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November 3, 2012
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Writing minority characters...

:iconnonamenames:
nonamenames Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2012
To do and worry? To not to worry over? How to do it? Your opinion? And if you don't mind stating if you are part of a minority and which, that would be great.

I just realized the other day the majority of my main characters are male, there's females in the background but only one is part of the main characters. I worried for a second I was being sexist but then it would make sense in the time period and context...

And then I thought... crap they're all white... but same as above it wouldn't make sense in the context and setting, and many are in the background.

And then there's the problem of main character interacting with one of them. They're, for example, black in my head, but should I mention it? Then I feel people will call them a token character. Should I not describe them? And then just risk the reader imagining them as white...

On lgbt characters I'm quite good. Since I'm bi, and have some gender issues, I basically know how I would want to be written. Some people might still think it's not enough or it's too much but in this area I can stand up for what I wrote because I'm part of the lgbt community.

PS: The reason the main characters are white, cis, and either straight or appear straight is because the story revolves around an old old society/club place whose members think of themselves and their blood in almost a royal way. They're very posh and think they're special. But of course they interact with the world which is much more diverse.
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Devious Comments

:iconschris91:
schris91 Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2012  Student Filmographer
Write what you know. Writing white people with gender issues will come off better than pretending you can understand a minority character just to stick them in. Usually when writers force minority characters in they either accidentally become racial stereotypes, or they just end up written like a white person with brown skin. If a good minority character comes to you that isn't a gimmick, by all means go for it, but most people would rather see a bunch of white people well written than feeling like minority characters are being forced on them.

Also you said in your story there's a REASON they're white mostly, and that's better than most stories. Most of the time they're just white people because that's all the author can come up with. So kudos.
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:iconvglory:
vglory Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2012
A person that can only convincingly write a person of their own race is not much of a writer. Rather than 'write white' I would suggest they 'develop their craft'.
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:iconschris91:
schris91 Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2012  Student Filmographer
Yeah but they should actually gain experience as opposed to force it if they can't write other races well. It's just tacky.
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:iconvglory:
vglory Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2012
I don't know, forcing yourself to get out more and experience diversity might not be a bad idea.
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:iconschris91:
schris91 Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2012  Student Filmographer
Yeah, forcing yourself to get real life experience is a great idea, faking it is not.
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:iconfondofmusic:
fondofmusic Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2012
I usually describe someone of color as having "tanned" skin.
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:iconlovely-words:
Lovely-Words Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Funny because as a black person, I sure don't look like I have a tan.
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:iconnonamenames:
nonamenames Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2012
That's weird.... I would think of a tan person and not a person of color.
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:iconfutilitarian:
futilitarian Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2012   Writer
oh god why?
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:iconfondofmusic:
fondofmusic Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2012
I don't know, sounds more descriptive to me than saying "she was black".
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:iconneomerlin:
neomerlin Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2012  Student Writer
I very rarely describe characters in terms of ethnicity. I imagine most of my characters as white because I am white, most of my friends are white, everybody in my family is white and I see a lot of white people around me. Characters default to white in my brain. I also tend to write about people living in largely white areas of the world.

The only time I've made an ethnic distinction is with names. You can assume if I give a character a Chinese name, then I intend for them to be Chinese. If the character is named Mikey Tanaka, odds are good he's from a Japanese immigrant family. 'nuff said.
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:iconnonamenames:
nonamenames Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2012
The name thing is a good idea.
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:iconoxfordtweed:
OxfordTweed Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This is an issue you can't win on, to be honest. If you don't include these details, you can be accused of sexism, racism, homophobia; all sorts of things.

If you do include them, people will say you're queer-baiting, playing to stereotypes, pandering; again, all sorts of things.


The best way to do it, I think is to mention it if it's important to the character. Women are seriously under-represented in media, but there are more women than men on the planet. But people are used to seeing male characters, so a lack of women tends to go unnoticed by most.
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:iconmeinesehnsucht:
MeineSehnsucht Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2012   Writer
If you write about minorities, your book can be read in a postcolonial way. Fuck yeah. Or a feminist way, if you consider women as a minority. Anyway, I dislike white people.
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:iconnonamenames:
nonamenames Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2012
Don't know what you're going on about. And that's kind of sad. Hating a whole group of people just because of they're skin color...
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:iconmeinesehnsucht:
MeineSehnsucht Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2012   Writer
That was funny, you actually replied seriously to the ironic last part of my message. :D
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:iconnonamenames:
nonamenames Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2012
Not good with irony/sarcasm.
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:iconmeinesehnsucht:
MeineSehnsucht Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2012   Writer
Doesn't matter. Practice makes cookies.
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:iconneednknow:
NeednKnow Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012
Totally agree with a lot of people. And if it offends someone, oh well, they can go read something else. There are a gazillion books out there, no need to fret.

Actually, if you want to make a story that deals with societal issues, go ahead. I find that admiring, because I can never get up the nerves to write things like that. I also think it would attract a lot of attention, good and bad, and... in truth, it would be nice to expose people to such things and more. Books these days are so watered down with rainbows and butterflies (especially the bestsellers), in my opinion anyway.... Shouldn't be afraid to steer away from the norm.
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:iconvglory:
vglory Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2012
I don't really see the connection between writing diverse characters and having the book be "about" societal issues. People who happen to not be white straight American males don't necessarily run around being civil rightsy 25/7. Everyone is a minority to someone.
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:iconvglory:
vglory Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012
I write characters of different races and orientations because they exist. There doesn't need to be a special 'place' for them. Any given character can have any of these attributes just because--just like in real life.
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:iconnonamenames:
nonamenames Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012
Yes, that's what I think. I was just a little afraid to actually write them.
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012  Professional General Artist
I would be careful not to throw in the token "minority" character only to placate some segment of the audience that may not even notice. Tokens can also be just as problematic as having no minorities at all, since they might play into stereotypes or be under-developed. You could, for instance, point to the Sassy Black Woman and Magical Negro tropes, which give representation to blacks while reducing them to devices only there to serve the white characters.

Anyway, I would not add such characters because you feel like you have to, but if this is a multi-cultural the characters live in, then it does make sense to show that diversity. If the character shows up in your head as black, just write it, treating their race in a casual manner and not resorting to stereotypes. That's about how I approach it, although I'm trying to do a better job reflecting the diversity of the world I've written.
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:iconnonamenames:
nonamenames Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012
I don't think I've stereotyped anyone. Most of the background characters are only their to fill in space. Sort of like soldier characters are in the hundreds and fill in space so that an army is an army... If they're mentioned it's briefly, hardly any time to stereotype and I write them just like everyone else. They might be shy, might be rude, might be caring, might be evil, might be good. But I didn't make all the minority characters all bad or anything like that.

Good advice :)
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012  Professional General Artist
That's good! It definitely helps to think of the secondary character as having a rich life outside the story and isn't just there to serve the protag's interests out of the kindness of their hearts.
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:iconnonamenames:
nonamenames Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012
Nope, they're definitely 3d at least in my head, even if it isn't mentioned in the book because I didn't have time. And actually many (like half the background characters) hate the main character, even some of the ones that work for him.
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012  Professional General Artist
Then it doesn't sound like I'd have any issues with your approach. :thumbsup:
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:iconpawi666:
pawi666 Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012
writing is something you express your thoughts, your imaginations, your stories, blah blah blah, just don't limit them with rules or anything. It's your story after all :3 nothing to worry about :D I mean, just don't be worried too much, k? :3
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:iconnonamenames:
nonamenames Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012
I'm not worried to much. It's just the topic came up and on tumblr I'm always seeing people go on and on and on about this and many times I agree with them, so yeah... wanted to see everyone's thoughts on this in writing (not pictures/films, etc like I usually see complaints on).
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:iconpawi666:
pawi666 Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2012
I never known that this is from tumblr lol

I think, like, according to the plot, the setting, the context, it's ok to have most of your characters male. You mentioned that if you change the gender it won't get along with the background, right? So if changing makes your story worse, just don't. Because in the end, we write stories to entertain people, right?

plus, there will be someone writing a story with most characters female anyway :3
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I know people who will freak the fuck out over this stuff, but they'd do it regardless. Stop trying to please everyone and write a good story that makes sense.

Although the one thing that bothers me when I see minorities in stories is that their minority characteristics tend to be overemphasized. Dude, I grew up in America. I totally eat weird food and know an extra language, but it's not like I prance around in saris or whatever. People first, cultural stereotypes second.
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:iconnonamenames:
nonamenames Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012
You're probably right.

And yeah, don't think I stereotyped anyone. Some of the characters are foreign but for the occasion they have to be dressed all in suits and their foreignness isn't mentioned much.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
With the setting--have you studied what it was like for foreign nationals to attend school in England or wherever? I know I wasn't expecting some of the challenges I found. :O
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:iconnonamenames:
nonamenames Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2012
What? I don't understand what you're getting at...
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I mean, how are you handling the portrayal of the foreigners :B
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:iconnonamenames:
nonamenames Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2012
But when you said "have you studied what it was like for foreign nationals to attend school in England or wherever?" you were referring to you right?

My characters aren't in school or anything. They're sort of like ambassadors. But not. I don't really need to do any research since their positions are invented.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
No? I mean, I was referring to me when I said I was surprised by some of the challenges.

Are their positions and the society based on a real one?
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:iconnonamenames:
nonamenames Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2012
Oh.

Very very very very loosely based but yeah.
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(1 Reply)
:iconrovanna:
Rovanna Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2012   Digital Artist
How people think about race depends on where they live and how they were brought up etc. e.g. In Australia we don't use the term "minority" or "minority person" or "person of colour". (as for me, I'm half Chinese half Caucasian, but I look white. Does that make me a minority? ;P No idea, it's never really been a 'thing'.)

So if it makes sense for everyone to be white, then that's fine. If race is a thing, they would probably notice/mention it. Otherwise not. You can mention what race somebody is without making a big deal of it. The racial makeup of your story should be appropriate to the demographics of the setting and i dont think anyone will have beef unless you have huge sterotypes. Nobody wants the token character where it's like:"Look! Somebody of your race! RELATE TO THEM!!"
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:iconnonamenames:
nonamenames Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012
Well I don't think I resorted to stereotypes and I'm not asking anyone to relate, you know? They're just there and unlike sexuality and that sort of thing, skin color is pretty obvious you know? I'm very descriptive. I'll often say if characters have freckles, scars, tans, tan lines, so yeah... that's why I'm kind of worried about it. It would be odd if I didn't describe them. Of coarse I wouldn't describe them ridiculously like as having chocolate moca coffee skin, but maybe, "he was dark skinned with soft brown eyes and wearing a warm wool sweater" or just outright "he was black with... bla bla bla", and this character might just be an secretary at a desk that greets the main character, nothing offensive I think, right?
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:iconrovanna:
Rovanna Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012   Digital Artist
That all sounds fine then. :) I have read those blogs and stuff where people are freaking out about racial representation in the media etc, but don't worry about that and just write normally like you have. There's nothing offensive about that.
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:iconmerrak:
merrak Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2012  Hobbyist
I'm with *LadyAnder on this. It sounds like you're over thinking it. This is the sort of issue TV networks and movie studios pay a lot of attention to - but they're in a different business with different rules for marketing, etc.

If your story has a narrator, the answer is simpler. Describe the characters as he/she would. What do they notice first?

If it's up to you, I'd suggest focusing on what is appropriate for the story. Creating redundant or useless characters by going out of your way to include minorities will, at best, disrupt your story, and at worst, come off as patronizing
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:iconnonamenames:
nonamenames Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012
Maybe, but as I mentioned to somebody else I describe my characters in a lot of detail, wether they have scars, tans, etc, so it might be odd, you know?

It does not have one character as a narrator. It's third person from changing character's points of views. I'll sort of pop/side with different heads/characters each chapter.

Don't really know what would be considered appropriate, that's why I wanted to discuss.
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:iconnamenotrequired:
namenotrequired Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2012  Student Interface Designer
If you're really that worried, simply don't specify their race :)
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:iconnonamenames:
nonamenames Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012
I'm not that</> worried. The issue just popped up so I thought it would be great for discussion and getting other views on the subject.

Also, I forgot to mention I'm very descriptive with my character's appearance, are they pale, scarred, tanned? so I think it would be kind of odd just to not do it... so I want to know how I can avoid being offensive.
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:iconnamenotrequired:
namenotrequired Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012  Student Interface Designer
I see :nod:
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:iconbalaria:
Balaria Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
You don't need to slap in an black/gay/lesbian/whatever character in your story if it doesn't have a place for it. Get rid of the politically correct BS mindset and write what you want, how you want to.
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:iconnonamenames:
nonamenames Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012
I don't think it's complete BS, it's not an awful mindset. Which is why I want to be respectful and as unoffensive as possible. That's just me.
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:iconbalaria:
Balaria Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
It's not complete BS, I agree, but people do tend to take it too seriously and whitewash their ideas because of it. That doesn't do anyone any services, except the "I have a right not to be offended" crowd. Offending people is not necessarily a bad thing.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
:clap:
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