By Kim McDougall
M-E Girard released her first novel, “Girl Man’s Up,” this fall. In this YA story, Pen is a teenaged girl trying to come to grips with how others see her as well as how she wants to see herself. My favorite quote from the book is:
“I don’t feel wrong inside myself. I don’t feel like I’m someone I shouldn’t be. Only other people make me feel like there’s something wrong with me.”
Putting aside the beautiful and sorrowful aspect of this thought for a teen, this quote struck me to my writer’s core. It is the essence of characterization. It is the internal vs. the external struggle that all our characters go through with varying degrees of success.
Here are just a few of the thoughtful topics that M-E touched on in her talk on diversity in fiction:
- The pitfalls of creating minority characters. Are you ready for the feedback (and possible backlash) that these characters will bring? Have you done your research to make your characters believable and not stereotypical? Should a non-minority be writing about minorities at all?
- The overlapping effects of privilege. Each of your characters should have a rich background with traits that would, in certain scenarios, cause oppression and in other situations make them privileged. How do the environment and people around them cause certain privileges or oppressions to manifest?
- How diversity is portrayed in the publishing world by way of marketing and reader feedback. Why are book covers still filled with beautiful white people that don’t reflect the story inside? How do agents and editors view stories about minorities?
M-E’s journey to publication and her trials as an LGBT author of LGBT fiction was eye-opening, sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes amusing, but definitely thought-provoking. Her insights on creating realistic characters resonated on a much deeper level to this writer, making me look at my characters and environments through a less white-washed lens, hopefully leading to richer fiction.
M-E Girard splits her time between writing YA fiction about badass teens girls and working as a pediatric nurse. Twice, she has been selected as a Lambda Literary Fellow. Her debut novel Girl Mans Up was released in September by HarperTeen. Visit her online at www.megirard.com