An Ethical Approach
Language is an incredibly powerful tool that will either preserve or transform existing cultural norms, regardless of the user’s awareness or intent.
This means that every writer has an ethical responsibility to understand the potential impact of the specific words they choose to use.
Unfortunately, the seemingly sudden rise of social media has allowed many writers a platform without any understanding of the inherent ethical responsibilities. Fortunately, intentional storytelling and inclusion proofreading are here to save the day. Intentional Storytelling begins with the message to be conveyed, and ends with a compelling story for the target audience.
Consultation and Feedback
Paige is temporarily unavailable for consultation services. You can still learn about Intentional Storytelling by attending her on-demand webinar Crafting Evocative Stories. As an alternative, see below for some ideas about writing diverse characters.
Listen More Podcast
In Listen More, people around the world tell Paige about what they would like to see less and more of in stories with characters like themselves. Would you or someone you know like to be a guest on the show? You can book a time to chat about it &/ record here.
Characters with Disability
Other Advice for Writers
If you’re writing a fictional character with lived experience different to your own, ensure you have conversations with at least three different people who do have the relevant lived experience.
First, do your own research.
Several organisations have developed media guides that are freely available. As an example, the GLAAD Media Reference Guide covers the LGBTIQ+ community. In addition to defining relevant terms, it includes terminology to avoid, as well as a brief explanation. Never enter into this type of conversation without some understanding of what may be painful or inappropriate to ask.
Then, write a clear, respectful call out on social media.
It is important that you do this only after you are equipped with the necessary foundational knowledge. Never approach people just because you think they have relevant lived experience.
Choose a quiet, private setting.
When it comes to the actual conversation, it is important to be in an environment that the other person is comfortable with.
Limit your questions.
If possible, limit yourself to the following two questions, allowing them to lead the rest of the conversation:
- “What bothers you about how characters with similar lived experience to you are represented in media?”
- “What would you like to see more of in characters who have similar lived experience to you?”