I recently wrote a blog post about judging readers by what they read. Today I want to talk about genre stereotyping authors. Someone once said “Write the book you want to read.” Well, okay then. This is why I write various genres under two different names. I like to read many different genres and age categories.
A problem with the writing community that I see, but few want to talk about seriously, is that readers and other authors have this idea that certain people have to write certain books.
Women can’t write science fiction or horror.
Every book written by a woman must have romance in it.
Men can’t write romance books or erotica.
A white person can’t write a non-white character.
A person who identifies as LGBT can’t write straight characters. (And vice versa)
A person who writes children’s books can’t also write erotica.
I think these assumptions about what an author can or can’t or even should or shouldn’t write are harmful. Of all the things to teach fledgling writers, telling them they can only write certain genres or characters because of their age, race, gender, or sexual orientation is probably the worst idea to put in their minds.
Not too long ago, there was a Twitter thread about men writing women. I jumped on this bandwagon because it was hilarious and reading other women’s posts about how awful men can sometimes write women in fiction was a fun way to waste an hour. In reality, though, who says men can’t write amazing female characters? I mean, I know some women who can’t write amazing female characters. (*cough* Twilight *cough*) And though that Twitter thread made me laugh so much I was leaking tears from my eye-holes, I didn’t take it seriously. No one should.
I have seen writers asking silly questions like: How do I write a gay person since I’m a straight person? or How do I write a black character since I’m white? I honestly think these are rather ridiculous questions. There is this thing called research. Also, I tend to write people as people. We don’t like our characters stereotyped, so how about, you know, don’t do that. But thinking you “can’t” write a military science fiction story with no romantic subplot just because you don’t have a penis swinging between your legs is like saying I can’t prefer a shower over a bath because my girl parts are supposed to like bubbles and candles and soft music. Let’s not go there.
So men, you go ahead and write that deep, meaningful romance. White woman, write that protagonist as an intelligent Latino man. Gay man, write straight characters in a fantasy setting. Meanwhile, I might write a story about a lesbian transsexual in space who isn’t looking for romance because she enjoys ripping throats out in her spare time.
Because, why not? Who is to say I can’t?