Yesterday I took my goddaughter to the recreation ground near our houses. There are the usual swings, slides and football pitch. There is also a wide expanse of space between the two.
Except there was something new in the space. Travellers had pitched up close to the trees.
There were already some council members asking them to move on.
I accept everyone has a right to live the lifestyle they want. It would be a pretty boring world if we were all the same. What frustrated me was the reactions of people around me. The whispering, the staring, the shouting one guy did out of the window calling them names.
Because of the stereotype of travellers/gypsies. They are typically portrayed as as thieves, people who don't pay taxes or contribute to the community.
When writing we are told to avoid stereotypes if possible. Give your character identity, quirks, flaws. Make them more than what we expect. Show the person behind the image.
So I thought about the travellers. I thought about the individual. The man who fell in love with a girl from a neighbouring caravan. They got married, had children and live their lives together in the same way my parents have.
The only difference is the one we label them with.
Today they have moved on. But I'm left wondering, unless we look deeper, who knows what people are like behind the stereotypes?
Within both life and writing.