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taeray
02-10-2015, 12:39 AM
In a fantasy realm where there are species like elementals, elves, dryads, etc, and it's common for people to have red, blue, yellow, green, or pink skin, how should I describe a human poc?

I had originally stuck with just pale or dark in reference to humans, but a couple betas came back and specifically asked me why I didn't have a poc in my book even though I do, and now I don't know if I should leave it or change something. Thoughts?

KateH
02-10-2015, 07:42 AM
Hmm, that's tough. Maybe be more specific with your descriptions - use colours or comparisons (though avoid food comparisons) to show their skin colour.
It's also worth asking, what race are your betas? A lot of white people (and POC, but not so often) will miss cues to a character's race and continue to picture them as white. Like the whole debacle with Rue in The Hunger Games.

Roxxsmom
02-10-2015, 07:46 AM
Hmm, well if skin colors are different in your world, and they're not associated with history or social status the way they have been in ours, then those wouldn't be the obvious clues. But there are other things: facial features, hair texture, height, build, history within your world and so on.

Also, cultural norms, and religious beliefs, social class, socioeconomic status and so on. It gets complicated in fantasy worlds if they have a very different history from ours. But skin color isn't the only thing we focus on when we think of someone as being a PoC.

The real problem is the automatic white default most readers still have. If you don't say otherwise and have environmental/cultural cues people stereotypically associate with Africa, Asia, the Americas and so on, most readers will assume everyone in your world is white. And just saying "She looked like she might be from Minua," means nothing when Minua is a made-up place. But there's no reason why people who "look" Asian in your world would have rice as their primary cereal crop or eat with chopsticks or have religions that are similar to Shinto, Buddhism, or Taoism.

I'll admit, I worry about accidentally describing something in an offensive way or falling back on a tired stereotype. For instance, if I describe a character with hair that might be described as "black" hair as having her hair cut in a short, springy, mosslike crown over her entire head, will this sound like I'm exoticizing? Or is moss possibly insulting? I don't worry about describing a white kid with boing-boing curls or corkscrews, or ringlets, or stick-straight hair, or as bristles cut so short I can see his pink scalp beneath it, even if some would say that's not flattering. But I worry if I describe someone who isn't from my own cultural/racial background in a way that sounds as if I think their hair is ugly or strange.

taeray
02-12-2015, 08:34 AM
Woo, got sucked into a book and forgot about this thread. Haha. Thanks for the responses! :)


Hmm, that's tough. Maybe be more specific with your descriptions - use colours or comparisons (though avoid food comparisons) to show their skin colour.
It's also worth asking, what race are your betas? A lot of white people (and POC, but not so often) will miss cues to a character's race and continue to picture them as white. Like the whole debacle with Rue in The Hunger Games.

Betas have been a mix. I have had one beta say the same thing, that white people miss the cues too. Can I say one character has near black skin and another has bronze, or is that too much? Or maybe try subtle reminders after the initial introduction.


Hmm, well if skin colors are different in your world, and they're not associated with history or social status the way they have been in ours, then those wouldn't be the obvious clues. But there are other things: facial features, hair texture, height, build, history within your world and so on.

Also, cultural norms, and religious beliefs, social class, socioeconomic status and so on. It gets complicated in fantasy worlds if they have a very different history from ours. But skin color isn't the only thing we focus on when we think of someone as being a PoC.

I've been trying hard to avoid too much minor physical descriptions, but maybe I could probably work some more in to make things clearer. History and culture won't help me much in this MS, but I can definitely expand in the second and third as my characters come to see more of their world. The kingdom is a sanctuary for any species wanting peace, so no one is native. I suppose this will be just another excuse for me to delve deeper in the cultures I've already been developing.

KateH
02-12-2015, 10:57 AM
Betas have been a mix. I have had one beta say the same thing, that white people miss the cues too. Can I say one character has near black skin and another has bronze, or is that too much? Or maybe try subtle reminders after the initial introduction.

Yes, I'd say that's a good way to show skin colours. A few reminders might help as well.

kuwisdelu
02-12-2015, 11:45 AM
You could also just create races for your humans, too.

For example, in Middle-Earth, the Easterlings are PoC.