|The author, Dane F. Baylis|
BROADEN YOUR CULTURAL VOCABULARY
NO, THE WORLD WOULD NOT BE BETTER IF WE ALL SANG BRAD PAISLEY SONGS, DRANK BUDWEISER, AND ATE AT MICKEY D'S.
We all have a natural tendency to begin as writers by presenting things as we have experienced them. There's nothing wrong with this if all you ever want to show your readers is your own limited experience and reference. But what if you are looking to bring more intricacy, empathy, and realistic emotion to your work? What if you want to be able to reach out beyond your own comfort zone and, perhaps, touch people you might never come in contact with? What if you want to be able to express authentic detail when speaking from the viewpoint of another culture and people altogether? That's only possible if you drop the chauvinism we can all be guilty of and seek out meaningful contact with those of other racial, ethnic, class, or educational backgrounds.
There was a period of time in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when going abroad was seen as a rite of passage and a rounding out of an individual's knowledge and perception of the world around them. Unfortunately, The Grand Tour, as it was known, was mostly only available to those of wealthier means. The upper classes would send their children abroad to experience other places and peoples first hand. This resulted in a broadening of their appreciation of their own and other's places in the grand scheme of things.
Today, due to the ever more porous borders in the world and the greater mobility of larger and larger parts of the global population, it has become easier than ever to experience completely foreign perspectives and lifestyles within the confines of our mother countries. The isolationist approach to this intimacy is as archaic and inexcusable as the walled cities of middle age Europe or the closed boundaries of feudal Japan would be in modern times. We have become a world dependent on every one of its constituent parts for success and survival and denying this as writers would leave us in a position of creating one dimensional, unsympathetic, and unbelievable characters. Unless you are aiming for the homogenized beings of some far flung future, why not incorporate the diversity that exists in your town, state, or country?
It only requires that you take an open and inquisitive walk into a mosque, church, or temple. Or, instead of just going out for a little Japanese, Ethiopian, or Peruvian cuisine, make friends with someone from one of those communities and maybe experience what they actually eat on a daily basis. Perhaps you might find a course in a foreign language, then, instead of just working on the course material, you look up web sites from countries that speak that language and see what shows up on their news or blogs. Really take an interest in how someone else sees the world and you never know but that your own outlook might shift in interesting and stimulating ways. Then, when you sit down to incorporate these things in the characters you're developing for your next tale, you won't have to fake the dialect, customs, and inner workings of a person. Instead, you will have a richer, more sincere connection to the "why" that drives your character's what.
Another helpful hint from your Uncle Dane.
Meanwhile...live, love, write.
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Dane F. Baylis