How to Write Flash Fiction: Don’t Write Racist Stories (Cultural Appropriation)


get a couple slush readers together and
it never fails one will look at the other and say what’s the worst thing
you’ve ever seen that’s right this is another episode of
the slush pile whores and today’s slush pile whore is stories with a racist
message I’m Anna Yeatts from flash fiction online
if you want more slush pile do’s don’ts the dreaded slush pile whores headin
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so today slushpile whore is racist stories and you would think that I wouldn’t have
to record this video but yes yes I do because we actually get these stories in
the slush pile and yeah stories plural so one of the types of stories that we
see it’s the cultural appropriation story I know it’s just kind of a sticky
topic too and this is sort of the most benign of the stories that we see where
you can tell that a wealthier goose a wealthier American in the context of the
country they were going to wealthier than where they were going and they had
a lovely vacation and they learned a little bit about the local culture they
picked up some phrases maybe they learned a little bit about the local
religion or spirituality or traditions and they brought it back home with them
along with some LV photographs and then they write a story the story is told
with the point of view looking in but not just looking at but looking down so
subconsciously we feel like we’re looking down at a culture that is
beneath ours and one of the hallmarks of the story is
quite often broken or a pigeon type English where the grammar is incorrect
now I think is that no matter what culture you’re from when you hear
yourself speak in your own mind your own internal point of view you always have
perfect grammar but when we are channeling someone from a different
culture and we somehow unconsciously or consciously believe that their culture
is less than ours we tend to give them incorrect grammar so if I’m reading a
point of view that has incorrect grammar in that internal monologue I
automatically read that character is less educated more ignorant more
backwards and quite often that’s the way this story is told that we’re looking
down on this poor broken backward culture and we just get the feeling like
we’re waiting for the Western Savior to sweep in sometimes they do sometimes
they don’t but that point of view feels like that that it’s there’s one more
layer removed that we have this broken culture with the sad broken English but
then removed from that we still have this filter of superiority looking down
on it like oh you can’t use proper English like we do and those stories
don’t feel right and those don’t sit well that one is really easy to step
into if you’ve you’ve gone on vacation and you enjoyed it and you want to
appreciate the local culture so those are hard and there are ways to tackle
that and that is beyond the scope of this video but moving on one step from
there the stories that we see are ones where the point-of-view character their
accent and the colloquialisms are just so thick and so heavy that it really it
feels like Uncle Tom’s Cabin it’s a caricature instead of being a character
and it’s also meant to be demeaning and belittling to the characters in the
story and these are also message stories and the message is really just not so
flattering it again has that lens of the narrative that is removed and is looking
up and down and in and this sort of poking fun at this group from the point
of view of this group quite often those stories are set in the south or they are
set in impoverished areas and you’re someone who is from the south even
though yes we do have accidents we don’t speak like that and again when you hear
yourself speak you hear yourself speaking with perfect grammar with
perfect pronunciation because that’s the way you sound in your own head so if you
were truly in that characters point of view you would have perfect grammar and
then there’s a story that either reverses everyone’s race or makes
everyone into impossible colors like everyone is pink and blue and neon green
so the author kiss or hold up their hands and go oh now
not talking about any actual racial tensions no no but it’s pretty clear the
parallels that the author is attempting to draw again it gets them to sticky
territory really quickly because it’s a message story it’s not a story with a
message but it is a message that has been glossed over with a very thin layer
of story we also see this when there’s like pseudoscience sort of backing up
the story and the whole point of the story is the characters using this
pseudoscience to justify their racism those are uncomfortable stories as well
another variation of this is when junk science or pseudoscience is is put into
the story for the entire point of underpinning racial stereotypes and the
story revolves around this like that’s that so a part of story is to show off
this science science that that otherwise no one would look twice at and the
characters either act through this plotline
in order to demonstrate how this science is actually real and then at the end are
like wow look this is why it must be true and racism therefore should be kept
alive yeah those are just not okay either there’s also the other side of
the story and I don’t think it comes from a deliberate place but their
stories they’re just completely whitewashed where everyone in the store
ages everybody is a white anglo-saxon Protestant and I do understand that it’s
it is hard to try to write diversity in your stories because of what I just laid
out for you there a lot of sticky places that you could stick your foot in and be
like god I messed up and I didn’t even mean to but if everybody in your story
is a white anglo-saxon Protestant well how does your culture get that way is it
that way on purpose did it deliberately cleanse everybody else or do you do you
live in a world that is so insular that everyone around you is a wide angle
some Protestant readers are looking for people to identify with in their stories
and if we are only writing to one very specific demographic we’re not doing
anyone any favors yeah this is a tough topic if you can’t tell I’m having a
tough time talking about it and I’m sure I have goofed up in the course of this
video so the places where I’ve goofed up and gotten it wrong I’m sorry it’s it’s
a learning curve for all of us and we are just doing the best that we can we
strive for diversity our stories and I know we still have a long way to go we
do but our goal is that we tell stories we don’t publish messages that are
thinly glossed as stories and I hope that we can do that in a way that is
human and kind good that’s it for today this has been a tough one so thanks for
making it to the end if you’re not a patron well we could really use your
support so head on over to patreon become a patron flash fiction online if
you already are thank you because we really couldn’t do it without you be
brave and write the stories that scare you and do your best and learn from your
mistakes it’s all I’ve got for you today happy writing

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