Monday, 19 March 2012

Book Review: "Writing the Other" by Shawl and Ward

Title: Writing the Other (A Practical Approach)
Authors: Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward
Format: Kindle Edition
Length: 122 pages
Price (at time of writing): £3.82

Available from Amazon here.

This book is about...

Coping with problems which can arise when writers try to create characters whose gender, sexual preference, and age differ significantly from their own.

I bought this book because...

I'm in my forties, but the protagonist in the novel I'm writing is 13.
I was born in 1968; he was born in 1867.
He's was child of tribal Africans, was born into poverty, and was adopted;  I wasn't.
I wanted a fresh perspective on my writing, in case I was unwittingly making silly mistakes.

What I think of it...

Let me start by saying that this book does have some very useful pointers.

However, it's marred by the chips on the authors' shoulders. The book would work better, irk less, and paint a more flattering picture of its writers, if they had resisted the urge to preach apparently prejudiced, arguably inaccurate, and certainly unhelpful views.

For the modest (Kindle) price this book is worth getting because it more or less does what it says on the tin - you can just ignore the thinly disguised sermons. Once you look past the diatribes you find an extremely useful model for looking at the issue at hand. The basic approaches Shawl and Ward describe will certainly help me in my own writing.

But if another book on this subject is published I'll snap it up as I don't feel I already have this base completely covered.