1. PlotDeviceManager
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    PlotDeviceManager Member

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    Portraying Cultural Conflict

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by PlotDeviceManager, May 15, 2013.

    In my novel, I'm trying to do things the "negative space" way, as my favorite English teacher described it. You don't describe the way things are, you let the actions and dialogue of the characters show it. (Yeah, I know that's technically the way it's supposed to go, but come on; we've all read Tolkien.) I am trying to show certain cultural conflicts this way, specifically:

    1.) The "racial" conflict of several species in a single world (humans vs. other sentient creatures kind of thing)

    2.) Religious vs. secular (in the sense that the religion is based on prophecies that few believe but are actually completely correct)

    3.) A little harder to describe but here it is - "aliens from other worlds" vs. "natives", but in a high fantasy context NOT a sci-fi one.

    Any suggestions?

    P.S. I apologize if this doesn't make much sense. I'm just sort of trying to initiate dialogue about showing, not telling in a cultural sense, i.e. the way characters of the novel act and speak and treat each other based on their belief systems and geography.
     
  2. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I must be really thick today 'cause I'm not sure what kinds of suggestions you want. Like how you could show conflict between the representatives of different groups?

    Well, some characters can be persecuted by their appearance or banned from certain places on some pretense, maybe they can't wear the stuff they wanna wear. Like a Sikh bus driver can't wear a turban in Finland because passengers couldn't tell for sure if he's a bus driver because all bus drivers must wear the same uniform. Or no burkhas in government buildings in France. No shorts or string tops in Orthodox churches in Greece. Stuff like that.

    You can come up with racial or religious slurs (or slurs based on the species).

    I've never heard the term "negative space" before. Interesting.
     
  3. adampjr
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    adampjr Member

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    I would suggest coming into contact with other cultures that you hven't experienced before and take not of your feelings and how people respond to you.
    Ie, go to an Arab restaurant if you can, or visit a church or religious service for a religion or sect you don't know very much about.
     
  4. PlotDeviceManager
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    PlotDeviceManager Member

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    KaTrain: My English teacher called it the "negative space" way of writing. My art teacher was the one who made me understand it though. Negative space in a picture is the shape of the "space" around an object. An artist must draw this empty space the way the would draw an actual object. Ever seen the Two faces Make A Vase illusion? Its sort of like that. Yeah . . . my teachers are way better spoken than I am, but once I thought about it, it was just a neat way of saying "show don't tell". And it really helped me understand that concept as well.

    I hope that makes it clearer. I don't think it does . . .
     
  5. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    Come and live in Antwerp for a while! We have a lot of migrants and that causes all sort of tensions.
    What I find the most annoying about those people (I am not a racist!) is the fact that some of them don't even bother to adapt to our society. They don't bother to learn the language or some of those men don't understand that women are equal to men!
    I admire the people who do adept and try to learn the language.

    I have to admit that I sometimes dislike living around so much migrants. Sometimes when I take the bus or the tram, I feel like I'm on a holiday because there are so many migrants on it...
     
  6. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I must be thicker

    Make that thickerer....
     
  7. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you mean, like, a guy from New York goes West, and when he a greets a woman there at the front desk, she smiles, he does not. She says "How are you today?" He says, "I need this..."

    Then, when he's out having dinner with a family, they all close their eyes and join hands in prayer, and he sits there uncomfortably with his eyes wide open and stomach growling.

    You would do this instead of saying, "the guy from New York was a fast paced, business minded, agnostic, and the people out west were the opposite."

    If this is what you mean, that's just showing vs telling.
     
  8. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    In terms of the actual points you want to make in your story, for the love of god, don't riddle your writing with cryptic facial descriptions in an attempt to be subtle. If you want to show racial and or cultural conflict, and are that against telling, I suggest you show the conflict in events. Like, John invites Girglymthiash to sit at the table, and one of the big mouthed humans asks John what the hell is he thinking.
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Read E. M. Forster's "A Passage to India". It's the best example of this kind of thing I've seen.
     
  10. PlotDeviceManager
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    PlotDeviceManager Member

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    YES! That is exactly what I mean.
     
  11. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    Sounds like Minimalism, but for the most part, it's their way of saying "Show,don't tell."
     
  12. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Foreigners in any society are sometimes refugees from the regions that were bombed by the armies of the very countries where they escaped to (for example, an Iraqi refugee in Turkey, or in Belgium, or Germany, NATO being responsible for the destruction of Iraq).
    These people will be living in a paradox of being angry at the enemy of their country, but be forced to integrate into the enemy society, because their primary society has been destroyed by war. These people often refuse to integrate, continue reading papers and watching tv in their own language, but are perceived by a domestic population as being somehow "ungrateful". Ungrateful for what? Your army destroying my country illegally? It's the way a lot of them see it, especially older generation who lost everything.
    Some of these people were doctors, lawyers, professors, who are now treated as scum (uneducated, primitive, physically different etc) and have to work as street cleaners or hospital janitors in order to feed their families. In my experience, many western economies are wholeheartedly exploiting the refugee population to do menial jobs that their own population refuses to do.
    Propaganda around immigrants and refugees can be very intense and real people who have nowhere to go, have to live out their lives, and raise children, in this kind of hostile environment.
    This can be a good conflict to describe, as the basis for interracial conflicts and differences in your novel.
     
  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    "Then, when he's out having dinner with a family, they all close their eyes and join hands in prayer, and he sits there uncomfortably with his eyes wide open and stomach growling."

    That's how I would write it. I'd write what happens.
     
  14. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    You could find prime examples of all these things just by going through history and even in today's society.
     
  15. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Is there a question wrapped up in all this? What suggestions? It's just "show, don't tell", which most good writing should do anyway. You've given us 3 scenarios, all very broad ones, and all very different. We can't give suggestions without basically thinking up our own premise, story and character and then putting them into action for you to see - and that is the work of the writer, not the advisers.

    Best of luck though. Your third point reminds me of Avatar, which feels like high fantasy - the only exception is the space element but essentially everything else is like high fantasy.
     

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