I bought Writing the Other: A Practical Approach by Nisi Shawl & Cynthia Ward in preparation for the excellent worldbuilding Master Class: Building Inclusive Worlds.
At a little over 100 pages, this is a slim book. The content is similar to that of the resources listed on the Writing the Other website.
The authors note that class is “arguably as important as race in terms of categorization” but generally disregard class identity in the content arguing that class is “not a difference [the] majority culture recognizes as significant.”
The authors give examples of clumsy writing, such as:
- Creating unlikely relationships between characters (a white Maine lobsterman and his gay New Yorker friend) with no acknowledgment when this is culturally unusual (Mainers don’t befriend New Yorkers)
- Giving a particular character (gay man) every stereotypical trait of one ROAARS characteristic (florist, yappy dog, flamboyant speech)
- Have two or more characters from a given ROAARS category [with other, differing character traits] to avoid negative stereotypes (one of the Gay men works construction).
- Focus on non-ROAARS traits to help readers identify with characters different from themselves (a picky eater, deeply in love, etc.)
- Learning boils down to making mistakes, seeing what you’ve done wrong, and making connections [with mentors or other guides]. If you’re going to be a good writer, if you’re going to improve, you mustn't flinch from this process.
- You need to know what it feels like to be conspicuous. If your character’s a minority, she or he will be quite familiar with the sensation.
- By assigning unusual speech patterns [dialects] to the adopted [appropriated] culture, a writer will distance her readers from the people of that culture.
- If you’re borrowing creative elements from a non-dominant and/or non-Western culture, consider making a cash donation to some institution that supports, preserves, or furthers the knowledge of that culture.
Writing the Other is a solid introduction to expanding characterization and worldbuilding in respectful and inclusive ways.