Monday, August 29, 2016

Whose Stories We Tell

If you are making a thing about people who are not like you, you should talk to people who are like that.

I can't count how many game ideas or fiction ideas I've dropped completely because I couldn't do the research, didn't have the time to interview, or couldn't read accurate accounts. People's stories matter so much. We should not fly off the cuff. We should not make assumptions based on media.

If you're working on something about people other than you that those people could be emotionally affected by,* pause and 

Consider whether you should do it at all. 

If you're still determined to do it, look for the people you are writing about or people similar to them. Ask them if they will share their experience. If they will not,

Consider whether you should continue.

If you're still determined to do it, look for accurate and complete personal accounts. If you can't find them, or they seem unreliable, or they are confirmed to be inaccurate,

Consider whether you should keep going.

If you're still determined to do it, review the available media regarding those people or their experiences. If you can't find them, or they seem unreliable, or they are confirmed to be inaccurate,

Stop.

That's right. Stop. Take a break, return to it later. Think about why you want to tell these stories.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you willing to tell stories without people's permission?
  • Are you willing to tell stories without accurate information?
  • Are you willing to tell stories that could be inaccurate or misleading?
  • Are you willing to tell stories that could damage reputations, risk people's jobs, or their lives?
  • Are you willing to tell stories that ignore people's identities, stereotype them, or marginalize them? 
  • Are you willing to lie?

If you answer yes to those questions, I say to you: Look at your life. Look at your choices.

Walk away.



*Sex, wars, religion, gender, queerness, identities, trauma, politics, etc. - all of these are important. Imagine if someone wrote a story about something you consider personal and emotional, like about your life personally, and told it wrong, and maybe even lied or misrepresented you in a way that stereotyped you or made you seem dangerous, evil, or just simply wrong. If it's a topic like that? Think about it.

Note: When you consult people, compensate them fairly for their time and experience.


This post was supported by the community on patreon.com/briecs.