Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Diversity in DarkShines. . . am I clueless?

I've been doing a lot of thinking about DarkShines lately, especially in regards to the characters. In a recent post on Writer's Chronicle Blog, my friend Jen posted about Diversity - which was really apt because I've run into this issue with DarkShines.

At the moment, I am at the stage where many of my characters just have a name, age, and maybe a rough idea of their personality. I feel once I attach a face to the name (which is usually a model for me rather than 'the character' e.g. sometimes I use expressions of actors to make the process more visual to me of how character will react etc.) I have a more concrete grasp on the character.

Recently I was looking up pictures for my main characters, when I came across a picture of an actress of Nigerian and Russian descent. And BAM, I knew this was Chloe, the exact same way I knew one of the main characters was gay. But now I wonder and worry - not about my decision because I know deep down that this is Chloe and this is Michael, but there is a weight attached to these characters now, which I'd never considered before.

I guess I'm just throwing my thoughts out there to the blogosphere because I feel a little out of depth, as I've seen so many people write about diversity and challenges of writing about other ethnic groups etc. but maybe I'm being VERY naive but I know who Chloe and Michael is, can't I write them as they are? Can't I treat Chloe and Michael the way I treat every other character? Isn't their skin colour and sexual orientation just a part of who they are, but is not the whole of who they are? Why should these characters be treated differently? If I think of Chloe and Michael as individuals with loves, hates, desires and fears aren't I being true to them anyway?

Am I being stupid and naive about this? People say write what you know, but my stomach actually twists at the thought of changing these characters. I really feel this is who they are.

I guess I just need to push this out of my mind and write the characters for who they are. . .

But any thoughts/comments/advice please share!!!


Jenna said...

Write them how you feel they need to be written--just make sure that if you have a cultural reference or something that you've never personally experienced, you do a little digging to make sure you're as accurate as possible. You don't have to write a dissertation on each character and their race and what have you, so long as you can make yourself credible.

But, really, just write your characters as you feel they are. Don't force what you're not comfortable with.

Anne R. Allen said...

I usually write with a pretty diverse cast. I've been told by academic, ultra-politically correct types that I should only write about people of my own ethnicity, orientation and socio-economic group, but OMG how boring! My readers are ethnically diverse and say they relate to my characters just fine.

Characters often walk into your novels whether you want them to or not. If you try to change them, you'll kill your story... and really piss off your muse.

Emily Cross said...

@Jenna, thanks for your advice! I guess my issue is that my story takes place in a fictional place - so do even make a point of highlighting Chloe's background? I guess I need to do a bit more background information (i.e. where parents are from etc.) but I do with all my characters (especially as I want them to appeal to both uk/us audience, so I guess I'll be researching them equally). Thanks again for your good advice :)

@Anne - Thanks for your comment and advice. It's nice to know that you've successfully done this! Changing the characters feels fundamentally wrong so I'm going to take your advice. Thanks :)

Andrea said...

You know, I think you might be over thinking a bit :)

Just let yourself write as you feel. If you worry too much it won't come out right.

If it's not right, you can fix it when you proof read later. But right now, just write!

Good luck!

notRuairi said...

If the characters feel right to you, then they're going to be as true as they'll ever be. How are you creating the characters? Do you have a log on each one, even with simple little details like what type of tea they prefer, or if they can remember phone numbers easily. Obviously there's no need to go into that level of detail, but you get me? Also, nice to see you blogging regularly again!

Emily Cross said...

@Andrea - you're probably right! I just got little worried there, but now I'm just going to plow on and see how it goes

@NotRuairi - Thanks! Well I have a bio/profile for each but I also have sheet I call 'insights' which is things that emerge that are quirks as I write the rough draft. Similarly I've a sheet for every MC (even minor ones) showing their progress during story arc - probably overkill lol. Nice to be back :)

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