I have a difficult time with the current preoccupation with ‘ethnic prejudice’ and the trend to write things as they should be rather than they actually are. For instance, I’m afraid to call my characters ‘the short Italian man’ or ‘the Australian’. These next two topics appear at the surface level to be quite different, but I don’t see them as such.
1.) I in no way as a writer intend to influence people into smoking. However, as a writer, it is my job to understand the truth, and the truth is smoking may just make you look slightly cooler and tougher.
2.) From this, we can derive that the job of the writer is henceforth to write as the mind sees. Therefore, if I write about my character seeing a black man, I must write, ‘A black man approached.’ In the same way, a black man in New York City may see me coming and write, ‘The tourist approached.’
I hope you can clearly see that the issue I am raising does not have anything to do with racism, but properly describing the interpretation of the human mind. There are many today seeking to ‘fix’ this interpretation, but I don’t think the interpretation is really what needs to be changed. For example, the more time my main character spends with ‘the black man’, the more he is known as David, and a friend, and a jackass. Why? Because initially we see things in a very shallow manner, but eventually the truth comes out.
If I wanted to relate this depth to the smoker looking cool, I would show that the cool smoker also has fits of coughs and lives day to day with more stress than one can possibly imagine.
I hope this clarifies my point correctly, and please understand I in no way intend to offend anyone. I just cannot bring myself to write characters who are not true to life.
– Thomas M. Watt