Man, this one is an interesting thing and if you put out an internet search for "Woke" you get everything from Old English to heightened new age awareness. Depending on your point of view, being "woke", having or creating "woke" characters or creating woke stories can be viewed through distinctly different lenses. And I don't mean lenses of color. These lenses are different, and should be used with great care.
Like the rest of you, I hear about folks being "woke", but often your "wokeness" is based on their level of expectation: What the observer likes, wants, believes, embraces, etc. Their life assesses your awareness.
I think, put simply, it's another level of judgment, one person against the other (or "for" the other, if your likes and dislikes align) and it's become an air of anger or indignation on social media.
The question for authors is who establishes your "woke" level?
Readers. Readers and sales and reviews and likes vs. dislikes of your work determines what they think of your awareness of the human condition. In the end, being woke doesn't seem to be about awareness anymore... it's about agreement. Sometimes the "fall into line or be quiet" kind of agreement, but how do you translate this into story? How do you stay relevant but respectful? How do you target an audience and show sensitivity to others?
Authors who have never served in the military write military stories. Writers who've never piloted a plane have written pilots as heroes or heroines. Authors who have never been a priest or minister, write about them all the time. Writers who've never been a MAN write men as heroes or protagonists all the time, but in our current times publishers discourage (or refuse) to have authors write outside their color/race/ethnicity. Social media attacks have turned a "woke" society into a battleground where authors have had to change characters the past few years because they're not allowed to write people of color if they're not a person of color.
And then they wonder why so many authors are working in the indie market where great stories are gobbled up by grateful readers. Sometimes following the rules makes sense... but this is one case where it doesn't make sense. A good writer is almost always writing about something he or she doesn't personally know.
You can write murder mysteries and never kill a soul. I mean it! REALLY!!!
You can write about a teacher without an education degree. You can write about a paraplegic, a blind person, an autistic child, a Down Syndrome adult, a veterinarian, a cop, a civil engineer, a midwife, and never have been near anyone who's given birth.
I've been blessed to sell over 2,000,000 books the last eleven years. That's an amazing number! That's a crazy wonderful thing! And depending on who your target audience is, your writing is geared toward that audience. The audience might be broad-based or more narrow. These aren't bad things, this is why publishers and Amazon have so many genres and imprints.
So are you unwoke if you write for a Christian imprint like Love Inspired, Bethany House, Tyndale, Waterfall Press?
Not to those readers. Those readers have the right to pick and choose what they want to read and maybe they pick from multiple genres (so many of us do!) or maybe they stay more narrowly focused (and that's their choice, right)? Targeting a specific audience isn't to disclude others: It's to focus the sales dollars appropriately to a paying public.
I love writing all kinds of characters. My stories are generally women's fiction or romance, and I write with a calling to uplift women. It doesn't matter what color, ethnicity, religion they are... their commonality is being a woman who's had to face strife or trauma or terror.... and writing stories that identify with them.
To me, that's enough. They shouldn't have to be all white because I'm white. That's not the world most of us live in. But I also understand how quickly social media targets and attacks and no publisher wants to be in that particular set of headlights these days. We've all seen what's happened on Twitter and other social media outlets.
The blessing for authors like me is that I can write books like Refuge of the Heart (A Chechnyan prisoner of war), The First Gift (a biracial child and the white teacher that helps her) a cowboy who falls in love with an interior designer, (see, it doesn't matter what race they are, and I didn't put it into the description because it is of no consequence to the story...) a black supermodel with an eating disorder, a black nanny who steps in when three little rich girls lose their mother, a biracial boy who just wants to be loved, a Latina housekeeper with a secret past... with over 60 books in print, the idea that I can/should only write in my own color spectrum isn't just wrong.
We don't have to be woke to know that writers write... doctors heal... singers sing... Erecting arbitrary lines of demarcation isn't natural... or normal.
Awareness and sensitivity are clutch for any writer in any genre, but there's something about my stubborn Irish nature that sets my hackles on edge when someone says "You can't do this."
Because my first reaction is.... "Hold my beer."
And I don't even drink beer.
Bestselling and multi-published, award-winning author Ruth Logan Herne is kind of a know it all, but she's okay with that and hopes you are, too. With over 60 published novels and novellas and more in the works, Ruthy loves writing the kind of characters the leap off the page and into your heart... Find her on Facebook, stop by her website ruthloganherne.com, drop her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and if you want a really good book to read, you might want to start with her latest Love Inspired "Rebuilding Her Life" or her upcoming mystery from Guideposts "Prescription for Mystery"... available soon from Guideposts.com OR you can win a copy here, today! This is a time-slip mystery that touches the heart... and tends the soul. Leave a comment below to be entered!