I recently got word from one of my beta readers who—aside from being brilliant and talented—is amazingly astute. He gave me actionable, insightful feedback, not all of it complimentary, for which I am down-on-my-knees grateful. To any who waver on the importance of beta readers, and specifically sensitivity readers, there is no one who can give you better advice than those who have walked in the shoes you’re writing about. No matter what my experiences, I am not a 17-year-old boy who is gay. And making sure my character, Paul, is authentic is of paramount importance. Here’s some of what Victor P had to say:
“To the writing of Paul: I’m so relieved that he’s not just the Standard Funny Gay Dude that’s around just to be the sassy comic relief. I cannot imagine how great it would have felt to have read a character like this in YA literature when I was younger, it would have done a lot for me then to see a gay teen, who is very similar to myself in personality, go through this whole adventure just being himself and being human.” —Victor P.
This means the world to me, Victor. Thank you! And to any who read this and have even an inkling that they may want a sensitivity reader, a fantastic resource is: www.writingtheother.com. I would also like to thank Jack Cheng, www.jackcheng.com who gave a lecture on Writing the Other at the SCBWI conference in Naperville this May.
I’m certain I’ve screwed up, and will continue to screw up, plenty as I write from other character’s perspectives, but I think asking for help and trying to fully inhabit—with empathy—a character different from ourselves is the whole f’ing point.