My imagination sparks with images, when I see something I want to figure out a way to tell its story. People, places, objects, ideas are pictures that become stories.
A lot of the poetry that I write has come from one image. To that end, Pinterest is brilliant. If you want to check out the things that I post there you can see my profile here. I use their secret boards to work on projects that I’m not ready to share and I use the public boards to keep images I love and share them with friends.
One of the things that Pinterest is great for is character inspiration, if you work in a visual way when you are writing, it’s amazing to look through all of the people and see who sparks your imagination, which people fit the idea you have and put them next to each other to see how they work as an ensemble.
There’s a pretty serious downside to using Pinterest to find characters though.
It’s so fucking white.
Even with a concerted effort to look for POC characters it’s really hard to get a range of images and you keep being kicked back to white faces.
My character board is called Faces That Inspire Stories and I have tried really hard to make it a place that I can scan through and see a range of sizes, shapes, skin colours, races, hairstyles and ages. Because otherwise I’d never see them and my writing would be so much poorer for it.
If you are on the Twitters you might have seen some brilliant discussions recently by people including A.C. Thomas, Kaye M., Justina Ireland, Nita Tyndall,and Sara Taylor Woods about race and representation. I’ve written before (and will again) about the importance of diversity, of representation, of equality in literature, today I am just pointing out this one area that has been bothering me this week. I had an email from Pinterest with recommended pins because I am interested in character inspiration and it was almost 100% white, skinny, young faces. This coincided with a wonderfully articulate and diverse series of threads on Twitter talking about the importance of diversity in literature. So here we are, if all we see are white characters we will think it’s normal. It’s really not normal, not even a little bit.
Also this from Marieke Nijkamp sums it up:
So many important diversity conversations going on today. Read them. Read them widely. (Diversity is NOT a monolyth.) Listen.
— Marieke Nijkamp (@mariekeyn) August 30, 2016
I have had so many brilliant experiences with literature showing me how I can be better, stronger, braver but I am so incredibly lucky that I can find myself in almost every book because I am a white cis woman. It’s VITAL that we make sure everyone has that same opportunity.
In short, read widely, listen, don’t get grumpy when you are corrected, learn, and make the effort to do better.
ps. If I ever, EVER, even a little bit, say something that is wrong, that is mis-representative, is blind or misguided then please, please, please tell me and I will listen, and learn and do better. Thank you.