1. MoFoMi

    MoFoMi New Member

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    Being Diverse? Desperate for Help.

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by MoFoMi, Nov 30, 2020.

    I'm writing a fantasy and it has a huge (absolutely extra) amount of characters and I want them to be incredibly diverse. But not just for show. I want to be able to write these characters in the best way that I can. The only issue is that I have almost no experience with different cultures.

    I'm white and I come from a super southern area with almost no diversity at all. I don't want to be offensive or make them seem like minority bait. I'm almost completely sure that I'm being a tad bit overdramatic about it.

    Some of my questions are-
    How to express minorities in a world that is 100% fantasy and original (all the places are made up and slightly magical. I'm creating the cultures myself). Can I still express their differences in the way I find in our world?

    What are some good resources for understanding and writing racism? And how do I write it from a view of traitorism instead of their color/culture?

    What exactly makes a hopefully diverse character a token character instead?

    Do I sound overdramatic?

    Is there such a thing as too diverse? I don't think so. But maybe it can seem like I'm overdoing it?





    This isn't to be taken too seriously. I do want help but maybe I'm just stressing out because I've never written something like this and I have no idea about it. I don't want to seem careless. It's a cast of around 20, three worlds, and magick.
     
  2. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    In fantasy you can do anything you want. You can express diversity in the same way as found in our world, or in completely different ways. Diversity can be reflected in skin colour, race, religion - or whether they have wings or not, hair colour, eye colour, the year in which they were born, whether they have three nipples or four, etc. etc. etc.

    As for racism, there are lots of resources. Read, for example, To Kill A Mockingbird, or search for some of the stories around about BLM, or the Jim Crow laws, apartheid, Japanese-American internment, the Nuremberg Laws and so forth. There are various papers on the subject that a Google search will quickly yield.

    A token character is one who is there for the sake of being a diverse character, who plays little or no significant part in the story - someone who's there so the author can say "I have a minority character". If you take the character out, the story more or less remains the same. Finn from the new Star Wars movies pretty much falls into this category.
     
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  3. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber Contributor Contributor

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    You're making the minorities up so I don't know who would be offended by it.
     
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  4. MoFoMi

    MoFoMi New Member

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    So what if they're a minor character and they're diverse? Or is it only token if they're only point in the story is to be diverse and waved around as a diverse card?
     
  5. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    If diversity and issues around race don't affect your real life, I'm not so sure you grasp the reasons diversity is important. Therefore your reasons for wanting to do this don't seem to make much sense since you stated, "I've never written something like this and I have no idea about it. I don't want to seem careless." Well, most likely it will seem careless writing about diversity and racism. That's not to be mean or say anything about you as a person or writer; it's just that you don't have to make those issues part of your story. You can write about anything you want, of course, but it helps to have a firm grasp on our topics whether they be real-world based or set in fantasy lands.
     
  6. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    In my recent fantasy i have a guy with green skin, a guy with black skin, these two are both gay and lovers, a man who's sworn to the gods to remain a virgin, a man with a speech impediment, a woman with silver hair who is also a shapeshifter and enjoys sex in wolf form, and a talking tree who is hermaphrodite. Not to mention sundry trolls, goblins, fae, and a race of seven foot high giants with red skin.

    I didn't think once about diversity or tokensim while writing this lot, i thought only about creating good characters to populate an interesting plot
     
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  7. Roberta Parsnip

    Roberta Parsnip New Member

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    You're over thinking this. Make your characters a rainbow of people because a rainbow of people are beautiful. Make them diverse because their individual cultures and experiences will make them different. Don't worry about the naysayers who have their own ideas of how to do "diversity." Let me give you a secret. Most the people who make the "rules" of how diversity should be done are other writers who want to keep the competition out. They don't care about minorities. They're selfish, jealous people.
     
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  8. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    I am Groot.
     
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  9. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    It occurs to me that in most fantasy I read, the characters' skin colour is almost never mentioned, unless it's something strange like gold skin.

    Readers tend to assume characters are white, but there's no particular reason why that should be the case in a fantasy world. It reflects a bias on the part of the readers, not the writer.
     
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  10. montecarlo

    montecarlo Active Member

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    Pedant alert: aren't most trees hermaphroditic?

    I'm going to suggest that you, as a reader, assume the characters are white (as do I, seeing as I'm white and grew up in a very white suburb, it's only natural). I don't think it would be appropriate the generalize that to all readers.

    One of the things I noticed in a recent book with an ensemble cast of well over 10 memorable characters. Two of the characters were described as black, but no characters were described as white. I think that's a reflection on the writer.

    I'm not one to get hung up on all the internalized racism stuff. I doubt the author is racist, and I really don't have a problem with how he wrote it. Just some food for thought.

    - MC
     
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  11. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    I do think many readers (not all) will assume characters are white unless otherwise stated. Discussing fantasy movies on an international forum, many find it a surprise that a certain character is depicted as not white. In fairness, I was talking about it with a mainly European/North American audience but even those from Asia tend to assume it, I find.

    And that's simply a reflection of how most people have been conditioned to think about fantasy. There is no reason, for example (at least from memory), that Bilbo, Boromir or Aragorn couldn't be black, but that's not how they were portrayed. It's not racism, that's not what I was getting at.

    And part of the reason for that is that traditional fantasy has previously been set in pseudo-medieval European worlds, so it's a perfectly natural assumption. But my point is that there is no reason why anyone should make that assumption, other than what people have been used to.

    But yes, when I write fantasy, I usually think of my characters as "white" (or more commonly, a sort of brownish, seeing as my fantasy worlds usually have good weather) unless there's a reason for them to otherwise be. But IMO, the colour of their skin is not important to who they are.
     
  12. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    yes and no depending on the species, however even those that are, aren't usually self fertile, excepting grafted or engineered fruit trees... they also don't generally talk or run around on plodule like roots exuding clouds of taxine gas when threatened
     
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  13. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Senior Member

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    Skin colour in fantasy does not correlate with ethnic history in reality (unless to also create similar ethnic history in the fantasy). This is something that a portion of your readers will never be able to understand. Honestly, I don't think it's a portion worth catering to. If you're over-thinking it, it probably won't turn out well either. I suspect that's why characters get accused of being 'token' in the first place: the writer, infected with pretense, refines them into superficial oatmeal.

    IMO, the best thing you can do as an artist is write whatever characters you want, with whatever varying features you want, and make them as deep or as shallow as the narrative calls for.
     
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  14. Lazaares

    Lazaares Senior Member

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    I feel like this is a paradox, especially with the example of the above postings; all about skin colour whereas it's the least influential part of diversity when it comes to fantasy.

    Putting a black and a white character next to each other will result in a show of diversity but little else. Tokenism.

    Putting a pragmatist and a idealist character next to each other will give you a conflict that echoes through your whole narrative. Diversity driving narrative.

    Naturally, you can swap looks around as soon as you get the 2nd point down fine. It's even better if you stray from "usual cultural associations". For the love of whatever-is-above, don't give your militaristic evil empire German names and don't give your civilized benevolent barbarians dreadlocks. Way overdone and awkward.

    The first step is to understand the underlying differences in culture. Chinese culture doesn't feel foreign to Europeans because people have different skin or hair colour. It's because Chinese culture developed parallel to European with a different perspective and emphasis on a specific kind of honour, tradition and community that often contradicts European values. This in turn led to different perspectives on life, service, death, unity, etc.

    After that, add a fair dose of individualism. The more individualistic a culture is, the more likely that a member will deviate from the "common ground" and have radical views. Also remember the 80-20 rule. Unless your setting specifically involves characters that should be politically vocal and active, you should find that the vast majority of people are neutral, inactive and reclusive about their politics, religion, etc. The silent majority, y'know. Don't end up with a soap-box cast where every other character spews a different subreddit's ideology.

    The world wide web is a brilliant resource to communicate with people from all over the globe. It has taught me more about different perspectives than anything else in life. You have to, however, push yourself out of your comfort zone and engage communities and groups you wouldn't normally interact with.
     

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