...because nobody wants to come across as being racist, right? Of course not. But in this modern era of everyone from the news media, to overly-sensitive civil liberties groups, to middle school girls on Tumblr masquerading as "social justice warriors", good luck trying to satisfy anyone in this world of forced political correctness. But not everyone in your story is going to be the same race - because if they were, that would also make you look racist. But you can't directly state it (in most cases, anyway - as with anything, there are exceptions) because then you can be accused of "singling out" a character on basis of race. It's such a sensitive subject, one so taboo and forbidden that it just seems there's no way to win. This is where your writing skills are truly put to the test. In order to convey an aspect such as race, you must get creative. Pick your words carefully. I'm no expert in this field by any means, but here are a few little tips and tricks I've discovered. 1. What's In a Name? Names, names, names, names, NAMES! Character names (especially surnames) are probably the most effective tool a writer can use to convey multiple aspects about a character. Learn about names, and know where they come from. Names can be used to not only convey race, but also a more specific heritage from a specific region - which, often times, comes full-circle back to race. - For example, a character in my current book is named David Ferguson. "Ferguson" is a well-known Irish name. Ferguson = Irish = White. - If you have an Asian character and you want the reader to know said character is Asian, don't give him an ambiguous name like "Mark Price" - try "Mark Tanaka" or "Mark Watanabe". - Likewise, most readers will recognise that "Abdul Hafiz" is likely an Arab, "Rohan Kumar" is probably Indian, "Vasili Andreyev" might be Russian, "Hector Batista" is most likely Hispanic, etc. - Black characters, on the other hand, are a bit tricky, especially as most blacks in Europe and North America had traditional European surnames slapped onto them, a practise which dates back to the days of slavery. One common black naming convention is a Biblical name + European surname. "Michael Jackson" is a great example of this. However, there are some distinctly "black" surnames, and a plethora of given names that you can use. Names of Muslim and French origin are fairly common - "Jamal" and Malik" being examples of the former, while "Andre" and "Antoine" (or its alternate spelling "Antwan") being examples of the latter. As for black surnames, some distinct-yet-common-enough ones include Atkins, O'Neal, Davenport, Lynch, Dawkins (or Hawkins), Blackwell, Blackman (gee, I wonder how that one originated! :b), Addison, Cleveland, King, Carter, Brown... the list goes on. 2. Language and Vernacular: This is another thing you can use to tell people apart. People talk differently depending on where they are from, and it's not uncommon for these sorts of speaking patterns to be passed on through generations, even after emigrating elsewhere. Wikipedia is full of articles regarding different speech patterns of different regions and cultures, complete with pronunciation quirks, specific terms, slang, etc. Use such resources to your advantage, and try to write your characters' dialogue accordingly (to the best of your ability - nobody's perfect). 3. Stereotypes Aren't Bad, As Long As You Avoid the Bad Ones: We tend to look away and go silent whenever the word "stereotype" is mentioned, as we've been conditioned to believe that ALL stereotypes are inherently bad. They aren't, not necessarily. Just avoid the negative ones that are meant to target and offend people - "whites can't jump", "blacks can't swim", these are examples of the BAD kind of stereotype. The kind of stereotypes I'm talking about tend to more or less go along with the "Language and Vernacular" section above. - Example: "This is good party... but, perhaps better if your friend not act like drunkard," he laughed. What you can infer: The omission of certain words is typical of the stereotypical "broken English" supposedly spoken by those of heavy Eastern European/Caucasian descent - likely Russian, or Ukrainian. Couple this with the "Names" section above - what if this character's name were Ivan, or Victor? Take this excerpt from my book for an example of how all three of these methods, along with a single passive adjective, can be used to paint a picture of a character without directly stating his race: Those are only a small handful of the methods I've uncovered in dealing with race and ethnicity in writing. Of course, none of these are fool-proof, and there's virtually no way to escape criticism and make everyone happy, but at least you can try. What are some other methods you've used to convey race? Do you have any ideas you can add? Feel free to discuss and expand this list with your own tips!