1. Florent150
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    Florent150 Member

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    Establishing skin colour/race, and the reader's thought process.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Florent150, Jul 15, 2011.

    Will audiences automatically assume characters a certain race?
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2014
  2. Mr Mr
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    Mr Mr Active Member

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    I think readers, unless told otherwise, assume the character to be of their race/colour. Not sure how it applies to fantasy races like golbins, elves etc.
     
  3. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I base a character's race on their names usually. I mean, if a guy is named John Smith, you think white guy. If I hear Shaniqua I think Ghetto Fabulous (probably a little racist), Javier Rodriguez is Hispanic, Reiko is Japanese, etc... Anyway, I think that's the best and quickest way to give the reader an impression of what race the character is.
     
  4. Blue_Lotus
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    Blue_Lotus Senior Member

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    and see I can't recall a book I have read that was written within the last 20 years or so where skin color was not described in some way.

    her creamy complelxion. etc etc

    Or something that would hint to it. ( the beat around the bush method )
    He looks like the Italian lady two doors down.
     
  5. pyrosama
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    pyrosama Member

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    I don't think there's anything wrong with describing a character (physically) as such:

    The deep ebony skin of her thigh peeked out from the folds of the white satin sheets.

    What you're doing here is contrasting for visual; it's no reflection on your preference for one character over another based on skin tone. I think it's perfectly fine to use skin color for contrast without offending any of your readers.

    What I don't like is something like:

    Jackie is a large, black man and Sherry is his white girlfriend.

    ?? The reader would be like, so? How is that important to the story? I'm not gaining anything from it, so why is it here?

    You can craft a story to bring in skin color IF you are doing it to provide an enjoyable art to your reader rather than wanting to convey information about your own views and prejudices toward skin color. That's not okay to me.

    However, if your intent is to make a character that is stereotypical of a particular race or culture, then I think it's okay that you exaggerate for the sake of character development:

    Aunt Josephine adjusted her bandana and wiped her forehead. The sweat beads on her black skin glistened while she sashayed down the hall with the laundry basket under her right arm, pressed firmly against her large hip, "Oh, Lordy! It's hot up in here. Come on, Jezebel," she called out and motioned to the neighborhood adopted Chocolate Lab with a nod of her head.
     
  6. Blue_Lotus
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    Blue_Lotus Senior Member

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    Hmm... *suspending reality for a moment*
    now see if I were to tell you my kids name is Rhea, you would think Indian than? Not mulatto or some other type of mixed race? But what if my other child is named Jasmine? would you assume that they had diffrent fathers?

    Unless otherwise stated I havent a clue how to picture a charater with out some sort of guide post.
    especialy if the story is set in todays mish mashed world.
     
  7. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Reah is Greek, so I would think Caucasian if nothing else was stated. And Jasmine is so commonly used by white people, them having different fathers wouldn't really cross my mind. I get your point though, but names, surnames especially, do suggest what race you are. Of course you could name a white character something Hispanic for absolutely no reason, but that's just being an asshole in my opinion. You also associate names with people you know, so if you know a African American girl named Jasmine, you might imagine characters named Jasmine as black (for instance).
     
  8. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    What about Egogy? *Serious face*

    I have to agree on the names and stuff for the most part. It's kind of unfortunate, but it is the way that the human mind works most of the time. We're judgemental people (humans, I mean).

    Do you have any room for racism? The few times I've noticed black characters, there's been a mention of a racial sort of different. I don't mean absolutely vulgar racism. I just mean, like, when white people think they're being inquisitive and ask, "Oh, so where are you from?" when really, they're just being ignorant and white.

    Stuff like that. One particular book I read a while ago (I don't remember the name or anything) had a black character get called a "darkie" in the first few chapters, and I remember my specific reaction being, "Woah, he's black?"
     
  9. Oldspeak
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    Oldspeak New Member

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    Yeah, I agree, describing the skin color is fine, it gives a proper visualization of the character, and is only said for that purpose, not to put emphasis on the characters race.
     
  10. Drusilla
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    Drusilla Active Member

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    Yes, it is a quick and easy way to do it, but you might end up giving the reader the wrong impression. There are many African-Americans named John Smith. Let's say Reiko is a white, blonde child adopted by Japanese parents. Let's say Javier Rodriguez is half Hispanic, half white European. Would it be fair to lump him into the category "Hispanic"?


    I don't use the term "race" and I don't like it. I think it is an almost impossible classification. I would consider a person who is half-black/half-white to be just as "white" as he/she is "black". I myself am "mixed". I seriously don't know what "race" I belong to. Seriously. I don't know if people would call me "darker white", "meditteranian" or whatever. I find the whole "race" thing pretty stupid.

    I would describe the characters' appearance thoroughly and detailed and sometimes mention which countries their ancestors were from. Sometimes I love to give the readers a few surprises by not mentioning before late into the story that "Lisa's" great grandfather was from that culture/group/country.
    I am writing about my own fictional country/culture/ethnicity and I like to describe their distinct features, but I never thought of using the word race to describe them.
     
  11. Blue_Lotus
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    Blue_Lotus Senior Member

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    Reah is greek Rhea is Indian...
    But yeah ppl will and do Imagine exactly what they want unless the details are given.
     
  12. Drusilla
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    Drusilla Active Member

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    Rhea Indian? Rhea is Greek. I never heard the name Reah.


    RHEA

    Gender: Feminine

    Usage: Greek Mythology (Latinized), Roman Mythology

    Other Scripts: ‘Ρεια, ‘Ρεα (Ancient Greek)

    Pronounced: REE-ə (English) [key]
    Latinized form of Greek ‘Ρεια (Rheia), meaning unknown, perhaps related to ‘ρεω (rheo) "to flow" or ‘ρεος (rheos) "stream". In Greek mythology Rhea was a Titan, the wife of Cronus, and the mother of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Demeter and Hestia. Also, in Roman mythology a woman named Rhea Silvia was the mother of Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome.


    www.behindthename.com
     
  13. Blue_Lotus
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    Blue_Lotus Senior Member

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    Rhea Ree ah pohnetical sound
    Meanning Poppy or some other type of flower Also another name for the Goddess Durga.( this is improper usage however as Durga only has 108 offical names) Can also mean stream depending on who you ask and what region of India you are in.
    As a side note Rhea pearlman The American actress (white) And Rhea Pillai the indian Model ( Indian ) have popularized this name in both countries at some point or another.
     
  14. Drusilla
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    Drusilla Active Member

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    Thanks for informing me. There are many names that have multiple origins and meanings. :)
     
  15. Blue_Lotus
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    Blue_Lotus Senior Member

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    Yeps, I love names, for just that reason... they are so Interesting.
     
  16. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    If any of those are the case (except the black guy being named John Smith I guess, I agree that can totally happen) there would most definitely be some mention of it in the story, unless the author is stupid. That's why I said giving character's names from other nations than they are from for no good reason is assholish. Can you honestly tell me that if you read about a character named Javier Rodriguez and nothing else was mentioned, you would automatically assume he was mixed race?
     
  17. Drusilla
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    Drusilla Active Member

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    No. I would probably assume he was either Spanish or South American (based upon my own stupid prejudices). I agree that it is silly to name a German character Li Cho or an Italian character Kjetil, but who would do that? If the family didn't have an exceptionally good reason to use the name (for example if a really good family friend died and they wanted to honour that friend). BUT I think it is pretty stupid to assume that "this person belongs to this culture" etc based on superficial things like names, looks etc, even if most humans do that all the time. I think each person should define which culture he/she belongs to. For example: it could be very unnatural for a person from Iran to call him/herself Iranian if that person was born in Sweden and never went to Iran and never spoke a word of Persian.

    As I said earlier, I don't use the term "mixed race" because I find it stupid and not very precise. For example: strictly speaking Hispanics, Middle Easterns and Indian are not really "races" but rather cultures with various ancestry.
     

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