On the ‘Prejudice’ of the Writer

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


8 thoughts on “On the ‘Prejudice’ of the Writer

  1. Interesting. I’m of the opinion that one of the jobs of a writer is to offend. No inherently, but by telling types of truths (personal to self or to a character). Causing offense could be seen as a good thing.

  2. Dear Mike (Thomas),
    I enjoyed your post. Write what seems true to you. You must be true to yourself as a writer. If it’s someone who has critiqued your work and complained. Remember to only change what you agree with 100 per cent. If it’s a person who bought your book and complained, perhaps they’ll create a buzz about it and you’ll sell more copies. A person is what he is as you see him as the author of a book. There are facts and there are opinions. A character states things in a story that may be more opinion than fact.

    Thanks for letting me know you liked my blog and for following it.
    Smile today. It’s a great day to smile.
    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

  3. Everyone has become so afraid of journalism majors and actresses who are constantly offended because they really have nothing deeper to think about. They create a mob rule of thought and we all know mobs are pathetically stupid. When I was writing book two in my series a devout missionary wandered into town. Suddenly I realized he was gay and almost censored that out because I knew he was very flawed and had done some horrible things during the US Civil War and at the moment that’s unacceptable, but it would have been ridiculous if I made him in 1870’s Arizona preach some sort of tolerance thing. Even my very favorite characters have prejudices that were prevalent at the time and I refuse to change that.

    Great post.

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