Is it okay to tell a story that falls outside the scope of your experience?
That’s a question I’ve come across several times in recent years, and each time it’s given me a lot to think about.
There are often calls for greater diversity in fiction, but some people also argue that not anyone can or should write a diverse character. If you haven’t experienced that character’s life or personal struggle, then how can you convey it accurately?
It’s important to have diverse voices and for authors from all different walks of life to be able to tell their story, rather than simply have those people represented by characters in books.
But if we only ever wrote about things we’d experienced, our storytelling options would be severely limited.
And some stories would never emerge at all.
As writers and creatives, we have empathy. We can understand. We want to explore, to listen, to know. We want to get to the truth of a story. We care about things we read in the newspaper, or real-life stories that trouble and enrage us. We want to tell stories that resonate and make people think and feel. We don’t want to always take the easy option.
There are times when a story isn’t ours to tell.
There are times when authors get it wrong.
But does that mean we should be afraid to try?