Recent Posts

__________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Writing Black

I write stories where the main protagonist is a person of color. I’m not trying to make a political statement, or raise social issues. I just write a cool story where the lead saves the day, and oh btw, she’s a minority. I like to read about a character I can identify with on a cultural level. There’s nothing wrong with that. But when that culture has been exploited and misrepresented to the point of stereotype, I’ll take “Oh, F U” for 200, Alex.

Any person of any color is a product of their environment. But it doesn’t stop with the surroundings; it’s their education and upbringing as well. Not all black girls talk with their neck and speak obnoxiously loud. Just as not all white girls talk like they’re from the valley. Black people Do live in the suburbs. In fact, black people live just about everywhere.

Hobbies and personal interest vary and that should be the basis of characterization. So, for writers who want to create an ethnic character for your story, I HIGHLY recommend that you do research. I can’t speak for other groups, but I’ll give you a few things to consider if you have a black female character.

Color: the shade of your character CAN be a tricky area. Not all black people are the same and they aren’t viewed among their peers as such. In some circles, those with golden complexions or lighter are considered more attractive; therefore ostracized by those with darker skin. It’s a battle that’s been going on for centuries, and unfortunately, it’s still going on today.

Hair: I cannot stress enough how sensitive a subject hair is to black girls. There are too many styles, textures, and colors to name in this post, but it is a form of status in most circles. This too varies with individuals. In some groups the straighter your hair is, the better, while others prefer braids, dreads, or a more natural look. There is one rule that goes across the board: once the hair is styled, you NEVER touch it without permission and NEVER, EVER get it wet. FYI.

This can also say something about a personality in regards to how they view beauty and how they view themselves. I beg you to do research as to not offend readers by using offhanded comments like “nappy” and “bad weaves” in improper context.

This should never be the key focus to the story—the story should be the story, but these elements might add a bit more detail, that extra touch to a character. Make them relatable by applying a bit of real truth to their dimensions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, or even let someone read what you wrote to check for accuracy.

But for God sake, don’t be lazy and fall into the trap of stereotypes. We’re not all alike, but we're people just the same, and that’s something everyone can relate to.

6 comments:

  1. I'm all in for questions...

    When does a legitimate hobby option turn into a stereotype? For instance, in my 2nd PRT book, Trey is a black high school student in a predominantly white suburban area...and he's a basketball star. That doesn't define him any more than being a cheerleader defines the narrator, but it is kind of a stereotypical hobby.

    Also, most people (that I know anyway) act differently around different groups. So, how he acts and talks with the people at school I write differently than his interactions with his cousin who isn't from the 'burbs. Is it fair that he puts on more of a swagger in that scenario or is that too much of a stereotype again?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Um, YES to this post! And you're right about our hair. I never learned to swim because I didn't want to get it wet! :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Seleste,

    Very good question. Sports isn’t exactly a stereotype if you apply it right. If he also likes to read or play an instrument, it makes him more rounded. On the other side, he could be a crazy sports fanatic with posters and memorabilia that can also deepen a character if done right. In other words, don’t go for the obvious reason for their hobby, the “I wanna get a scholarship and go pro” cliché. It’s overdone. There’s a time, place, and REASON for everything a character does, including slang.

    There’s nothing wrong with using slang in moderation, but allow the reader to understand why it’s done within certain social groups and not in others. This explanation can enrich characterization. The balancing act of fitting in is something all readers can relate to.
    :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the answers, I really appreciate it :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks!

    I posted twice recently on race. Once showing the difference in the Caribbean- we're majority black, so of course we can't be "oppressed" like American blacks. http://aclairedawn.blogspot.com/2011/03/caribbean-context-race.html

    And then a general post on writing "other" characters, because I keep seeing calls for more Black, Asian, fat, gay, etc characters. But like you said a stereotypical character is worse than no character at all. http://aclairedawn.blogspot.com/2011/04/writing-other.html

    I personally don't care so much about the hair thing- getting it wet, etc- but I know I'm rare. I read a book once where two best friends joked that a group of black women couldn't have a convo without hair coming up. Every time us black girls in Japan get together it comes up. lol.

    I think hair and shade factor in even more in YA than in adult novels, because it's a time of insecurities. I was fairly happy-go-lucky as a teen, and I didn't realise til I grew up that one of my bffs in school who was really dark used to bleach her skin. Same applies to straighteners and perms etc. Some ppl wear their hair in a style because they like it. Others because every body else does it. And still others because thye hate what their hair does naturally.

    Sorry about the thesis, but I love posts like these.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I found nothing to disagree with over here. :)

    ReplyDelete

__________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________

Featured Post

The Cambion Chronicles ( Book 4)

Hey guys! Have you ever had a story in your head that you just had to get out? The characters you created are so lively and outg...

__________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________

Now Available

__________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________

Popular Posts

__________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________

WNDB

On My Emo Days...

On My Emo Days...
Some days are blacker than others

Followers

The Apocalypsies!!