Monday, February 15, 2010

Hearing Voices...and Going Along for the Ride

I've been wrestling with a few wonderings for about six months now. Can white authors really write African American characters well? You see I have some great characters talking to me, and I'm wondering if a) I have the right to put them on the page, and b) if they'll they sound authentic enough. I love these characters. They came to me in the middle of writing Eggshells. I shared the two chapters I wrote as a result, and my writing friends looked at me like I was crazy.

They weren't judging me or anything like that. They were wondering why, after I'd invested a full year and a half in writing of one novel, I was getting sideswiped by another. The answer was simple: I was hearing voices. I knew in my heart I was coming to the end of Eggshells, and those four girls had become a part of the fabric of my day to day writing life. I lived and breathed inside the heads of those characters...and letting go was hard. Ending a book feels like death to me. brain was doing a round-up; raking through all the possibilities and sending out a notice for free auditions!

Chrissy showed up first, and she was African American. I'm white. What? It's true. She had some pretty sassy stuff to say. I loved it! But my writing friends were not loving it, they saw this as a loss of focus. I was wondering about my sanity too. So I set it all aside and got back to the four sisters. But now? Eggshells is finished, and I'm doing what Patricia Reilly Giff tells me to do...move on and keep writing. I've found a white friend for Chrissy, and I think I now understand why Chrissy showed up in the first place. I'm a writer. I hear voices and put them down on page. I believe in the full palette of color that comes through in character...these characters need to bump up against one another. So now? I'm just going along for the ride!


Dr John Peragine said...

I say go with it...They are busting to get out on the page, don't worry about authenticity, that will happen on its own.

gael lynch said...

You're the best, John! My writing group said the same thing. Love the ride, that's for sure! Thanks for stopping by!