1. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Xenophobic Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Gallowglass, Nov 14, 2012.

    I'm writing a book set in Britain under occupation by combined European forces following a botched uprising by disaffected soldiers. One of the main characters is one of those disaffected soldiers, and also happens to be one of the most xenophobic S.O.Bs I've written about (and that's saying something). It's all necessary and relevant, of course: the rebel army he used to be a part of and the insurgency he leads now aren't the most open-minded people on earth (even though they're no extreme - institutionally a little worse than a drunken pub philosopher), and a central crux of the book is the bitter differences in worldview between him and his formerly-estranged brother that hamper their relationship and the relationships of everyone around them.

    Trouble is, people today have the (imo annoying) habit of screaming blue murder as soon as race is brought into the equation, and was wondering how far it would be feasible to take the character's racism in the book?
     
  2. steve119
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    steve119 Senior Member

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    it should b fine as long as it is in context of the story. and being British I have to shamefully admit we are one of the most Xenophobic of people and there is a difference between xenophobia and racism as xenophobia can be applied to people who are the same race as the xenophobe look at how we Brits sometimes talk about the French just because of wars that happened hundreds of years ago
     
  3. Pinkjelly
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    Pinkjelly New Member

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    I have to agree with steve119, British people are extremely xenophobic, unfortunately. If you want to make it realistic then you probably need to exaggerate. Even though I live in the centre of Birmingham (probably the most multicultural city in England) I still often hear disgusting comments made and shouted at foreign people. There are still divides in schools and colleges between races, ie, my step brother who is still at college recently told me that during lunch the different races sit at different tables and hardly interact. There is still the physical fighting between British people and foreigners, take the EDL for example.
     
  4. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well this book is the flipside to all that (it's partially a reaction to how overly PC and anti-British society has got, but there's no way I'm going into that here) so I guess the character's chipped shoulder is relevant. He has enough opposition in the book, so I guess if any journalist or publisher takes offence they can shove it. Thank you both.
     
  5. BritInFrance
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    BritInFrance Active Member

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    Surely, it depends how it reads? There are plenty examples of anti-heros in books and films. People who do and say the most horrendous things, and (if it done right) as a reader you are stuck between wanting the guy to get caught/get what is due to him or get away with it and keep doing the bad stuff. Does your MC learn anything, by the end, or does he become more bitter and twisted?

    Yes, us Brits can be xenophobic, but it is not confined to the British Isles. Look at what is happening in Greece, right now, and don't get me started on the French National Front. Our politicians(and we jump on the bandwagon) like to blame outsiders for our woes, it is easier than blaming ourselves.
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    This is something that comes up often on these forums. Polemic writing (and I assume you mean for this to be polemic) by its very nature is meant to inflame. So, why even ask the question? If you receive the answer, overwhelmingly, "Oh, no, you can't do that!" will you then temper your character's attitudes? Somehow, I doubt that.
     
  7. svartalfheim
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    svartalfheim Member

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    To me personally, a books a book. If a characters extremely xenophobic so be it, its the character. I would presume the majority of readers would be the same? THis being said the world is turning highly sensitive, so balance it, enough to make it obvious that he is but nothing that's going to make their eyes melt from the horror of it all. People don't like to admit the fact they dont like other people. They sure as hell wouldnt like to read about it. even if they did secretly agree, I'm from birmingham as well and honestly I've heard and seen some nasty things said to other people just because of the heritage they have.
     
  8. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    If you work something sympathic into the character, people might not agree with his view but they'll see him as a human being and
    therefore not as a type or mouthpiece. It always annoys me when you can see through a writers politics when he/she makes every
    character opposite his/her political views, an idiot, fool or unattractive and everyone on his/her side a paragon.
     
  9. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    This. One work of mine that's on the back-burner right now features an older Texan who has a complex set of characteristics ... including the fact that like most of his generation, he's racist. People are complex, and flawed. Mahatma Ghandi was a wife-beater, MLK was an adulterer.
     
  10. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Active Member

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    Racism exists and there's no point pretending it doesn't. If your character is racist, then he's racist. It's impossible to touch on this subject without people being offended but that doesn't make it any less real. People were/are offended by Salman Rushdie but he still told his story and I hate to think of all the stories out there we've been denied because people haven't wanted to offend. I think there's a great difficulty in writing unlikable characters and sustaining them across a novel. It's an even greater task to write one that has beliefs that conflict with mainstream values. There's a difference between forcing a character to be unlikable by making him racist and having a racist character who is unlikable (hope my meaning here is clear.)

    I think that your choice to share stories from different sides of the spectrum and exploring the character's strained relationship is a good way of making sure you're striking a balance that readers can appreciate.
     
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I always thought that was Norman Lear's great achievement in creating the character of Archie Bunker.
     
  12. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    Look at Alex Haley's novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family, that deals with alot of race issues and has racist characters in it. But without them there would be no real story. I think the mistake people make sometimes is instead of the character sounding racist the author does. As long as you stay clear of that pit fall you should be ok. :)
     

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