How do you write other entices

So…this is a touchy subject for me.

I recently noticed something about a lot of the stories I’ve been writing here or there…all of my characters are white. And I thought that I should diversify that, add more people of color to make it more realistic.

Then I realized something…I don’t know how to write those kind of characters.

I don’t really have any friends who are black or Asian or anything other than white so I can’t base it off of someone, and I really don’t feel comfortable basing them off of stereotypes. I think i’m just scared of misrepresenting a culture I’m not a part of or know nothing about, either making it seem like they’re white but “not” or “Oh hey, I listened to NWA once and saw an episode of The Boondocks at some point so I TOTALLY know what black culture is like.”

Does anyone have any tips for that?

I don’t think skin color really matters as to how someone is- unless you want that stereotyped-on-purpose character (which is, as you’ve said already, a no-go) or you want the characters cultural background to matter in the story/deeply to the character themselves.

It’s the era of globalisation- everybody picks something up from everybody else, and if an action is still ‘white’ or ‘black’, then…

So I think it shouldn’t matter much- depends most on where and when your characters live and what influences they have.

(if you need help with Asians, though, I’ll be able to help as far the Indian subcontinent is concerned. And maybe Americans?)

This is an invaluable blog for those who want to write diversity into their stories but don’t know how to get started or what rules there might be.

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Sometimes if you don’t specify that your character is white, people will default to their own ethnicity.

Also, there is nothing wrong with having white characters if that’s what you’re comfortable writing. Diversity doesn’t mean adding in other ethnicities just to say you did, it means including people who naturally interact with your characters; not deleting them or changing what you would find in reality.

Start small, and be honest with your characters. For example-

Let’s say you are walking down the street and, for the first time, there is a black man walking toward you. Your personal reaction might be slightly uncomfortable merely because of stereotypes. But if the man gives you an acknowledging nod and keeps walking, you would relax and not be so timid the next time.

Say you walk past a few Mexican workers speaking Spanish, and the way they look at you makes you uncomfortable. You can’t help but wonder if they’re talking about you.

You pass a Latina woman at the park with three small children and smile at them, thinking the kids are cute, and that the woman has her hands full.

A black woman drops something and you have to approach her to return it.

As an exercise: Write these small encounters for your characters to become comfortable with the idea of POC (people of color).

Once you start thinking of encountering people in the world, and you realize that they are people too, that certain things will make you uncomfortable, certain things will interest you, other things you won’t think twice about.

Most importantly, people are people. It’s no different than coming from a small family and writing a big family. There are different traditions, foods, clothing choices… but that’s true for any character you write.

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Read books! Look up #ownvoices books in different ethnicities and read how people represent themselves in fiction. You’ll get a much better idea how to represent casually.

Also: get a sensitivity reader. Can’t stress this enough for the actual writing. Please get a sensitivity reader.

I honestly don’t focus too hard on it. If I find a character may be of some ethnicity, I may include that in their description. I don’t think POC have to “be” a certain way. It just depends on the character’s background. I mean, if you have a character who was born and raised in Japan and they moved elsewhere, I would expect you’d need to research their customs. I have someone with aboriginal background, someone who’s Native American/Spanish, but I honestly don’t focus too much on that aspect. I just tell the story my characters want me to tell. :woman_shrugging:

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I haven’t mentioned the skin colors of my characters or the countries they hail from. It makes it harder to guess from where they are because the place in my book is fictional too.

Like everyone else in this thread is saying, it doesn’t really matter unless it’s integral to the story.

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I like everyone’s comments!! :point_up_2: And I totally agree, people are people. Unless you’re writing about an individual who is from a different country or raised in a different culture than the rest of your characters, you don’t have to do any special research.

If you do want to write about someone who is deeply in touch with their culture and roots then yeah, definitely do lots of research and maybe request some readers with experience on the place/culture you’re writing about to make sure you don’t misrepresent. :slight_smile:

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I just want to warn you: your readers are currently assuming 99% of them, if not all of them, are white.

(But I’m happy to be proven wrong!)

I’m not a POC so I won’t say too much, but from my experience, be respectful of the culture but keep it realistic. Listen to the person speak and don’t try to correct them on a culture you know nothing about. Never try to romanticise another culture’s problems simply for the purpose of diversity and make sure you’re including them for a reason. Every character, no matter their ethnicity, needs to have a purpose in the story other than just “being there” so the author can been seen as ‘inclusive’.

I find that characters are great in spite of their skin colour. If you want to write about a black girl that doesn’t act like a “black girl” then what’s the issue? But if you want to, then I find that reading about the characters is a simple way to do it. There are countless books that aren’t based on colour but have authentic diverse characters in them. So try reading a little and adapting the traits you want your character to personify.

(Keep in mind who’s commenting here. You should definitely look specifically for responses from people of color! Ethnicity/race is not the same as things like sexuality or gender; other perspectives won’t be the same.)

You can also post an excerpt in a new thread asking for feedback.

I’m sure they are assuming that :slight_smile: but no, they are a good balance. I do plan to subtly reveal that in a later chapter.

the best Way to handle it, just dont describe it. It would be up to reader to décide which, unless the ethnicity is necessery to the plot.

The reader will consistently decide white, though. That’s what happens. Representation isn’t representation unless it’s clear—like how Dumbledore being gay is not gay rep.

It’s really easy to make it overt, though—talking about a character’s dark skin, for example. People introduce characters who are pale all the time! And there’s nothing wrong with having a character bring relevant cultural food to lunch or mentioning holidays. These things are just normal.

(Another reason I say to make sure you take into account who’s suggesting what. Writingwithcolor, again, a fantastic resource on this.)

but isnt that on a reader rather a writer?

No; if the writer knows that the reader will interpret all characters as white and leaves them that way, they’re not representing these groups and allowing the issue to occur.

It’s also simply bad writing. My Korean friend (for example) does not make efforts to never mention his Korean-ness. He talks about nostalgia for home food and links me to Korean instagrams run by his family members. I, as a Jewish person, sometimes miss engagements due to my religion (and mention Jewishness constantly—it’s important to me.) It would be inaccurate to write a person of color as a white person. It’s simply not the same experience.

but what if the writer dosent Think they’ll see it as white? Its still on the reader to Think everyone is white, and really its on them. You mostly write for readers to engage and feel like they’re in the story, so it would be weird to describe a character as black,white,asian etc and destroyers the readers imagination and engagement. Its readers Choice to Think everyone is white,and its also their choice to Think they’re black,asain etc. You shouldn’t let the race of a character be a thing unless its relevant to the story.

But you do think. You know, because I’ve just told you. And nobody seriously believes that for someone, the default will not be white. We all live on Earth. We know this.

Furthermore, I am telling you as a Jewish person that a writing of my story with no ethnicity—no holidays, no dietary restrictions, no beliefs, no cultural foods, no mezuzah on the door, no shirts from Jewish organizations, no printouts from the synagogue, no washing cup in the bathroom, no leftover challah in the kitchen, no Hamsas on the wall—is wrong. It is incorrect. It is bad writing. That would not be a Jewish character.

It may work for white characters. It does work for white characters, because they are seen as the norm—which you know! Which we agree on! The absence of ‘another culture’ creates white.

This is why I tell the OP to watch who says what. As a Jewish person, I am explaining specifically how erasing my Jewishness… erases my Jewishness.

I promise you, based on every single book I have read ever, that markers of race don’t destroy anything. Lee Jordan is black; does that pull you out of the Harry Potter series? Does Ron’s family being redheads (which heavily implies that they are white) pull you out? What pulled me out of HP in every book was Hogwarts celebrating Christmas as one, because I don’t and as a child I had no idea what people like me would do there. That authorial laziness pulled me out. Having Cho Chang be Asian? Not so much. (Though obviously her name is terrible etc etc and that’s been discussed at length.)

Actually, Rowling faced some Internet beatdowns over not having representation in the books and merely adding it in outside. Overwhelmingly, the actual groups in question do not like this type of writing.

I’m not going to respond further because I don’t know if you’re white or a person of color (I think it would certainly be helpful to state it), but I think I’ve personally made my perspective as clear as it can be to the OP and I don’t wish to make this an argument in their notifications.

Here’s an article if the OP would like to browse further.

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