"In my capacity as a writing teacher, I've noticed, in the classroom, the emergence of a belief that fiction can or should be the product of an absolute form of 'correctness.' The student explains that I should believe in her character because this is exactly how X type of person would behave. How does she know? Because, as it happens, she herself is X type of person. Or she knows because she has spent a great deal of time researching X type of person, and this novel is the consequence of her careful research. (Similar arguments can be found in the interviews of professional writers.)
... Writing is a far larger act of presumption. Sensing this, we seek to shore up the act of writing with false defenses, like the dubious idea that one could ever be absolutely "correct" when it comes to representing fictional human behavior. I understand the desire - I have it myself - but what I don't get is how anyone can possibly hope to achieve it. What does it mean, after all, to say "A Bengali woman would never say that!" or "A gay man would never feel that!"? How can such things be possibly claimed absolutely, unless we already have some form of fixed caricature in our minds? (It is to be noted that the argument "A white man would never say that!" is rarely heard and structurally unimaginable. Why? Because to such a self is to be afforded all possible human potentialities, not only a circumscribed few.) -- Zadie Smith. "Fascinated to Presume: In Defense of Fiction." The New York Review of Books (October 24, 2019): 6, 8.
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