I had a lovely commission – to write a short story for Christmas, called South. That was all I was given. The opening line “It was the Christmas the geese turned back” came to me almost immediately, the rest followed later.
When I had finished I sent it to the producer Kirsty Williams, she said good things and asked if I had any thoughts about who should read it. I said I had been thinking as I wrote that it might be a woman of colour telling the story and suggested a few names. She said she’d thought that too and suggested Nina Sosanya. I cheered, Nina said yes, and did a brilliant job.
As a white writer there is often an assumption that I will write white characters. That’s not true to my life or a world I want to live in – one with only white people – nor is it how I write. We can all choose to write more truthfully. In most lives, very few of us living in a closed society of just one type of people, this will mean a wide range of people. If we are white and find ourselves writing characters of colour and describing them by race or ethnicity, then it’s important that we note the race or ethnicity of the white characters too. White is not the default. (Nor is male, obviously – and yet, apparently, not obvious at all.) When writing a piece like this, a monologue, the writer is often asked who they see reading it. If it doesn’t matter to the plot who reads it, then we can choose to cast beyond ourselves – beyond our own gender, ethnicity, ability, sexuality, class. This way the writing becomes bigger, further from the writer, more able to stand for other people, more able to include more of us.
Given what this story is about, I hope (if you have 13 minutes to spare) you’ll agree that it is a story that needs to include more of us.