How To Write An Ethical & Socially Sensitive Story

Here is a relevant and timely article on approaching our stories with sensitivity and social awareness of our readers, in order to not insult, offend, or lose our audience.


Great article and timely advice, at least for this writer. One thing I’d caution in the arena of being sensitive and true to one’s craft is, many times the writer doesn’t know what they are trying to achieve, or convey, and it is through the process of shared opinionization that we sometimes reach those goals. Two, five years ago, no one had even heard the word “appropriation”, but now there are quarters that would have the writer vet each line for correctness. Don’t misunderstand. I like Miller, and I like his viewpoint. At the moment. I must vilify a character I could easily over-simplify, so I must be careful not to go to draw with too broad strokes of what I need to say.


There is definitely valuable advice within that article. Walking the line between sensitivity and self-righteousness and preachiness can be tricky, though. I felt like the article started to drift across the line a little bit in the Sexism and Misogyny section. I felt the section on Religion, especially, was very non-partisan and balanced by comparison and I think the Bottom Line general advice at the end was well-said.

This quote I came across today sort of speaks to my preference for most stories over ones that are attempting to proliferate ‘right-thought’.

“You don’t read Gatsby, I said, to learn whether adultery is good or bad but to learn about how complicated issues such as adultery and fidelity and marriage are. A great novel heightens your senses and sensitivity to the complexities of life and of individuals, and prevents you from the self-righteousness that sees morality in fixed formulas about good and evil.”
― Azar Nafisi, [Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books]


@kellygunteratlas - Thank you for posting this article. Two years ago, a friend of mine and I went to tge James River Writers Conference here in Virginia. My friend was writing a book set in Ecuador. She spent time there in the Peace Corps. We met Newberry Award Winner Meg Medina, who berated her. Medina said that only Latinos can write about Latinos. We were so caught off guard, we were speechless. My friend, devastated.

I have given this moment a lot of thought. I can understand her fear of misrepresentation, but I think an observant outsider can collect details that an insider cannot see. For example, as a native New Yorker, I embraced so many different cultures and religions and thought nothing of it. When I moved to Virginia and there was a huge understanding similarity, I stepped back and realized how unique New York is. I know this is a small revelation, but I think that to ignore a minority population, is a disservice. If authors continued to write about the same type of people, wouldn’t it exclude so many more?


Excellent quote. Thanks for posting it here.

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I hope your friend is back in the saddle and this has given them fresh meaning in just what it means to be a writer. I very much agree with your assessment of “sameness” simply leading to exclusion. Writers have an obligation to not just show, but often tell the world what it needs to see and hear. So sad Medina is writing for children; that kind of obstinance needs not prosper.

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Of course it’s more difficult to write a character that lives in a (sometimes very) different world from your own. But I think if you approach the story with respect and do the research, you won’t go wrong. If that wasn’t the case, then writers shouldn’t write stories set 1000 years ago or in ancient times because we can’t possibly understand fully what those people faced. I don’t believe in absolutes and I think each effort and book should be judged separately.


@daniel_0227 She has taken a break from that project, but might return again. I agree with your opinion abour Medina and young readers. As a teacher, i am reluctant to mention her work during Hispanic heritage month, but I doubt many kids are reading during Vurtual teaching now… which us even more unfortunate

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