According to a piece in Slate, novelists are now employing “sensitivity readers“ in an attempt to avoid representing characters from other communities in an inaccurate or offensive way.
The article highlights one particular group, “Writing in the Margins,” whose website explains that since “authors will write outside of their own culture and experience,” it’s a good idea for them to hire one of their readers to look “through a manuscript for issues of representation and for instances of bias on the page.” So if, for example, you’re a straight person writing a book that features a gay character, you should hire a gay “sensitivity reader” because you don’t know what it’s like to be a gay person and you might misrepresent that experience to others.
This may sound nice and sweet, but there are so, so many problems with it. For one, no one knows what it’s like to be a person in a fictional novel, because the people in fictional novels do not exist. Writing about experiences that you yourself have not had is literally what fiction is, and to discourage that is to discourage the art itself. For two, getting upset at authors for things that their fictional characters say is probably the most absurdly stupid thing that I have ever heard of in my entire life.
Read more at National Review.