As far back as discovering Alex Haley’s, Roots, and possibly before, I developed an interest in literature and film, especially with books or movies whose protagonists were characters of colour. The enriching advantage of reading books based in other countries, and written from the POV of someone whose ethnicity is other than your own is an enriching experience you don’t want to miss. The same goes for the experience of film, though one can at times be more compelling than the other.
The ability to taste ethnic foods through written words, learn about other cultural apparel through documentaries and be led through the experiences of different cultures and better understand the prejudices and hardships they faced is an education we should all be afforded.
I am either rereading Arthur Golden’s, Memoirs of a Geisha, or the more recent, Lawrence Hill’s, The BOOK OF NEGROES, next and until I decide I may just watch Dances with Wolves, for the umpteenth time.
I admire writers and screenwriters that take the time, either through their pride in their heritage, or their first hand experiences or their vast research on their subjects to share their experiences through fiction and non-fiction with their readers in literature and through the medium of films, like the story of Pocahontas.
At present, I am editing the second (and hopefully final) draft of a thriller whose protagonist is Inuk and whose knowledge and experiences of her culture are experienced through dialogue, point of view and description in setting and careful narration.
That said, I am taking the time to research and understand the culture, this is simplified for me as I am part of the wonderful Inuit community in Ottawa.
I have written articles that explain the importance of not faking dialect, the importance of knowing your characters, and that writing what you know, as well as what you don’t, can help your growth as a writer/author/blogger or even just your personal growth, after all, learning is a part of living.
As writers it is our responsibility, I feel, to educate while we entertain, whether in film, books, on-line or otherwise and if we cannot do that, then the message is not going to resonate with the readers who take the time to read the content we have done our best to provide them with. We will either bore them to death or overload them with one and drown out the point of the other.
How do we know when we have researched our work enough or waited long enough before letting an article, blog or story go to print? I am still figuring that part out. That is why I recommend letting a second set of eyes take a look at your work. Writing for a living I am learning about the business every day and I enjoy imparting my knowledge with others in the film and writing community whether novices or experts in the business. I am always open to learning more from others in the community as well.
*Previously published in The Ink Never Runs Out