A Writer Can be Anyone or Anything
I attended a writers’ workshop session at which a minor, but much-published author warned participants against creating POV (point of view) characters of the opposite sex.
According to her writing philosophy, a woman writer should create only female POV characters and men, male POV characters. That’s not to say that the POV characters can’t interact with characters of the opposite sex. Her books contain characters of both sexes. She just insists that POV must be limited to the gender and general life experiences of the writer. A woman whose only work experience has been that of office work, for example, has no business writing from the POV of a male brain surgeon.
I reacted strongly against her attempt to place such an extraordinary limitation on writers of fiction.
Restricting writers to the POV of persons only like themselves makes as much sense as it would to restrict readers to reading books about characters most like themselves.
The whole point of creating fiction is to enable people to expand their experience of life. In the writer’s imagination there is neither male nor female. Some writers will enter into alternate minds better than others, but the success of the attempt will depend upon talent and technique, not gender.
The following successful titles wouldn’t exist if their authors had followed such a limiting dictum as write only from your own point of view and personal experience:
Silas Marner by George Eliot (Marian Evans)
woman writing from POV of poor male weaver
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
American man writing from Japanese woman’s POV
A Great Deliverance, By Elizabeth George
American woman writing from British male detective’s POV
And I’d be especially sorry never to have read these books in which the authors cross the species barrier to tell their great and moving stories:
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Gayneck the Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji
Bambi by Felix Salten
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (Yes, I cried when a spider died.)
Hurray for the writer’s imagination!
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