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Pearl
08-30-2013, 10:14 PM
I am working on the follow-up to my book, and there will be a couple of new characters, in addition to the same several from book #1. I want one of these characters to be an ethnic minority, but I'm concerned about being stereotypical.

See, my books are about vampires, the evil kind. They are trying to survive with modern surveillance and technology. Being that the vampires are scattered around the world, the leader in NYC asks for a newer vampire from Toronto be sent to the city to help crack into New York's surveillance technology. This vampire, who was chosen to be changed because of his computer skills, is the one I'd like to be a minority. I know that doesn't sound right, but the other new characters are family members of the original characters, who are white (I have a Hispanic character, and a biracial vampire, but neither have room for relatives being involved). Basically, I have too many white characters!

I was thinking of eventually adding a possible non-white character who would be an NYPD detective, but that person wouldn't come until later in this book, or even the beginning of book #3. So I don't want my book to be too white.

I was thinking about making the computer whiz of South Asian descent, either Pakistani or Indian. I know that is totally cliche, so I was thinking maybe of Korean or Chinese descent. I could make this character (who would be male no matter what) of African descent. One reason why I'd like this character to be a minority is because I once talked on a blog about how would a vampire see God, and some people commented by wondering what if a vampire had once been a Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim? Usually, vampires come from a Christian background, so why not check out other religions and cultures?

I've also noticed that many non-white families have conservative values. With this character, his upbringing and being changed into a vampire against his will brings inner conflict for him, which helps him befriend the main character of my book, who is a white girl also from a conservative family who was forced to be made into a vampire herself. They help each other come to terms with their new lives while trying to survive it.

Anyway, I hope I gave good reasons for wanting to have a non-white character. But I am concerned about stereotyping and cliches. Any advice would be appreciated!

Rachel Udin
08-31-2013, 01:53 AM
I'm going to call it as I see it. May seem harsh, but I mean it well.

I realize how much it means for stereotypes to be subconscious, but being aware of them, will help you deprogram.



I was thinking of eventually adding a possible non-white character who would be an NYPD detective, but that person wouldn't come until later in this book, or even the beginning of book #3. So I don't want my book to be too white.

That sends up red flags for me. It sounds like you're writing a token character to get out of being called a racist. I'm just going to say it straight that way.



I was thinking about making the computer whiz of South Asian descent, either Pakistani or Indian.Stereotype, so what are you planning to do to break it?



I know that is totally cliche, so I was thinking maybe of Korean or Chinese descent.Still stereotype.

My blood is of Korean descent, but my heritage is half Jewish. It's my half Jewish side that gave me the computer skills. But employers think it's my Asian side. When they find out it's *not* my Asian side that makes me "good" with computers and I won't play the demure Asian woman, I've had some get pissed at me.

BTW, my Korean father is hopeless at computers.



I could make this character (who would be male no matter what)Still stereotype.

Why do men get to be better at computers than women? Seriously. I know several savvy women in technology, some of which the men say are better than them at their jobs.

I've done websites professionally. I have a friend who is South Asian, trying to find a job in technology. I have another one that can kick it on databases... and there is a friend's wife who knows her stuff.

Women can do computers and kick butt on it very well. They can talk through things like a processor.



of African descent.Last resort? Really?

I only ask to challenge your base assumptions. Because once you *do* write a PoC, you need to challenge them harder than what I'm doing now. I rather have a person write a human PoC which plays with the stereotypes than one that confirms all of the racism.

Here is what I would do with this character. How does this character *not* fit the stereotype you're setting up. How will this character be critical to your plot? How will you include more than one of this PoC's ethnicity? How will you pass the Bechdel test of the PoC variety?



One reason why I'd like this character to be a minority is because I once talked on a blog about how would a vampire see God, and some people commented by wondering what if a vampire had once been a Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim? Usually, vampires come from a Christian background, so why not check out other religions and cultures? Japanese have vampires that can go out in the sun. I still think it's a flimsy reason to include it late.

Also, I kinda feel odd making religion "the" issue to make you bring in a PoC. There are white Buddhists. There are White Hindus and Muslims too...

I would think that the reason is because you believe in diversity and it's critical to your plot, or it just happens to be in the mix, rather than making a point of what makes them different.




I've also noticed that many non-white families have conservative values.[quote]

I realize you don't mean harm by that... but reconsider... Think it through. Humans range all over the world from and away from central core values of culture.


[quote]
With this character, his upbringing and being changed into a vampire against his will brings inner conflict for him, which helps him befriend the main character of my book, who is a white girl also from a conservative family who was forced to be made into a vampire herself. They help each other come to terms with their new lives while trying to survive it. Not an argument for making him PoC.


Anyway, I hope I gave good reasons for wanting to have a non-white character. But I am concerned about stereotyping and cliches. Any advice would be appreciated!You have two options for inclusion here...

One is that he just happens to be PoC, which I'm fine with.

The other is that if you didn't have a PoC, then the story wouldn't work. For example, setting it in say, South Africa without any black people during apartheid, people will cry foul.

You story doesn't particularly call for anyone PoC.

I'd kinda prefer, though I know this is overreaching, if it was the female that was the computer whiz and a PoC, just for the sheer subversion.

You can add multiple subversions to that if the other person is a white guy, clueless with computers. Have him trying to learn that PoC women don't need to be rescued, would be a nice turn. (I'd double that if she's the protagonist).

I'd also recommend reading the top links all the way through (the sticky) if you haven't, and trying to challenge some of your baser assumptions. You seem to be aware of some of them, but not looking them in the face and saying, "No."

I realize how hard the last one is--I grew up in a white family that insisted that color blind worked. Deprogramming is hard. But in order to write people unlike you, you need to adapt their POV, and understand what you're unpacking. So even if a drop of racism doesn't make it to the page, you at least understand the overarching implications that you're writing so you don't confirm stereotypes.

So I think at this point you need to ask how you will break stereotypes and put more than one PoC of that ethnicity in and try to bring that person earlier... or as I told myself, don't like and say you wrote something with diversity in it.

Cranky1
08-31-2013, 02:07 AM
I wouldn't include a token character.




Personally, I dislike it when a PoC pops up in a story or movie, makes a few funny or insightful comments, and then is killed off immediately.

Pearl
08-31-2013, 02:40 AM
Well, he wasn't going to be a token character. He was going to stick around.

I thought about making this a female character. Perhaps I should.

Rachel Udin, I realize I was totally contradicting myself with that post. I just don't want too many white characters in my books, but yet, I took the stereotype route anyway. And as for saying non-white families hold conservative values more, yeah that was generalizing.

I feel so dense now.

slhuang
08-31-2013, 03:18 AM
Well, he wasn't going to be a token character. He was going to stick around.

I thought about making this a female character. Perhaps I should.

Rachel Udin, I realize I was totally contradicting myself with that post. I just don't want too many white characters in my books, but yet, I took the stereotype route anyway. And as for saying non-white families hold conservative values more, yeah that was generalizing.

I feel so dense now.

:Hug2: This is how you learn. Good on you for deciding you want more diversity and diving in with both feet. :) You're already a step ahead of most authors. Have some muffins!

If you're trying to avoid cliches, I'd avoid a South or East Asian ethnicity for your character -- it'd be more likely (s)he would fall into Asian stereotypes that way, with the computer programming thing and all. Easier to avoid cliches if you break that one right off the bat.

Sometimes it's useful to look at other media examples. Leverage has a great example of a black computer whiz / nerd / hacker character. SVU's top tech guy is Hispanic, IIRC (not a lead character, but I still dig him). Bones' computer genius is a half-Asian woman who pretty much breaks every stereotype ever -- she's an artist and a sexually liberated party girl who doesn't have a PhD but is just as smart as her colleagues. Psych is a really interesting example in that both leads are "analysis nerds" in their own ways -- albeit with very different styles -- and Gus is black and Shawn is Hispanic (well, the actor, although they code him as white, unfortunately).

Try to get a handle on your computer whiz as a person. Question your assumptions (easier said than done, I know!). I find most of the time minority representation fails, the author is tip-toeing around the character because of a fear of offending. Don't do that -- it makes characters of color flat and rather un-engaging. Make this character brash, quirky, passionate, shy, aggressive -- make him/her a jerk, or a fighter, or a lover, or a leader -- just like, y'know, presumably your white MCs probably tend to be. :)

Give your character a history. Ask yourself just how much ancestral culture has impacted him/her. A lot? Not at all? The answer can be either, or anything in between. Was the character born in the West, or an immigrant? How does the character's ethnicity affect him/her in daily life? A lot? A little? Barely at all?

Note that these are all good questions to ask of white characters as well. :) Character development doesn't differ all *that* much!

Oh, and if you want to explore religion, remember that you can also easily do that with white characters. You don't have to intersect all your minority representation on one character. You could go that direction, but you don't need a character who's a racial minority in order to explore religious minorities.

Oh, and p.s. -- you don't need reasons to make a character a minority. :) They just can be. Just as people are different races without needing reasons to be. (And the more minority characters you have, the less danger you'll have of falling into the appearance of cliche / tokenism.)

Rachel Udin
08-31-2013, 04:16 AM
Yep. I know I rode you a bit hard, but sometimes I feel like I need that slap across the face. ^^;; I've had a few of those moments where I go, WTH did no one stop me? And it's better sooner than later.

I saw this show where they had Native American characters from the South West (Memory is fuzzy on names, but as I said, I'm horrible with names, in general)... and then they were riding horses, and tracking people. Everything was nail on the head, a bit too much. So in order to fix that, they had one of them use a cell phone. Then the white character commented on the cellphone and the character jumped on him and said, "What, you think we live in tee-pees on our reservations and never have seen computers before?"

While it's not a perfect representation, in those few lines you have the script being self aware that it's too much on the head.

You're setting it in NYC... the tribes that live up there would be the Iroquois confederacy. So you would have Mohawk, Seneca, etc. Also there are other tribes that have been displaced. You could also consider that too.

But yeah, earlier inclusion if possible. Make sure there is more than one, and think about the traits you need to make this person human rather than a plot point.

NYC is filled with people of all different races, religions and backgrounds. You have the Bronx, Manhattan, Long Island, etc. See if you can just happen to make one of them POC without blinking an eye at it. PoC people will sometimes leave behind all their ethnic heritage.

My brother will *not* wear a hanbok. He won't even touch the traditional Korean hat. I offered to bribe his girlfriend at the time to get him to wear one and send me a picture and he still wouldn't do it for 20 bucks. Yet he's the one teaching English there.

But if you do, play with the line... and the stereotypes. Mix it up. Just like some people identify strongly or weakly to one or the other. Or sometimes in shifting circumstances, so it happens with everyone.

I'll claim to be adopted, Korean, Jewish, Russian, Hungarian, or just American as the context shifts.

Pearl
08-31-2013, 06:46 AM
Yep. I know I rode you a bit hard, but sometimes I feel like I need that slap across the face. ^^;; I've had a few of those moments where I go, WTH did no one stop me? And it's better sooner than later.

I understand. Just its embarrassing knowing I had those ideas in mind.




But yeah, earlier inclusion if possible. Make sure there is more than one, and think about the traits you need to make this person human rather than a plot point.

NYC is filled with people of all different races, religions and backgrounds. You have the Bronx, Manhattan, Long Island, etc. See if you can just happen to make one of them POC without blinking an eye at it. PoC people will sometimes leave behind all their ethnic heritage.

My brother will *not* wear a hanbok. He won't even touch the traditional Korean hat. I offered to bribe his girlfriend at the time to get him to wear one and send me a picture and he still wouldn't do it for 20 bucks. Yet he's the one teaching English there.

But if you do, play with the line... and the stereotypes. Mix it up. Just like some people identify strongly or weakly to one or the other. Or sometimes in shifting circumstances, so it happens with everyone.

I'll claim to be adopted, Korean, Jewish, Russian, Hungarian, or just American as the context shifts.

I'll think of this over more. I don't want to make it so obvious that I'm trying too hard with diversity, or else that would totally bite me on the ass.

Sunflowerrei
08-31-2013, 07:07 AM
I used to throw in a black best friend or a Hispanic friend or a South Asian friend in many of my old stories--they might have seemed token to a reader, if I bothered to show those stories to anyone, but I was writing my own reality, which is of a half white, half Asian girl whose childhood best friend is black, whose high school friends are Jewish, Puerto Rican, Indian, white. Now, I'm working on historical fiction with prominent mixed race characters.

Don't be embarrassed about your ideas. I'm glad you're looking to diversify your cast. It wouldn't really be NYC without a lot of diversity. It's good that you asked if your characters would be stereotypical.

Rachel Udin
08-31-2013, 07:59 AM
I understand. Just its embarrassing knowing I had those ideas in mind.
I've been there. It's worse, since I'm PoC on the outside... so it's like hating on myself.

I think it's easier to understand that the world is slanted that way. So escaping it takes effort. Concentrated effort.



I'll think of this over more. I don't want to make it so obvious that I'm trying too hard with diversity, or else that would totally bite me on the ass.
You can get away with a lot in NYC... from what I've observed. There is a *ton* of diversity there and sometimes you'll find things you never thought would mix together. I've heard of a Kosher Chinese Taco Restaurant before. It's a good setting to write more people that are not white (also white minority... which is your Italian, Irish, etc.). Plus if you look at all of the burrows, the ethnic make ups, it can give you ideas.

=P Outdo Friends and Sex in the City.

If you have a gay Chinese-Italian Vampire who likes to work at late night shows as a cameraman, I would not blink if it was set in NYC.

I still think Edward should do Broadway... but I'm getting off track...

EarlyBird
08-31-2013, 03:45 PM
For some reason, when I see the character you described in my mind, I see an Indonesian guy. Maybe because we have one in our family?

Anyway, that's my impression.

frimble3
09-01-2013, 05:32 AM
FWIW, if the new character is coming from Toronto, they've got a big Caribbean community there, big Caribana festival, (as well as lots of other ethnicities).

Pearl
09-01-2013, 06:35 AM
FWIW, if the new character is coming from Toronto, they've got a big Caribbean community there, big Caribana festival, (as well as lots of other ethnicities).

Good to know, thanks!

I knew someone who lived in a Toronto suburb who talked about the South Asian community in the area, so that's why I leaned toward having a South Asian character.

Hmmm, it just dawned on me. I want this character to be from an English speaking country to show how spread out the vampires are, even though they can be living in any country. Here I am thinking that I don't want any sort of language barriers or accent problems, but yet I am forgetting that many people in the world speak English, and often very well. Huh! I can do better than that.

Rachel Udin
09-01-2013, 06:41 AM
Good to know, thanks!

I knew someone who lived in a Toronto suburb who talked about the South Asian community in the area, so that's why I leaned toward having a South Asian character.

Hmmm, it just dawned on me. I want this character to be from an English speaking country to show how spread out the vampires are, even though they can be living in any country. Here I am thinking that I don't want any sort of language barriers or accent problems, but yet I am forgetting that many people in the world speak English, and often very well. Huh! I can do better than that.
In that case, there is Jamaica, a lot of the carribean, and also many countries in Africa also have English as a first language.

You can also consider the Philippines.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_where_English_is_an_official_lan guage (Click on the region part to sort)

Pearl
09-01-2013, 07:51 AM
In that case, there is Jamaica, a lot of the carribean, and also many countries in Africa also have English as a first language.

You can also consider the Philippines.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_where_English_is_an_official_lan guage (Click on the region part to sort)

Right, but I could also make this character from almost any country because most other countries have better language education than American schools do. I mean, I once taught ESL for Italian teenagers one summer, and they were already fluent in English. Meanwhile, Americans teenagers spend two years learning Spanish, French, etc., and can barely hold a conversation in that language. We're not known for being bilingual, or multi-lingual.

Anyway, the possibilities for this character is endless.