1. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    Colour me...iDK LOL

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by SuperVenom, Jun 28, 2014.

    Here's a question.

    Race of character (or more to the point colour)........does it matter if culture is not important.

    Basically I ask as I read some books and some heroes are not given a specific colour or race. Harry potter is never described as White per say (as far as I'm aware, and if you read it with out the cover picture what would you think? I dont want to write in my novel mentioning my characters skin colour. For no other reason than I don't mind what the reader interprets it as. Sure when culture gets involved or racist issues then I mention it.

    I mean we describe hair, clothes nose but how often do we mention the colour?

    Is it because we see a part of ourselves in the hero/heroine and deem it irrelevant?
    I admit my hero is in my mind white, but only because i am, But since i haven't really mentioned his colour i would not mind if people read it as black or Asian.
     
  2. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it is indeed best to specify as little as possible about a character's appearance. A book is not a movie.
     
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  3. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sometimes I see color as something of a similar characteristic as gender if we think about our assumptions.

    As an example, in my and @T.Trian's WIP we had a bit that went like this:

    “Yeah, Earth’s still there, and the smart money says it’ll be there for a good while longer.” They all turned to face a stocky sergeant who had walked up to their group. “


    All of our betas (there might've been one exception) were of the opinion we should describe her as 'stocky female sergeant', not just 'sergeant' because it will be confusing for the reader to find out only after a moment that it's a she once they've first imagined her as male.

    It does read 'female' there now, as we figured the heroine would probably pay attention to it, but it still felt wrong that women are so much of an other even in the military of the future (the betas thought) that it has to be mentioned. Kinda like we say "male nurse" or "manslut", but just a "nurse" and "slut" when meaning women. Some professions (and insults) are just so gendered.

    I feel similar iffiness when mentioning someone is black, yet at the same time not mentioning that another character is white. However, I try to think about it from the character's POV, and if I feel like the character would notice it (like a Swede coming from a predominantly white part of her country), it should be mentioned, but if it's someone who's used to the diversity of the novel's world, they might not always remark whether someone's white, black, Asian, etc. Names can also be used to give some idea, so a Latina could be called Paola, for example.
     
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  4. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I guess you just have to go with your gut. Unless it's important to specify the skin color or the gender, don't mention it. If I wanted to let readers know that the character they're speaking to is a woman, I use a female name or use female pronouns. As far as describing a characters' race, I'm with KaTrian on this one. If someone's used to the diversity, they're not going to single out someone of a particular race.
     
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  5. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    I generally do not specify the race of my characters. Even when I feel it's helpful to note the ethnicity, I rarely describe the character in much detail. Now, I *do* describe the surroundings, but feel that it's best to let the reader create their own description - that it helps the reader connect better with the character.

    That's not a "never to be broken rule" of mine - I will sometimes describe characters. But, mostly, I let the reader do this.

    If you feel comfortable painting the picture of your character, though, then by all means do so. Just have fun and keep writing, and your own style will emerge.

    -Frank
     
  6. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    When I was writing Thunderbolt my prison story, I wanted it to take place from a black prisoner's point of view and rather than him say something asinine like Hey, I'm black when a white man never has to say this, I let the reader know the narrator was black by letting him point out the title character by addressing him as some white boy.
    I'm okay with mentioning race - I think it's all in the finesse in which you do it.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    What about finding an excuse for "she" or "her"?

    Stocky sergeant with Martian Marine insignia on her collar.
    Stocky sergeant with a snake tattoo climbing up her right forearm.
    Stocky sergeant with a sunburn so bad that it looked as if her...
     
  8. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Another option is, you could give the stocky sergeant a female name.

    [main character] looked up to see Sergeant Yvette Potter [doing something a sergeant does].
     
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  9. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    Link - that works till you use the name 'Beverly' ... then get published in the UK! ;)
     
  10. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Which is why the female pronouns are lovely! :D Besides, they can just chalk it up to me being American and using American English. :p
     
  11. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The MC doesn't know her name and it would take too much explaining to add it there, but I think some of these would work, . yay! :) T and I have been switching around the sentence yet never came up with any satisfactory alternatives, but I like the third one of your suggestions (we'll just replace sunburn with something else). Thanks. :)
     
  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Wow, I can see a whole thesis being built upon this question. How a reader fills in a blank character is going to be individual. I'm Puerto Rican, but when characters are left 'color neutral', my default is still Caucasian of Northernly European Descent (white). That's what I grew up with, regardless of my own personal make-up and stock.

    Anywho...

    My only advice at all in this area is that if you are to pin down a character's ethnochromatic individuality, do it early in the story. I can't remember the name of the story but a little Sci-Fi number I read years ago had the protagonist as the young heir to an economic empire out in the gas giants and their moons and it wasn't until I was well invested in the tell of the story that the writer chose to tell me that he was black. It was jarring and discombobulated my set of inner actors. I wished I had known earlier so that that part could have been melded more organically in the tell.
     

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