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Thread: making my fantasy MC a POC and other questions

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  1. #1
    scaredy cat chocowrites's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009

    making my fantasy MC a POC and other questions

    hello all,

    I'm in the beginning stages of a new wip, and I figured now rather than later is a good time to sound out a few ideas and try to ask questions.

    My preferences as a writer rn are to write POC MC's. if there's a choice between having a white MC, or a POC MC, I would much rather actively choose a POC MC. This is because I'm pretty tired of only watching and reading things where the main character is a white dude (i'm not white or a dude so I don't have to add to the already abundant material out there). I figure that unless I have valid reason not to, my works will feature FMCs who are POC.

    I'm fine with writing contemporary books with POC, but when it comes to fantasy (which I haven't written as much of), I really get unsure about how to handle things.

    The story I'm currently writing is sort of a loose retelling of a bunch of German, Greek, and Scandinavian fairy tales and literature mushed together. My intent before starting it was to cast an Asian FMC. But I started to get confused as my worldbuilding interacted with the myths I'm trying to build off of.

    For example, I was going to name my MC something like "Mei" or "Lin," as a sort of cue to readers that You Don't Have to Default Her to White. But other than that, I'm kinda questioning how I can make my character a specific ethnicity that corresponds to a real-life one. For world-building, I'm pretty much keeping Earth's climate and general geography, but I'm wasn't planning to carry over the specific history and countries.

    I was thinking that you would have people of all different skin color, according to where they are in the globe, and who looked like say, Asian people, if they lived in the equivalent area in this fantasy Earth, right? I mean, people would look the same, based off where they live? I think.

    But I kind of ran into some problems about dealing with culture. If I'm not specifically trying to carry over, for example, an Asian-influenced fantasy culture, what does this imply for an Asian looking MC? My MC would look Asian, and possibly have an Asian name. But I wouldn't necessarily have the "markers" of an Asian fantasy, such as an Emperor ruling the kingdom, or kung fu magic, or the same cultural practices, social hierarchy, or a lot of markers that would cue readers into this being an fantasy set in an Asia equivalent.

    And if I'm basing this off European/western myths does it follow that my MC should then be white, since that's their cultural heritage? (I'm not sure.)

    The way my setting plans are as of now, the book starts off in a small town where the MC is born, but then she travels a bit and works as a servant in castle in the far north of the world.

    I'm especially concerned that since I've mostly read British types of fantasy, that this influences how I write fantasy, so I'll have a lot of western "markers" in my story. But then I'm trying to make my character Asian, when she's a baker's daughter who works as a maid at a manor, and I'm talking about footmen and ladies and castles an such, which I feel like are more associated with western culture.

    I'm wondering if this is a kind of mutually exclusive thing: most of the fantasy I've read, if you're writing about an equivalent area, you carry over the culture: like they'll be "Sultans"if it's supposed to be based off India, or kimono-like clothes if it's supposed to be Japan-influenced, etc. Maybe it's necessary to write fantasy versions of already existing cultures? I mean, what would it imply if I create a 18th century western-like society in what would geographically be Asia? Isn't that kind of problematic, bc it's like I'm creating a world that supports colonization and imperialism? In that case, it would be a lot better just to make my MC white in Europe.

    Another possibility is to set it geographically in Europe (probably a Germany-equivalent), but to have a POC MC anyway (like Beethoven at that time!!), who would be a minority among mostly white people. I feel like this would actually be more helpful than erasing POC cultures and only retaining character's appearances based off race. I know how an MC looks can still be important to readers hoping for representation, but disregarding the corresponding culture, even if it's fantasy, is something I feel very uneasy about. Are there any books that people can recommend me which deal with POC society but in cultures not based off their real-life equivalent? I've only read fantasy books that retain cultural markers of wherever they're equivalently geographically set.

    But then, I'm kind of worried, cause whoops I was planning to make my MC cursed into the form of basically a harpy and so maybe that also would have notsogreat connotations? (I remember a tumblr post going around about how in disney movies like emperor's new groove, princess and the frog, and brother bear, the POC MC spends most of the time as an animal and that's kinda sucky.)

    I don't know. As you can tell, I'm really confused and probably making a bunch of wrong assumptions. This is the first time I've tried to write a POC MC in a fantasy. I'd welcome any thoughts/ corrections/ objections/ suggestions all of you more wise people can spare
    Last edited by chocowrites; 07-18-2013 at 11:25 AM.

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