1. atinypotato
    Offline

    atinypotato Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2016
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    5

    Indian Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by atinypotato, Mar 30, 2016.

    I am currently writing a story where the love interest is an Indian man (not Native American).
    As someone who is not Indian, I am worried about falling into racist stereotypes/writing him badly/etc.
    Obviously I'll be doing some research, but any tips/common misconceptions/common stereotypes/any thoughts at all would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks!
     
  2. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,425
    Likes Received:
    1,982
    Location:
    Australia
    I'm doing an Indian guy as a main character in one of my side projects, I have too many ideas, and honestly I just write him like anyone else except with some cultural artefacts. I mean, the whole point of racial equality is that it's just a skin colour, right? Not every Japanese person plays into Japanese honour culture, though at the same time ignoring this culture element completely would be factually incorrect. So there are some things that you could include, but you don't have to. And don't worry about stereotypes. If he's a three-dimensional character it won't matter if he looks like what you might expect. Some people are like stereotypes. Just not all of them.
     
  3. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,161
    Location:
    London, UK
    My husband's Indian and emigrated when he was 24. Misconceptions people have about him/our relationship include:
    • that I had to convert to Hinduism for him to marry me (I'm atheist);
    • that he adheres to traditional gender roles and expects me to do all the cooking and cleaning (lol);
    • that he otherwise would have had an arranged marriage (no);
    • that his family would have been angry at him marrying a white girl (no).
    But he does like cricket and adds chilli powder to EVERYTHING. :D
     
    atinypotato, jannert and Oscar Leigh like this.
  4. atinypotato
    Offline

    atinypotato Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2016
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    5
    That makes sense, yeah. I just get so worried when writing characters from cultures that I'm not very familiar with, you know?
    There are a lot of things about this character that I don't know, that I do with other characters, because I don't know a lot about his culture. So I feel like he's only half finished.
     
  5. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,425
    Likes Received:
    1,982
    Location:
    Australia
    Stereotypes can both wrong or right, it depends on the individual.
     
  6. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,161
    Location:
    London, UK
    I can ask him anything you're not sure about?

    Although it depends where your character is from and what religion (if any). There isn't a single Indian culture.
     
    Oscar Leigh likes this.
  7. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,425
    Likes Received:
    1,982
    Location:
    Australia
    I presume you're responding to me since Tenderiser didn't say any actual opinion, but gave testimony? :unsure:
    Again, you don't really necessarily need culture from that country. Is he actually in India? How traditional is he? Is he Hindi? Is he/ was he poor? Does he like Western cultures? Is he quite fond of Asian or Middle-Eastern cultures? He could easily be very similar if not identical in behaviour and values to a Westerner.
     
  8. atinypotato
    Offline

    atinypotato Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2016
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    5
    That too! I'm not sure exactly where he's from yet, and I know region can determine things about a person's character.
    I was actually wondering if atheism was super frowned upon over there, actually.
     
  9. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,803
    Likes Received:
    7,320
    Location:
    Scotland
    One thing you might want to find out, before you start, is what sorts of stereotypes exist, and which ones are the most hurtful and common to Indian people. It might give you insight into what they face on a daily basis, if your character will be living outside of India.
     
  10. atinypotato
    Offline

    atinypotato Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2016
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    5
    I was! Sorry, I was on my phone before, and it wasn't doing quotes.

    That is very fair. He does not live in India in the story, so I suppose it's very likely that he has picked up a lot of western culture.
     
  11. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,161
    Location:
    London, UK
    I'll ask him about atheism when I get home. :) He's kind of Hindu in the way that most people here [meaning in the UK, not on the forum] are kind of Christians... he believes in certain gods but he doesn't live strictly by the scriptures and it doesn't influence our day to day lives.
     
    Oscar Leigh likes this.
  12. atinypotato
    Offline

    atinypotato Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2016
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    5
    That is definitely something I wanted to look into, but I'm not quite sure where to start, honestly.
     
    jannert likes this.
  13. atinypotato
    Offline

    atinypotato Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2016
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    5
    That would be fantastic, thank you! I appreciate the help!
     
    Tenderiser and Oscar Leigh like this.
  14. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,803
    Likes Received:
    7,320
    Location:
    Scotland
    Well, you could start by asking @Tenderiser to ask her husband? And ask if there are any Indian people on the forum who might want to contribute?
     
  15. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,425
    Likes Received:
    1,982
    Location:
    Australia
    Tenderiser mentioned a few. Indians are often heavily associated with traditional Hindu values. Which is the fun thing about my character Ajay, he's more liberal than his parents, who are strict and a bit dogmatic with some traditional values. But people often expect him to be like them, sometimes without even knowing what his parents are like. Also I played with poverty stereotypes by having his past have a fluctuating income.
    An important point is that India, from what I know I might be a bit off here, is quite divided class wise. The poor are often a bit stuck in traditional outlooks because of a lack of education, with such an over-populated country with so many poor. And the rich are often eager to with Western culture as a symbol of modernity and wealth. And so they have a stronger tendency towards less traditional values. At least, that's what I've seen in what I know.
     
  16. atinypotato
    Offline

    atinypotato Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2016
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    5
    That's interesting! So, is does your character adhere to any Hindu beliefs and, if so, did you have to do much research in the area?
     
  17. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,425
    Likes Received:
    1,982
    Location:
    Australia
    Well, I've seen some documentaries and I did some basic readings so I know enough to have the overall idea. Specific facts or answers to questions I look up when I need for specific points. As to what he's like; would you some significant spoilers from it? I presume not? :superconfused:
     
  18. atinypotato
    Offline

    atinypotato Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2016
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    5
    That's alright, I was just trying to decide whether or not I should make my character religious, but I'm leaning toward no.
     
  19. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,425
    Likes Received:
    1,982
    Location:
    Australia
    Should you make him religious? That's your decision entirely and there's no right answer. Being religious is very common in India. What sort of person is he?
    Okay, so if you don't mind spoilers about Ajay's storyline. Ajay is gay but his parents don't know. In fact, no-one knows in Australia where he lives now. He plays AFL at his uni so he's not in the most accepting crowd. And he's insecure about the whole thing. He struggles with the fact that his parents interpretation is that it is un-Hindu but he's not so sure. Eventually, after it comes out about his sexuality, just a bit after you find out, he tells his parents he doesn't believe there's anything wrong with him at all. You see; Hindiusm is quite mixed on the subject. It's less clear cut that Christianity with the whole "it is an abomination" line. There's positive and negative religiously significant artefacts of all sorts. Ajay also has a less restrictive view of family roles. And he's not particularly interested in praying all the time; he's not that interested in the divinities aspect, that's the part he's most in the ball park on. Ajay also forms a strong relationship, and I mean relationship, with Kevin who is reasonably Christian. They're both stuck in a similar parent situation actually, with some key differences. Is any of that helpful in any way?
     
    atinypotato likes this.
  20. atinypotato
    Offline

    atinypotato Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2016
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    5
    Absolutely! I wasn't sure if Hinduism had any clear cut views on sexuality, and that is relevant to my story, actually. Thank you!
     
  21. Commandante Lemming
    Offline

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,241
    Likes Received:
    1,000
    I have a major character who is Indian, and the biggest thing I've learned is just to do your research and seek out Indian input to identify your mistakes. Cultural reasearch us hard and I still haven't gotten it right. But I've made a point to seek out people actually in the community I'm writing about (in my case, Jains) and get their input. That can be incredibly awkward but it helps A LOT.

    Second, write them as you would any other person and then layer the cultural stuff on top. That's not to say that culture doesn't affect basic character traits, but if you build a character who would still be compelling without relying on cultural differences with the target reader, you will always have a solid foundation and can avoid exoticizing the character. Mine has major, major inner conflict about her religious and cultural identify, but that's as a result of being a compelling character who then has to confront a cultural context in which she exists.

    Lastly, nail down the details of the person's Indian identity. India is a big country with a multiplicity of cultures, languages, and religion. It is NOT and ethnically homogeneous nation AT ALL. There is a bug difference between a Punjabi Sikh, a Gujarati Jain, and a Tamil Hindu. Or for that matter between Tamil Hindus, Assamese Hindus, and Rajasthani Hindus.
     
    Oscar Leigh, Lew and atinypotato like this.
  22. atinypotato
    Offline

    atinypotato Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2016
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    5
    There's just so many different things to consider! This is a lot of the problem i've been having, actually, trying to figure out details like this, worrying i'll have left something out.
     
  23. Commandante Lemming
    Offline

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,241
    Likes Received:
    1,000
    At that point I'd say just start writing. If you miss something, your Indian reader (and you're going to need one at some point), will point them out and you can fix them in your revision pass.

    Write with what you know, make all of those cultural mistakes, then revise them out. That's how it works.
     
    atinypotato and Tenderiser like this.
  24. atinypotato
    Offline

    atinypotato Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2016
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    5
    That makes me feel a lot better about it, actually. Thank you!
     
    Commandante Lemming likes this.
  25. Commandante Lemming
    Offline

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,241
    Likes Received:
    1,000
    :) Happy to help. Although one thing to know going in is that you are going to learn a lot about your own biases and stereotypes in this process. Writing outside your culture by definition involes putting all of your misconceptions on paper and then handing that paper to someone who might be offended by your misconceptions. Identifying and refining out ones own prejudices can be scary but it's also a lot of fun to learn.
     
    atinypotato likes this.

Share This Page