As I type this, 2014 is coming to an end, and despite everything good that’s happened to me, all I can think is “good riddance”. Regardless of the positive things, the defining tone of this year has been one of misery. I might be a healthier individual if I concentrated on only the good parts of my life this year, but I’d also being doing a disservice to everyone who’s suffered. People who have felt tragedy and grief, people who have lost loved ones, one of whom I might become fairly soon.
But then there’s 2015. A big, bright, shining possibility that has yet, to put it in the bluntest possible terms, to start sucking. I’ve already taken to thinking of it as the year I do really well, and trying to put out of my mind that 365 days ago I was thinking the same thing about 2014. At around that time I was thinking about new year’s resolutions, and the same is true now. Human nature being what it is, we like the chance for a fresh start, a clean break.
Last year I promised myself a meagre four things, none of which came to pass. I won’t share what they are, although I’ll say in my defence that it wasn’t for a lack of trying, and I got really close with some of them. But this year I am considering something different to the usual promises: writer’s resolutions. Promises to improve your work, rather than yourself.
As writers, we are undertaking a very important duty to our audience. I’m not talking about entertaining them, that might well be a vital part, but it’s not what you’d call a duty. An obligation, perhaps. No, this duty is something you can ignore, and something that a great many people have ignored. It is the ability to make your audience feel welcome, feel encouraged, and feel spoken to.
There are certain demographics in any writer’s audience who need that the most. They might not be the largest of demographics, but size does not define importance. There is no reason to limit yourself to writing characters who only fit within the majority. Hundreds of stories are published every year: books, comics, films, television shows, and so forth. A writer must be brave enough to stand up and fight for the representation of everyone, large or small.
Personally, I am more-or-less smack bang in the middle of the largest, most comfortable demographic. I’m a white man, aged between 18 to 30, and there’s no end of media out there which has protagonists that fall under that same category. I did not grow up searching endlessly for stories that featured people like me in it, but I know people who did, and I can understand and sympathise with their plight.
That is why I decided my first published work should be about two women, and it’s also why I am making writer’s resolutions to further that commitment to welcoming and encouraging readers of all kinds. I am promising to write stories that don’t just feature queer and trans characters, but star them as protagonists.
I know I am not exactly the biggest name in the business, or even much of a footnote at this point in my career. But I am going to do my best to be the best writer I can be, not just in terms of technical skill, but in terms of moral standing. That is what I believe to be the best way to improve my work, and I call on other writers out there to do the same. Make some writer’s resolutions to be more welcoming and encouraging to your audience. And who knows, maybe if you’re making a resolution to try and change someone else’s life for the better, you might just stick to it.