Writers always hear the advice, Write What You Know. It's a great idea. We are more likely to "get it correct" if we know whereof we speak.
Unfortunately, it doesn't work for very long.
I started out writing about stuff I knew about. By the time I finished my 3rd book, I'd used up all my knowledge. I'd plumbed nearly every subject in which I was a bit expert. I'd utilized most of the character types with which I was familiar.
To keep going, a writer needs to move into unfamiliar territory.
How do you delve into unfamiliar subjects? Read. Google every relevant question you can think of. Interview experts. Find beta readers who know the subject and can tell you what you got wrong. Due diligence will get you through any territory.
Sometimes the advice goes beyond subjects and ideas and is extended to ridiculous extremes. People will say that a writer can't write convincingly about about a character from a background that's dramatically different than the writer's background.
For example, I'm a middle-aged, straight, white guy, born in America, married a long time, no kids, somewhat educated, never poverty stricken, with no physical disabilities. (When I can't remember the names of people I've known for ten years, the question of mental disability does comes up!)
So how could I presume to write a character who is dramatically different from my background?
Research. Empathy. Careful thought.
I know lots of people who aren't very much like me. By paying attention, I can reasonably get a sense of what it might be like to be a person very different from me. If I'm thoughtful, I can create a wide range of characters.
Of course, a writer needs to be thoughtful and sensitive, especially if a character from a very different background turns out to be an unsavory person. One doesn't want to offend readers. Provoke them? Sure. Get them to question their own presumptions? Definitely. But all characters need to be treated fairly and accurately.
Which brings us to the question of Bad Guys. Or what writers call the story's antagonist. How do you handle it if the Bad Guy in your story belongs to a group of people who regularly suffer from prejudice?
Tune in next week.