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It’s Wednesday! Yay! That means new stories are up on Critique Circle! Excited, you scroll through the queue. So many choices, but nothing catches your eye except—wait. Ooh, this looks good. You begin to read. One paragraph. Two. This is good stuff that you can’t wait to critique—no. You scroll to the top of the page and hover your curser over the author’s profile Sigh. You hit the back button and begin searching for something that you’re more comfortable with, but why? We’ve all done it, and not because of the story itself. Not because there are technical errors or a plot hole big enough to drive a minivan through. No, it’s something deeper—something within you and nothing that the author has written.
Admit it. You’re uncomfortable because the writer is different than you. He or she doesn’t fit into the comfortable little box that’s your reality.
Quit your squirming and don’t back away from this blog post. Instead, take a deep breath and keep reading. I’m not trying to indoctrinate you into anything. On the contrary, I’m trying to educate you on what to do when you come across the unfamiliar here on CC or anywhere else. I want you jump headlong into the world outside your comfort zone. I want you to embrace the unfamiliar like your favorite childhood stuffed toy. I want you to read, to understand, to squirm and be uncomfortable at times.
I've been writing for over twenty years and publishing for over a decade, and I've come across a problem, a real problem with sharing my work in critique groups. Some critters don't know how to respond and, inevitably, shut down when they come across other ways of being besides their own. I’ve recently had this happen to me on CC, but this time I'm not giving up and going home. (I gave the critter, a dedicated critter at that, an opportunity to escape before he completed the meltdown he’d already started—but that’s a different story) I'm tired of dealing with such ignorance. People need to know how to respond to the unknown, how to work past their personal discomfort without sounding like something they probably don't want to be known as—a bigot.
That’s right. I said it. We think we’re not capable, but we all have the dark, ugly bigotry beast lurking within in us, so I’m going to give you a process to work through whenever you come across writing that takes you outside of your comfort zone, thereby negating the bigot beast.
But, before we dig deeper, we need to understand what diverse writing really is: The Midnight Publishing website includes a great definition. (NOTE: I am in no way associated with nor do I promote Midnight Publishing or their services. Rather, I am merely sharing a good definition) Per their page “Diversity in Books and How to include it,” some “of the most popular subject matter in the publishing industry right now involves the all-encompassing term of diversity. Characters who are part of the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual) community, as well as differing religious and cultural beliefs and protagonists of other races all gaining vast amounts of exposure and inclusion in modern-day fiction.” This is a great overall definition, but our problem lies in something deeper. How do we, as writers, critique diverse content?
Here's your list of how to navigate and critique through diverse writing no matter the genre.
When you encounter diverse writing:
How to critique a diverse story:
Still ucomfortable? Here are some graceful work arounds that will still let you critique:
So there you have it. Read. Critique. Write. But most of all, Learn. When we learn, we can accept. When we can accept, we can understand. When we can understand, we can embrace. When we can embrace, we become a part of a something greater, something we can all write about so even more of us can learn so the cycle perpetuates. We’ve taken a few cultural back steps lately, especially in the U.S., but it shouldn’t keep us from progressing as readers, writers, and insightful, confident critters.