially should never forget that, as the book says, “difference is not monolithic.” I’m a Filipino, and a geek, but I’m not used to feeling like an Other, like I’m not a part of the mainstream. I live in the Philippines, so I am, in fact, [...]

    2. Amy Rae

      Writing the Other serves as a decent first step for the writer who'd like to write about black people but isn't familiar with phrases like "white privilege." It's a fairly gentle introduction to issues at play in writing diverse characters, especially racially diverse ones. The two Nisi Shawl essays included ("Beautiful Strangers: Transracial Writing for the Sincere" and "Appropriate Cultural Appropriation") were insightful and contained concrete suggestions for approaching diverse writing. I fo [...]

    3. Libby

      A fellow writer lent me this book because I'm writing a book with African American characters (I'm Euro-American). The two authors refer to differences in ROAARS (Race, Orientation, Ability, Age, Religion, Sex). It includes writing exercises but I skipped them to read right through. I got a lot of help from it -- like don't use food to describe skin color. Oops, I need to go back through and take out my references to caramel. They urge writers to not avoid writing about others for fear of misapp [...]

    4. Glaiza

      Recommended to writers of SFF for craft reasons. Even though most marginalised writers are aware of the issues around writing diverse representation, the writing exercises are still useful in prompting every writer to examine the different unconscious biases they may not be aware of.'Your story will benefit from your examination of the implications of what you've written, from the feedback you receive on its impact, from your consideration of how typical it may be, and from your questioning of w [...]

    5. London Mabel

      I would recommend this book to every writer. A little bit more to writers of sci fi/fantasy, but really everyone. Though it specifically focuses on people of color, it's a primer on how to make sure you're appropriately incorporating "the other" into the world of your fiction--that is to say, people who aren't like you. Even if you're a white person living in Sweden, writing about white Swedes, there are presumably still people who are different enough from you (gay, disabled, poor) who ought to [...]

    6. Lesley Arrowsmith

      I'd almost forgotten about this, and didn't connect it with Everfair, which I've just finished reading, until I saw the list of Nisi Shawl's work just now. I bought it several years ago as an ebook, and because it's an ebook, I can't see it on my shelves, so I just forget I've got it. But it was an excellent book on how to write about a diverse range of people, and it was something I needed to learn for my own writing (and I'm still learning, and trying to do better all the time).Highly recommen [...]

    7. Sunil

      Although much of what is discussed in this book seems fairly obvious, especially given the prevalence of discussions of racism and portrayal of non-white characters on the Internet these days, so many of those Internet posts specifically cite this book, which is why it all sounds so familiar. Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward do a good job of explaining how to write character who are different from yourself in specific categories—though the fact that they blatantly ignore class as "not significant" [...]

    8. Mike

      I've had this book for a little while, but only just got around to reading it. I was concerned that it might be hard going, but it was just the opposite: presented simply almost to the point of a fault. However, this makes it clear and straightforward, and the minimal jargon that inevitably needs to be used is explained well and with examples. It's short, and much of its content I've read before in one place or another, but there's still value in setting out, step by step, the issues of represen [...]

    9. Catherine

      I think this book is a good resource for new writers and writers working with a diverse range of characters. I didn't have a chance to try the exercises but was inspired to do some character rework on my novel in progress while reading "Writing the Other." I have a good resulting feeling of progress being made as a result. So definitely worth checking out.That said, I wished the 2 authors had worked on this a bit more collaboratively (Ward is around for 1 out of 3 sections - there's workshop mod [...]

    10. Rivqa

      An illuminating, common-sense guide to writing about people from backgrounds other than one's own. Although I was familiar with many of the concepts discussed, there were plenty of ideas and suggestions that were new to me too, so I wouldn't classify this as a 101-only text (although it could definitely work as one). And almost 10 years on, there are certainly new concepts that could be incorporated into a revised edition.

    11. Patricia Burroughs

      Humbling and empowering, this book is going on my recommended reading list for my students. It explained uneasiness I've had about certain issues, and confirmed my hesitancy. But more importantly it gave me permission to try and stop worrying about failure, just being fair and true to the best of my ability.

    12. Laura Rueckert

      Great book for an introduction on how to write chracters different from yourself. In case you're looking for more information, I've also found writingwithcolor.tumblr/ and writingtheother/resources/ very helpful.

    13. John

      In terms of helping you improve your writing, this book is practically useless. It's less like a writing manual and more like a course in sensitivity training.

    14. Heather

      A great primer for learning to write those different from yourself. They give a lot of good examples and exercises to work on alone or with a partner. This book is an invaluable resource.

    15. Beth

      A short, practical and encouraging book about writing about others different from yourself: race, age, culture, etc.

    16. Cynthia

      Writing the Other is designed for an audience of sf/f authors but its message would be useful to anyone aspiring to write fiction of any kind. The authors contend that, rather than shying away from creating characters of diverse backgrounds, writers should always try to create characters representing racial, ethnic, religious, gender, and other backgrounds differing from the writers' own social groups. This is a tall order, and the authors address the challenge in several parts. For example, one [...]

    17. James Hold

      Interesting advice directed toward writing "about characters marked by racial and ethnic differences." However it seems to put across an argument suggesting you must paint all people of a specific racial group as being the same so as not to offend any of them. IMO. you'd do better to treat them as individuals with individual thoughts and opinions. Not all blacks live in the getto and dig hip-hop, just as not all Asians eat rice and noodles. Figure out WHO you want your character to be first, the [...]

    18. Stina

      Book #50 for 2017The Legendary Book Club of Habitica's Ultimate Reading Challenge: A book about a difficult topicPopSugar's Ultimate Reading Challenge (max. 3):- A book with multiple authors- A book with career advice- A book about a difficult topicBook Riot's Read Harder Challenge:- A book about books- A book published by a micropressBetter World Books:- A book under 200 pages- A book by a person of color- A book by a female writerWhile I have finished reading the book, I have not yet completed [...]

    19. Mel Mel Bo Bell

      I don't know what I was expecting, except to say I thought I'd learn much more from the book than I did. More specifics, maybe? Maybe. What it boiled down to for me, as nicely as possible, was "Don't be a bigoted idiot," which is good advice, but if you don't know better than to say X, Y, or Z, you're still going to say it, absent correction, no matter how good your intentions are. This book, and then imagination and empathy, and then maybe a sensitivity reader. But not any one of those things o [...]

    20. Jeremy Zimmerman

      I have two books that I always fall back on for advice. One is Mark Teppo's Jumpstart Your Novel. This is the other. I took the class, I've read the book, and still look to Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward for wisdom and advice. The real meat of the book is the exercises. The theory is great, but working through their guided writing practice really drives home the experience.

    21. Gabrielle Prendergast

      This one has been on my TBR for a while. I’ve been interested in the issue of “writing race” or as Shawl and Ward refer to it, “writing the other” for some time. I’m a white, anglo, straight, middle class, able bodied woman. Though my first inclination is to populate my books with those similarly blessed (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) that would not only be boring, but would be doing a disservice to the diversity of readers out there, who have just as much right to see [...]

    22. Jacey

      An interesting overview of writing diverse characters. As a writer you always worry that you're not doing it right. There are many traps for the unwary from racial stereotyping to cultural appropriation. I got to the end of this book with a sigh of relief. I don't seem to have fallen into those traps yet.The book began as an idea formed at a Clarion workshop. It's American, and to a certain extent reflects the experience of being black in America, but does expand to a much wider overview. Othern [...]

    23. Greg

      Let me start by saying that this book does have some very useful pointers. However, it's marred by the chips on the authors' shoulders. The book would work better, irk less (and paint a more flattering picture of its writers) if they had resisted the urge to preach apparently prejudiced, arguably inaccurate, and certainly unhelpful views.For the modest (Kindle) price this book is worth getting because it more or less does what it says on the tin - you can just ignore the thinly-disguised sermons [...]

    24. Lauren

      I read this story in brief spurts, and then read the main section a second time in about a day. The book is an interesting read. If you've spent any time at all on tumblr, or any of the numerous social awareness websites some of this will seem fairly tame and "well duh." Regardless it's a good, basic read through that offers up both new, and common sense ideas. I will admit that one of the things I took away from it was a sureness that adding "the Other" to my writing is okay, done properly of c [...]

    25. Victoria Sandbrook

      A quick and important read for anyone who writes. The framework suggested offers reassurance that writing a character that is not a mirror of your own self and experiences can be done thoughtfully, respectfully, and best of all, effectively for the reader. Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward bring it back to tools of writing craft that all authors should be using. If you're familiar with the best ways to "Show Not Tell," you can do this. If you're prepared to research until you get the science/history/w [...]

    26. Yaaresse

      After abandoning a book where a well-meaning author "got it all wrong" and overused some very stale stereotypes, I thought reading this might be a sort of balm to my brain and soothe my temper a bit. I liked the idea of exploring how authors could avoid writing clumsily (and sometimes just plain badly) about "other." Unfortunately, I didn't think there was much information here. It's material from a workshop, and it has that sort of "let's skim the surface" vibe to it that workshop material alwa [...]

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