Fact or Friction: Should writers stay within their cultural know-how when it comes to fiction?

Fiction writers face many challenges: plots, settings, and lack of coffee. But one specific writing quandary has been puzzling established and emerging writers alike, and there doesn’t seem to be an easy “brew” button to solve it: what is the range of liberties writers have when they dare to construct characters outside of their cultural understanding?

For example: is it kosher for a Caucasian writer to write about an Asian war veteran? Some would say, “Absolutely! It’s just a story,” while others would say, “Absolutely not! It’s not their story to tell.”

 

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In a recent New York Times article, Roxanne Robinson, author of Sparta—a novel set in war-torn Iraq, a place she fictionalizes for her tale—reminds us that the line between fact and fiction, even in creative writing, is not always clear and should be approached with caution, empathy, and research.

Are you a writer? What are your thoughts on this subject?

Read Robinson’s New York Times articleHERE.

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