I think I’ve said it before on this website, but nothing bothers me more than people who see things purely in extremes. Human society is so complex that any commentary on it needs to be approached with thought, perspective and sympathy.
It’s the lack of thought that really gets me. Most of what I write about–dustups over social issues–can be not only cleared up but avoided with a little thought. With a little sympathy. And certainly with a little perspective, because what it usually come down to is someone who is unable to think from the perspective of another person.
Then when called on it, either gently or robustly, they get defensive and miss the opportunity to think from the perspective of another person. And the argument progresses from there.
Now, I can fully expect a comment telling me how words like “misogynist” and “homophobe” and “racist” hurt people’s feelings and activist fans are not looking at things through the point of view of the struggling creator. And no doubt some reviewers are unfairly cruel in their zeal to be an entertaining read.
But that’s not what I’m talking about here.
I’m thinking, specifically, of a way writers can refine their craft and avoid dustups over social issues at the same time–by placing themselves in the shoes of a person with the same background as a character they are trying to write. By not using a minority character as a mouthpiece for the agenda of the majority, but instead doing the research and presenting a reasonable minority perspective–even if it means you have to deal with unfortunate questions. By making fully rounded and self-deterministic female characters rather than easy sex appeal for a coveted and vastly underestimated demographic. By concentrating on making fully realized people who carry their own plotlines which sometimes involve dealing with prejudice or romance, but doesn’t lead to burying a character in a toychest until it’s time for a very special issue on tolerance.
It probably takes some research, and some mistakes, and some arguing — but this should be the ultimate goal. Characters who are more like people than like ink on paper. Someone relatable to the reader. And if people who have similar backgrounds to the character you’re writing are offended by what you have that character saying or doing, then you’re not writing a realistic character.