Relationship drama in a YA interracial relationship.

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Nikki1809

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I'm writing a YA contemporary novel featuring a first love relationship between two autistic girls. One is white (Carlee) and the other is Black (Adelaide). Because of her character flaw, Carlee makes a series of mistakes that end up really hurting Adelaide. What I want is for this to be is a flawed character learning her lesson and becoming a better person. What I don't want is for it to be a white character walking all over a Black character. What can I do to avoid that? Here are some steps I'm taking so far.

1. As much as Adelaide is a part of Carlee's character arc, Carlee is also a key part of Adelaide's. They both bring something to the table.
2. Once Carlee overcomes her character flaw (which admittedly takes a while) she recognizes her mistakes, owns them, and takes concrete steps to undo them.
 
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Animad345

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This sounds really intriguing, Nikki! I'd read this.

I'm not black, but I am brown (South Asian, Indian heritage) and I wouldn't take any issue personally with this scenario in terms of POC rep.
 
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Silenia

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I'm neurodivergent/disabled, two groups that also get used in the "token character being hurt as a shortcut for MC's growth" manner with some frequency, so my advice is extrapolated from that. That said, for all that there are some shared general tendencies when it comes to this specific issue, it's not the same thing as being POC (which I'm not), so if any of my advice contradicts that of folks who actually are POC, listen to them over me, please.

I don't think the scenario you're describing is inherently problematic, but you're right that there definitely are portrayals of it that would be. Some advice on how to avoid that:

* Don't make Adelaide's pain all about Carlee. That is, it's caused by Carlee's mistakes, yes, but once Adelaide has been hurt, the resulting harm exists beyond Carlee's perspective and frame of reference. It's not on pause whenever Carlee isn't actively thinking about it and trying to figure out what happened, and it can and likely has effects on Adelaide's life beyond her direct interactions with Carlee.

* Don't make Adelaide all about her pain. While having been hurt can and likely has effects on Adelaide's life beyond her direct interactions with Carlee, it's not a personality transplant; and additionally, unless the situation ends up being so severe she has a mental breakdown or includes injury to the point of hospitalization, she probably does more than Standing Around Being Hurt. It has an impact on her life, yes, but it doesn't become all of who she is. (And waiting for Carlee to come to her realizations also shouldn't become all of who she is and what she does.)

* It's important that Carlee learns how what she did hurt Adelaide, but don't have the validity of Adelaide's pain hinge on Carlee's ability to understand why her actions are harmful. The way Carlee registers, understands and interprets Adelaide's actions and emotions may well be seriously influenced by the degree to which she understands why her actions hurt Adelaide, so this might be a balance that's hard to strike at times if Carlee is your sole viewpoint character.

* As for the "recognizing, owning, and undoing her mistakes" part: the resolution should be more than just Carlee's guilt being assuaged and her vowing to do better next time/become a better person. "Concrete steps to undo them" is good, but make sure those include actual concrete steps to resolve Adelaide's pain and the consequences thereof--not just steps to undo whatever problematic mindset or other character flaw lead to Carlee making her mistakes in the fist place.

In other words, try to establish the effect Carlee's mistakes have on Adelaide, and what being hurt like that means for Adelaide--not just what having hurt Adelaide means for Carlee.

Edit: +missing word
 
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Nikki1809

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Thank you for this advice--these are all great points. I am queer and autistic so I think I mostly am confident about that aspect of representation, but I am trying to be as careful as I can about POC representation. And also do some research on intersectionality.
 

Animad345

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I'm sure you'll do a great job, Nikki. PM me if you want a beta reader at any point. I'm very intrigued by your concept.
 
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Nikki1809

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I'm sure you'll do a great job, Nikki. PM me if you want a beta reader at any point. I'm very intrigued by your concept.
Thank you! I really appreciate that! If I get to that point I will remember--I still have to write chapter 1 right now.
 

Silenia

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Thank you! I really appreciate that! If I get to that point I will remember--I still have to write chapter 1 right now.
It's not quite my usual genre, which means I probably wouldn't be the best beta reader for the entire novel--but if you end up wanting feedback on a particular scene or two, you're also more than welcome to PM me. :)
 
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Nikki1809

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Thank you! It's not my usual genre either tbh. I mean technically it's my first one (if I finish it) but I have a lot of scrapped sci-fi projects that got too complicated for me to keep track of. I struggle once I get past outlining.
 

Silenia

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You're welcome! Sci-fi and fantasy can definitely get complicated fast, yes. Full outlining never really was my style, I'm more of a "file of relevant ideas/inspiration/plans to incorporate and some notes to avoid contradicting myself (so I don't end up, say, writing a three-day-journey to a place I repeatedly established was about half a day away, or have a character age backwards with no time travel involved)" person than an A-to-B-to-C-to-D outline kind of writer.
 
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Nikki1809

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You're welcome! Sci-fi and fantasy can definitely get complicated fast, yes. Full outlining never really was my style, I'm more of a "file of relevant ideas/inspiration/plans to incorporate and some notes to avoid contradicting myself (so I don't end up, say, writing a three-day-journey to a place I repeatedly established was about half a day away, or have a character age backwards with no time travel involved)" person than an A-to-B-to-C-to-D outline kind of writer.
I think I like daydreaming up my stories more than I like writing them which is why I can outline forever without actually ever writing anything. Outlining is also a smaller task than writing the whole book so it's better for my executive dysfunction. It's like a little step to push me into the bigger step. If I don't outline I just see the task as "Here is a blank word document, now produce 80,000 words" and I short circuit. Having a breakdown of each step is a lot easier. Then I can say, "Ok, write this scene," instead of "Ok, write a book." Also if I don't outline then I just never figure out the ending.

The only problem is that I'm definitely a perfectionist--a messy perfectionist with executive dysfunction, but a perfectionist--and I can't start something unless I think I can do it perfectly. Which I never will, so I outline forever and never actually write anything. Hence me having a google drive full of outlines and zero novels. I'm hoping to break that pattern here.

I'm totally off topic of the thread now though. šŸ˜¬
 
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Silenia

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I think I like daydreaming up my stories more than I like writing them which is why I can outline forever without actually ever writing anything. Outlining is also a smaller task than writing the whole book so it's better for my executive dysfunction. It's like a little step to push me into the bigger step. If I don't outline I just see the task as "Here is a blank word document, now produce 80,000 words" and I short circuit. Having a breakdown of each step is a lot easier. Then I can say, "Ok, write this scene," instead of "Ok, write a book." Also if I don't outline then I just never figure out the ending.

The only problem is that I'm definitely a perfectionist--a messy perfectionist with executive dysfunction, but a perfectionist--and I can't start something unless I think I can do it perfectly. Which I never will, so I outline forever and never actually write anything. Hence me having a google drive full of outlines and zero novels. I'm hoping to break that pattern here.

I'm totally off topic of the thread now though. šŸ˜¬
Hm, while we have different styles, I do recognize parts of what you're saying in myself too for sure. Got some ways that work for me to get around a couple of the more specific issues you mentioned, but you're right, we've wandered well off-topic. I'd be happy to continue chatting about it over PM, though.

To get back on topic, one more piece of advice, though it might seem obvious: when researching intersectionality, don't go just for the distant, statistic/scientific info about the subject. Try to find blogs, podcasts, memoirs or subject-relevant fiction, too, by the folks you're learning about.