A writer grappling with how to write a novel responsibly while placing it in Incan/Mayan lands received a suggestion from a "College/University" respondent to travel there to research the locality personally. My advice to the stymied author?
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Wow, leave it to a person whose credentials for answering a serious question are "attended some College/University." That's the person I'd want giving my friends and loved ones such life-altering advice as "travel to Mayan/Incan land" where you can learn firsthand how to write ethically while "thriving in context." You know, I have a piece of advice of my own for Mr. College/University: Go back to school and learn how to think things through practically.
The truth here is twofold. First, as for ethics, approach your subject ethically by being aware that we're all real human beings, some of whom are fortunate enough to be citizens of the United States of the Real World. In other words, don't worry about being politically correct. Do worry about portraying people and their cultures without bias. Treat all people equally, both in your writing and in your life, no matter what their culture is, and you're sure to be a winner. Don't talk down; write up!
Second, as for your book thriving in context, do some research. Travel there if Mr. College/University will pick up the tab. That's assuming you're not averse to the gangland murders and cartel mayhem spreading throughout the land. (Wow, good choice--Mexico!) Otherwise, listen up, because I have an alternative. It's called research.
Don't know how to research? Then either 1.) learn or 2.) set your fantasy culture in Detroit or Pittsburgh or someplace with which you're more familiar.
Also, I'm not sure whether or not anyone has ever revealed this little trade secret about fiction writing before, but you have an imagination. Use it! Make your story sound so real and convincing that no one will ever question it. See it in your mind. Believe it. Accept it. Love it. And then make everyone else do the same.
Let me state what should be obvious. You're a truck driver, or you're a writer. If you're the former, God bless you. We need more of you, especially in trying times such as these. If you're the latter, take it seriously. Writers aren't transcriptionists who lay words down on paper. They're more than that. They're creators. They're thinkers. They're planners. They're motivators. They're imaginers. They're seekers of truth and reality even in non-real universes.
Which one are you?
The sad fact is that, if you can't write convincingly, no amount of personal contact in a foreign land will help you to do so, no matter who picks up the tab. You have to see it in your mind before you can hope to show it to your readers. Visualize it, refine it, think about it, and then decide upon the best way to describe it in words so that your readers get to do so, too. It's called using imagery, and that's known as creative writing.
D. J. Herda is author of the new eBook series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere.