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ellio
04-17-2013, 01:22 AM
Okay, I'm a brown person. I'm writing a character who started off as a white person because I thought "well everyone defaults to white anyway", but then I decided screw that, I will write the character I want to.

He's half black, half white, like me. He has schizophrenia- and it's sort of implied that it was a result of smoking weed. The reason I've thrown this in is because he initially puts down a lot of the symptoms to being high a lot.
He's also lower class which is really important for the story development. His father is also absent, left when he was a baby. Another thing central to the story development.

So, I realise I've written a black, weed smoking, lower class youth with an absent father. Like, could there be a bigger stereotype? Because the plot is driven by his schizophrenia I don't want it to come across like that was my starting point and then I just fit "black, lower class, weed smoker" to someone who has schizophrenia in their youth.

Basically I'm really apprehensive that I'm going to throw black boys under the bus with it.

Incidentally I could write the whole thing like he just gets schizophrenia and i forget about him smoking a lot so it has nothing to do with weed (which I never say it does directly or even that there's a link, he just smokes a lot and develops schizophrenia) but considering he's sixteen, has an awful family life, and is dealing with stuff in his mind that he doesn't understand, I feel like naturally he'd be turning to something.

So, what do you think? Should I write out the weed aspect of the storyline to try and save a stereotype or keep it in and hope any future readers will see it as a reality and not just bad character development?

Kim Fierce
04-17-2013, 02:59 AM
I am a white person and I think that making a person a stereotype or not depends all on the way you write it. I don't think smoking weed could technically cause schizophrenia but I can see how at first a character would use weed as an excuse for what he is experiencing.

And in my experience smoking weed is very popular with all races of young people. But I think as long as you write your character as best as possible, maybe it's not stereotypical, but a character who some can relate to.

I say write what you feel . . . it's not as if you don't know what it's like to be part white and part black like your character since that is like you. And good luck! Maybe after you write the story, you could figure out if there are some things to add or subtract to make sure the character comes across as an individual instead of a stereotype . . . a unique talent or interest, for example? But that might not come until later, or may not even be necessary, so I say keep writing!

I can say as a white person I have always tried to write diverse characters but I was at first afraid to write a main character of a different race from me just because I thought I would screw it up. My MC in the book cover featured in my avatar is part white and part black as well, and most of the other characters in that story are multi-racial. I think it's important that we as writers continue to make our characters diverse because hopefully those agents and publisher will realize this will actually make stories BETTER!

kuwisdelu
04-17-2013, 03:32 AM
I don't think smoking weed could technically cause schizophrenia

It can't cause it, but it could trigger the onset of symptoms.



So, what do you think? Should I write out the weed aspect of the storyline to try and save a stereotype or keep it in and hope any future readers will see it as a reality and not just bad character development?

I don't think it's strictly necessary. If you're writing from personal experience as far as race goes, I doubt the character will come off as cliche anyway.

I would strongly suggest thoroughly researching schizophrenia though. If you don't have personal experience with it, you're far more likely to run into trouble there.

slhuang
04-17-2013, 03:46 AM
I would strongly suggest thoroughly researching schizophrenia though. If you don't have personal experience with it, you're far more likely to run into trouble there.

^^This.

::remembers authors who have gotten mental illness wrong and simmers in fury:: Please make sure you're not that person.

ellio
04-17-2013, 04:07 AM
RE: writing about Schizophrenia- the whole reason I was inspired to write this was because I was studying a course on the topic and realised that nearly every media conception of it was false. From a scientific perspective there's probably not a lot I don't already know about diagnosis/treatment/prognosis and from an emotional perspective I know enough people that have gone through it to tell me where I've gone wrong.

That's about the only part of the story I feel I'm portraying accurately right now.

slhuang
04-17-2013, 04:29 AM
RE: writing about Schizophrenia- the whole reason I was inspired to write this was because I was studying a course on the topic and realised that nearly every media conception of it was false. From a scientific perspective there's probably not a lot I don't already know about diagnosis/treatment/prognosis and from an emotional perspective I know enough people that have gone through it to tell me where I've gone wrong.

That's about the only part of the story I feel I'm portraying accurately right now.

Oh, that's really good to hear. Thank you, ellio. :)

Rachel Udin
04-17-2013, 10:15 PM
=P Does that mean you have issues with portraying him from being a lower class? Is that Working Class, British, or is it Lower class US?

^^;; If it's working class, British, shouldn't be an issue.

Is it's lower class US, I'd play a bit with it. Such as just above the lower class line, which I've heard is massively difficult in the US. (Sometimes colleges will refuse financial aid, but often it's not enough money to make the person be able to go to a good college. IIRC)

Is his father white? You may want to play with that aspect. Be a bit closer to the stereotype if his father is black.

Just shooting out ideas. You might also want to balance it out a little with educational background as well. There are many high functioning people who are schizophrenic, and the stereotype towards that is that because you're crazy, you either are a genius at a major university or dumb. (Which would kill some of the intersecting problems???)

But then, I think you would know how to counter some of the obvious stereotypes.

Canotila
04-18-2013, 03:50 AM
It can't cause it, but it could trigger the onset of symptoms.



From what I understand, marijuana use can cause otherwise dormant mental illness to manifest. So, if someone has a genetic predisposition for schizophrenia and they smoke weed it can cause the illness to manifest when that might have never happened if they hadn't touched the stuff. But if they have no risk factors or predisposition to develop it, it won't cause it out of the blue.

Or that's the thinking anyway. They're still conducting studies on what exactly is happening to the brains of folks in those cases.

kuwisdelu
04-18-2013, 04:09 AM
From what I understand, marijuana use can cause otherwise dormant mental illness to manifest. So, if someone has a genetic predisposition for schizophrenia and they smoke weed it can cause the illness to manifest when that might have never happened if they hadn't touched the stuff. But if they have no risk factors or predisposition to develop it, it won't cause it out of the blue.

That's more or less what "trigger the onset of symptoms" means.

Doesn't mean it caused the mental illness itself. Nor that something else wouldn't have triggered it.

Canotila
04-18-2013, 04:18 AM
Just trying to clarify a little since people can develop symptoms and not actually have it. Some symptoms overlap with other illness and some can be temporary.