timepiececlock: (Uhura Fucking Rocks The Universe)
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1. http://nkjemisin.com/2009/04/ways-to-describe-characters-of-color/ [note: read comments for diverse examples/opinions]

This is a link I am posting for myself, so I can add it to my LJ memories. I have started a memories section specifically for posts that focus on writing/describing Characters of Color. I've read many of them this year, and probably should have started bookmarking them ages ago.

If anyone has more recs along this topic, I always appreciate new information. Book recs too! Particularly since this applies to two of my current OTPs: Katara/Zuko and Spock/Uhura. With K/Z fandom I've had my first experience of writing about CoCs in a world where the CoC's point of view is predominant and the palest characters are still CoCs by white viewing standards. I've been mostly able to skate by on the whole description thing because a) you generally don't have to describe characters much in fanfic, and b) the ethnic baseline is Asian, not White/European like I'm used to, so I more described the differences between the Asian cultures represented than the difference between White and Asian. Also, the darker half of my OTP--Katara--- is visually presented as South Asian / Inuit, not Black, and I'm just realizing now that until Uhura/Spock, I've never had an OTP with a Black female character before, at least not one that I've written fic for. It's always been White, Asian, or Latina...mostly because I watch a lot of anime. I've also tried to convey culture through clothes and food and objects more than physical indicators, which basically means that I've never really forced myself to look into that aspect of description.

I'm not only interested in the nitty gritty details of description because of my new love for Star Trek's rockin' communications officer, but because I have started outlining a novel. A big, scary, superhero novel which I text [livejournal.com profile] irrel about at odd moments of complete terror. The lead character of this novel is a teenage Latina/White mixed female character (a result of 3/6 of my best friends in the last four years being Latina and thus of more immediate interest/access to me culturally), but the maybe-kinda-sorta love interest is a Black male. The two best friends are a Black female and a White male. There will later be one, possibly two Asian characters as we. There's also diversity in sexual orientation. I know that I'm going to be raking my story across the coals as I write it, in everything from character descriptions to who's evil and who's not, and I expect if I finish it and somehow get it out in the world that others will scour it as well, so I'm starting to collect useful info now.

I assume I will learn by doing. They say write what you know--I didn't grow up as a PoC or someone of a mixed family, but I do know what it's like to be a teenage girl, and I figure that's a good place to start. I'll work from that, knowing that I can't please everyone, but hoping I manage okay and learn from trying. I grew up in San Jose, in a high school that had a lot of White, Latino, and Asian folks, but not many Black folks; this is why I feel that's an area I particularly need to research and cross-check. I'm not writing these characters of color as heroes in my story because I want to be diverse and politically correct*, but because I grew up in a diverse city and it would be insane to imagine everyone I see in my characters as white. In fact, just moving to Orange County affected me at first because the social economic stratification is much more visible and in-your-face here, and correspondingly disturbing...something that was good for me to see (to realize it exists) but bad for me to get accustomed to (one of the reasons I don't plan to live here in the long run.)

*Though I'd be lying if I didn't say that this whole fandom thing hasn't made me evaluate my preconceptions on race in fandom and race portrayal in ficton as something I need to commit to try doing right, not just something I can wing and hope no one notices my screw-ups.

I may add to this post as I find more blogs/sites that are not LJ-based and wish to include them. I know there are already several lists out regarding the cultural/philosophical/moral wank of RaceFail and how to avoid it; for my own purposes I'm trying to collect some links that deal specifically with writing fiction rather than the larger communication-between-fans kerfluffle of FAIL, which multiple people have already covered nicely.

Date: 2009-06-05 09:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gojira007.livejournal.com
Best of luck with the Novel. :D

Date: 2009-06-06 01:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] manonlechat.livejournal.com
The author of that first link writes fabulous commentary. She also wrote fabulous Zuko/Katara fanfic you must read: Thirteen Nights.

She also has a novel coming out next year.


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