1. silviadrake261
    Offline

    silviadrake261 New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2014
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0

    Is my controversial character a good idea?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by silviadrake261, Nov 28, 2014.

    Okay, I am trying to write a story with the main character as a blonde hair German female. She is a General of the military fighting an alien invasion. She is a robot created for the purpose of being a General. My mother says she is a bad idea and I should make her some other nationality. She thinks people will see her as a Nazi Fascist. I said that was silly because it is modern German military and they aren't Fascist or Nazi. She is very adamant that I should change her though. I really don't want to because it just feels right that she should be German. Anyway, sorry i took so long to get to the point but does anyone have any suggestions on what i should do? Should I keep her the way she is or should I change her? If I change her what do you suggest I change her to?
     
  2. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,600
    Likes Received:
    5,083
    Why does it feel right that she's German? If there's a compelling reason for that nationality, I wouldn't change it.

    The Nazi connection? It probably still stands for some, but not for everyone. If you're worried about it, you could use it as a point in your story - have some other character criticize the German character and allude to Nazis, or something.
     
  3. Gigi_GNR
    Offline

    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    12,143
    Likes Received:
    250
    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    I would agree - why is it important that she's German? If there's a sound reason, it makes sense.

    But just because someone's a blonde military general doesn't necessarily bring up the Nazism connection; it would be her politics and way of operating, if anything, that would bring that up.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,957
    Likes Received:
    5,486
    I'm struggling with why the blondeness is relevant. Because it's part of a Nazi stereotype? If she's a general rather than, say, a fashion model, I would think that her hair color would be thoroughly unimportant.
     
    Wreybies likes this.
  5. Fitzroy Zeph
    Offline

    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2013
    Messages:
    747
    Likes Received:
    269
    Location:
    Canada
    Certain characters have to be a certain way in our heads; so if you need a blonde haired German female then you should write it this way. Most nationalities have some peculiarities or traits that others see. Certainly not everyone within a group is like that, but as a whole they are somehow, for better or worse, depending on who they are and how you view it, different. A German female on average is different than a French female which is again different than an American or a Canadian or Spaniard. So without saying anything, you've told me something. My reality in fiction is different than other people's but we all have our experiences to draw from, to paint that picture in our heads. Unless she has a swastika tattooed on her arm, or practices goose stepping in jackboots, I can't see why I would think of her as a Nazi.
     
  6. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    The bad idea is feeling the need to ask. This is one of those decisions writers need to make on their own. She's your character, no one else's.

    Good luck.
     
    Some_Bloke and GuardianWynn like this.
  7. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,602
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    She's asking because her mother questioned the character choice. When someone gives critique, you either ignore it because you know it's wrong, change it because you know it's right, or get other opinions. I see no problem with the question.

    A quick Google search finds blondes are common in Northern Germany, I see no issue with that.

    As for the problem with the character triggering readers' stereotypes, it's something you need to consider. When we describe a character, the reader doesn't come to the book with an empty slate. They come with their lifetime experiences reading is filtered through.

    I agree you need to ask the question, why is this the character? The answer might be a vague gut feeling or a purposeful rationale. After the choice you need to consider the reader's stereotypes because, as I noted, the reader adds these to the description they read.

    I've have a slave class/illegal immigrant population in my story. I still haven't decided for certain how I am going to indicate these people's social status. They have to be recognizable as belonging to that social class. But I don't want to use an ethnic group because readers have a lot of preexisting thoughts in their heads such ethnic characters are filtered through.

    On the other hand, I'm concerned about making everyone 'white' because I'm attracted to books that make character choices that defy the typical covert racism — making blacks the good guys guys, whites the bad guys, giving beautiful women something other than caucasian features and so on.

    I haven't yet settled on how I'm going to treat the social class visual identification.

    If you decide to use the character, you need to consider those stereotypes in your descriptions, either playing on them or overcompensating for them to end up with the reader seeing the character as you want her to be.


    As a side note, traveling by train in Germany I recall how odd "achtung" sounded over the speakers. I have no doubt any American who is old enough has an embedded reaction to that announcement from watching all the WWII movies that were prevalent a few decades ago.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  8. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,957
    Likes Received:
    5,486
    It occurs to me that it may be relevant that the person objecting is of an older generation. I would guess that the older a person is, the more likely they are to associate Germans with WWII.
     
  9. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,600
    Likes Received:
    5,083
    I wrote a futuristic novel in which all the 'commoners' had been 'interbreeding' for generations, all races meeting and mating in a natural way until they were all mixed ethnicity. (I think scifi movies with racially distinct casts are totally depressing, because they suggest that our prejudices have survived to the point that we're still all marrying within our own races way into the future). So almost everyone in my story is mid-brown, without any racially distinct features. But then the aristocracy HAVE been tracing their bloodlines and marrying only the 'right' sort of people, so they still echo current racial divides. Racial 'purity' is what they value, but it doesn't really matter what race.

    So a distinctly 'sub-Saharan African' appearance would have the same prestige as a pure 'South East Asian" or "Northern European" look. It was fun to write.

    Just an idea.
     
  10. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,602
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Thanks @BayView. It's an interesting idea but doesn't fit the story I'm writing. The class divides in my story are economic. And I need the classes to be identifiable on sight. It's easy to go with clothing. But I have a lower class person who is treated poorly in certain locations when she is there with some upper class persons, and if it was just clothing, nothing stops her from dressing differently in this scene.

    I have some ideas, so I'll figure it out. But getting back to this thread, at the moment I'm leaving some parts of the character descriptions to the readers' imagination.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,957
    Likes Received:
    5,486
    What if it were illegal for her to dress to the level of the upper class persons? Sumptuary laws have existed for that purpose.

    (If she's posing as an upper class person, and thus willing to break those laws, that won't help.)

    Edited to add: The class differentiators could go beyond clothes, making it difficult to pose as a different class. For example, in Babylon 5 the high-ranked Centauri men wore an extra tall crest of hair, while the Centauri women shaved their heads. Hair, tattoos, decorative scarring, other permanent body decoration could be class differentiators.

    Edited to add other permanent physical differentiators: Bound feet. Neck rings.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2014
    GingerCoffee likes this.
  12. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,602
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    You just gave me an idea, thanks. I'm going to think about something like a shaved head or some other physical mark made on people could work.
     
  13. lustrousonion
    Offline

    lustrousonion Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2014
    Messages:
    302
    Likes Received:
    132
    Location:
    Germany
    If she's a robot, is she really German? Or would it be more correct to say she was created by Germans? Then the question becomes why the creators wanted her to be blonde/tall/short/thin/strong/etc. What were their reasons?
     
    plothog and BayView like this.
  14. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    But there are certain aspects of the creation that cannot and should not be co-opted by anyone else. One of the things a writer must have if (s)he is going to be successful is the belief in one's own essential creations - the characters, the story being told, the points being made. Asking for validation, especially from a parent by a young person, is a very good way to kill that creativity before it can get going. The absolute manner in which the "critique" was given in this case underlines my point.
     
    Fitzroy Zeph and chicagoliz like this.
  15. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I think you have to go ahead and write the story as you want to write it. Afterwards, you can assess whether any potential prejudice or stereotype of Germans is interfering with the story, or is adding something "bad" that is more weighty than the "good" that it adds, as far as characterization or setting, etc.

    It's hard when you get these sorts of criticisms while in the midst of writing the story. I think you need to write the whole thing to see just how important it ends up, and then you can assess from there.
     
    GingerCoffee likes this.
  16. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,528
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    As a thought, wouldn't it be the robot creators/programmers that would be the 'culprits' if she were to be mistaken for a Nazi? Blonde German woman doesn't = Nazi. However, her actions and views portrayed might as well.

    I just finished listening to a novel (Watch on the Rhine) by John Ringo and Tom Kratman. It's part of the Posleen War Series. In that, Germany was so desperate for soldiers they used the galactic's (alien) rejuvenation technology to bring back soldiers of the old SS, for various reasons. It added a uniqueness to the storyline. But that was intentional on the authors' part, and it worked well enough. Your storyline seems to have absolutely nothing to do with it (Nazi/Fascism).

    Might a few potential readers consider what your mother did? Maybe...probably. But you could pick any nationality--Russian, French, American, Jamaican, Japanese, Chinese, South African, Egyptian, Saudi, etc. combined with a cosmetic 'look' for the robot, and some potential readers could come away with a false notion or stereotype.
     
  17. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Ouch! To me, "Watch On the Rhine" is a taut early-WW-II era film with Bette Davis, Paul Henreid and Claude Rains.
     
  18. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,602
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    And you define these 'certain aspects' how?

    When critics suggest I tell a different story, I usually reject that critique. I think that is a lesson one needs to learn to be able to critique other writers' work: don't suggest the writer change the story.

    I don't read in that description of the problem, anything about changing the story. I just read a concern by one reader/critic that a German general is going to bring a certain image to the reader's mind. I don't see that exploring how other readers view her character is going to stifle her creativity.

    In other words, I simply don't agree that needing to ask is a problem.

    @chicagoliz has the right idea when she says, "I think you need to write the whole thing to see just how important it ends up, and then you can assess from there."

    Should she keep the character as is or not is a false dichotomy. I'll repeat my comment:
    If you decide to use the character, you need to consider those stereotypes in your descriptions, either playing on them or overcompensating for them to end up with the reader seeing the character as you want her to be.​
     
  19. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,564
    Likes Received:
    3,561
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    I thought Germany was just voted the best or nicest country in the world or something, so perhaps you can write a blonde German military officer without people immediately thinking "nazis!" ;).

    If it feels right that this is how the character must be, then that's how you write her. She's really someone else's creation in the story anyway, so if it makes sense to you that's how her creators made her, then go for it.
     
  20. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    See the snippet of mine that you quoted.


    That's fine. But not every critic will have seen this fine, if incomplete, advice. So, I always advise novice writers to have enough confidence in their own writing - be it the story, the characters or the theme - not to seek validation but to simply write it out. All of it.
     
  21. Auratus
    Offline

    Auratus Member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2014
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Bangkok, Thailand
    I often associate blond white woman with Swedish people. If you think it's necessary to change the nationality. I would suggest changing her to Swedish instead. :) Rewire her birthplace to Sweden and then let her raise to EU's and World's military or whatever you make her be.
     
  22. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,602
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    If those criteria were clear, I wouldn't has asked. But that's fine, Ed, I'm not trying to turn this into a spat. You see the question one way, I see it another.

    I needed a lot of help when I was a new writer. So I'm not sure why you think taking a character critique seriously would lead to stifling creativity.

    And herein lies our different POVs of the OP question. You see it as a lack of confidence, I see as as exploring a critique further.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  23. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    How about an accent? In England, the class divide is very much based on your accent. I speak with a perfect English accent and thus on the whole, I'm accepted as fully British and by my circle of friends, even to the point of being English, despite my Chinese looks. But someone with a Cockney accent, northern accent, Brummie accent, Liverpool accent, working class accent, Scottish accent, Welsh accent, Indian accent - all those would immediately trigger some sorta cultural joke, assuming the person isn't within earshot. Won't matter that you're white and more English than me, you'll likely get made fun of far more than I would.
     
  24. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Actually, I agree with you on the OP. I see the original request for critique as the lack of confidence, which is why I answered the OP as I did.
     
  25. Fitzroy Zeph
    Offline

    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2013
    Messages:
    747
    Likes Received:
    269
    Location:
    Canada
    I'm confused. If someone askes for a critique it is because they lack confidence?
     

Share This Page