1. pensmightierthanthesword

    pensmightierthanthesword Member

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    I'm Writing a Diverse Character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by pensmightierthanthesword, Jan 25, 2017.

    I'm new here so I thought I'd make my first thread about a character I'm writing and hopefully get some constructive feedback. I'm currently writing a gay black androgynist male hero. I'm gay, androgynist, and male, but I'm not black, so I want to know from black readers what tropes aimed at black people are you tired of seeing in entertainment? I want your advice on how to write this character. Let me discuss my MC, briefly.

    I could write him as a white character (like myself), but I've been reading so many things about how gay African Americans are underrepresented in entertainment and in the gay community, which troubles me because as traditionally marginalized communities we should have each other's backs. I want to discuss the issues that face my hero when it comes to being gay, black, and suffering from mental health issues. I know how that last part sounds and let me say that I suffer from mental illness, myself, so I want to incorporate mental health into my character. I've read that black people who suffer mental health issues are underrepresented in our society and therefore don't receive the treatment they deserve. I'd like to change that with my writing. I want to see people get better from all walks of life and be viewed without stigma.

    I don't want to vilify my MC for having a mental illness because I feel that would be both racist and sanist. I want him to be a complex individual with flaws but he's the hero so he rises up and fights the bad guy. I want him to be likable and the person you root for in the end. I want to write him as forthright, but not believing in himself at first, and finding out that he is stronger than he thinks. I may make a mistake here and there in writing his character, but I want to figure out those mistakes before I write him so I can avoid those mistakes and be accurate.

    I'm sorry for being long winded. I get passionate about diversity in entertainment because it's something I want to see more of, done right. If you want to do something right you got to do it yourself. I hope I haven't offended anyone with this thread. If I come off naive about different issues facing other groups I am naive and I'm sorry. I want to put myself in other people's shoes. Please, go easy on me in the comments. Constructive feedback would help me immensely and please don't reply with, "Why does the character have to be gay, black, and androgynist?!" I know why a lot of people say that and it's because they want to keep the status quo, which is stupid. Asking why a character has to be diverse is an irrational knee jerk reaction and I usually don't reply to irrational knee jerk reactions.
     
  2. PilotMobius

    PilotMobius Active Member

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    How does one "make a mistake" when writing a character to be "accurate"? Accurate to whom?
     
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  3. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    Not black, but writing with color is one of my favorite resources and it might help you out.
     
  4. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    That's a lot of ground you're trying to cover with this character. Of course, it can be done. I would really try to focus on what this character's story is and not just building a character. The story can be just as much part of this literary activism as much if not more so than showing diversity through a character. But you've got to actually write for any of it to matter. I don't really understand what you are waiting for?
     
  5. pensmightierthanthesword

    pensmightierthanthesword Member

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    To my readers, of course.

    I personally love writing with colors Tumblr page. It's a great resource.

    I'm a plotter so I plan out my stories, otherwise, if I pantser my story I'll be completely lost and give up. Some people can pantser and I've heard it's good for writers to practice both but if I don't plan my characters, settings, and map out my stories timeline I'm lost. I usually know my beginning and my ending and not how to get there, and if it's written down it's concrete and I won't be lost. It takes longer to plan out my stories but it usually helps me when I sit down to write.

    I have an underlining message in my story and ideas that I am bouncing around. I know what my story is about and what I want to say. I usually get an idea and what that idea means to me and then I go from there.
     
  6. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    Unless he's an activist of some kind he won't be thinking much about how marginalized he is. I' m not sure what you're asking for to be honest. It's as if you think him being black or gay restricts you to a set of traits or behaviours you need to be accurate to. Which isn't the case. Only the mentally illness requires you to be accurate to it's expression and even then there's alot of variance in how OCD or Psychosis etc manifests.
     
  7. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributor Contributor

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    You didn't actually give any plot details. So hero, like neighborhood watch? Super powers(personal fav!). If we don't know his goal, there is very little anyone can do in assuming how he would face and react to those challenges.

    I love your desire to do it yourself, but I see some potential pitfalls in your reasoning again. It might help you to not emphysis on it too much. I mean people with all those conditions are also just people right? Focusing on what makes us the same instead of different can go a long way.

    Though, perhaps I am reading too much into it. But it sounded like ya only wanted black people advice? Was this correct?
     
  8. pensmightierthanthesword

    pensmightierthanthesword Member

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    Not at all. I don't want to make my character one dimensional or a specific set of traits. He does have strengths and weaknesses, but I don't want to use unrealistic stereotypes by accident. I could have used a better term than accurate. Maybe original is a better term. I don't know, honestly. I'm sorry. I miscommunicated.

    I really want to know what types of outdated tropes would people in the African American community like to see changed. What types of storytelling microaggressive tropes are harmful or degrading to the African American community so I don't subconsciously use them? Anybody can be a villain or a hero regardless of skin color or sexuality in my fictional universe As a gay person, I know I wouldn't want to see a gay character with the same overused traits, so I'm trying to avoid making that mistake. I see the same traits in entertainment and I want to change it, not continue it in any way.

    As for my character realizing how marginalized he is. It's not something he thinks about 24/7 but acknowledges. I agree, I know I've thought about microaggressions and flat out discrimination made towards me and my sexuality and gender identity, but I don't think about it all the time. My MC does experience some microaggressions, but that is not the premise of my story. I don't really talk about my story plots in too much detail with others. I like keeping it a secret, but the characters race, sexuality, and identity is not the focus of the story. It's only a chunk of a much larger concept.
     
  9. pensmightierthanthesword

    pensmightierthanthesword Member

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    I can see where I'm wrong in this thread and in my questioning. I made assumptions without even realizing I was doing so. If I've offended anyone I'm sorry. It was not my intention to offend others, only to be more understanding as a writer and as a person. My intentions are good, but I'm a dolt. :bigfrown:
     
  10. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributor Contributor

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    Nah, your fine. You don't need to be sorry. No one is perfect. I assume me and everyone else here, we sought to help you grow, no get an apology. Ya know?
     
  11. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    Microaggressions do not concern me and here's why. It makes writing diverse characters like treading a field of eggshells and limits creativity. It contributes to the one dimensionality of minority characters. Just don't have them act like a chicken in their underwear (Lethal weapon 4) or talk like Jar Jar Binks and you'll be fine.
     
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  12. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Hear, hear! Agreed in full. The trend of concern over "microagressions" is ridiculous. I understand why the OP asks, given the current climate of hypersensitivity, but I'm glad I'm not the only person who can check off a few "diversity boxes" who feels this way.

    A statement sure to make me audibly eyeroll is "I love gay people! They're the best!"

    Really?

    I'm gay and I know lots of other gay people. Some of them are total assholes. We're just people. We're the products of our individual histories. Idealizing my gayness into some unattainable wonderfulness on a pedestal is just as problematic to me as depicting me in any other wildly stereotypical way. Again, @pensmighterthanthesword, I understand why you ask and why you're concerned, but if you're going to write "me" or any other person whom we currently engage with the term "diverse", then engage me as a person, as the sum of my history. Trust me when I say that my history contains shitty parts and parts I would rather erase and hide from everyone, just like anyone else.
     
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  13. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Yep that

    Everyone is different and generalisation about any group gay/straight , black/white, rich/poor, disabled or not is going to be flawed whether that generalisation is good or bad, and one individual factor does not define a person.

    my guess would be that most of the people who say "oh gays are wonderful people" a) don't know many homosexuals, and b) would be secretly appalled if their son or daughter came out
     
  14. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    It seems to me that part of the work here would be to find out how this character's experiences with society would be affected by the fact that he's black.

    Shifting to something that I know, there are a variety of areas where where being a woman makes my experience of society different. My reaction to those experiences depends on me and my personality. On the other hand, my personality to some extent was driven by those experiences growing up.

    So it seems to me that it would be useful to figure out what sort of society this character grew up in. To set broad categories, active racism perhaps with a risk of violence, versus a society that sees itself as racism-free but still probably has (since the term came up) many micro-aggressions and a fair bit of subtle racism.

    That would probably require a lot of research and maybe some knowledgeable beta readers.
     
  15. pensmightierthanthesword

    pensmightierthanthesword Member

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    I mean my story (which I'd love to talk about in finer detail but I don't feel comfortable doing) deals with the struggles of this character. This character has flaws and weaknesses. I was talking to someone yesterday and I said there are bad people and good people in any community, whether they are Democrat, Liberal, Christian, Atheist, gay, straight, black, white, and so on. I've added black villains into the mix of this story (there could be some gay villains too) so that the villains are just as diverse as the heroes so I was never saying gays and black people are all wonderful people. I should have worded myself better and explained myself more.

    I'm gay and I've seen some pretty shitty people in my community. I'm tired as an audience member, though, of seeing tropes that don't create complex characters and that are not based on reality. If I have a hero I'm going to give him or she some undesirable traits and not be a cardboard cut out like Ellen Ripley from the first Alien film was. But I also don't want to go the James Cameron route (which was fine for its time), because not all women have a desire to be mothers. Hollywood and books follow certain tropes like humans follow certain habits and anything overused becomes stale and harmful. People begin to subconsciously or consciously associate that trait with that group. We are seeing a change, definitely, but like any audience member with a subjective view of the characters I read and watch, I'd like to see it changed up a little. Don't get me wrong there was Jeryline in Demon Knight (1995) or Selena in 28 Days Later (2002), but the fact that I can pull a limited amount of black female final girls off the top of my head says that there is room for more of those types of characters. What about gay final guys? The only one I can think of is Jesse from A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (1985) or Eddie in Hellbent (2004), but that's it and what about gay male action heroes. That's hard to find in TV and movies. Maybe not in comics, so much. I see a few black male and female action heroes but more white action heroes. I'm not trying to be tyrannical (you can have your cake and eat it too) in my suggestion to other writers and my own method of writing. I'm encouraging others to write these characters. It's up to them to do so, though. I'm not going to hold their hand. I wish other people would observe these trends that I'm seeing in entertainment too. I don't really know how to explain myself any better, honestly. I don't want to fall into either radical side of the spectrum when it comes to portraying my characters. What I'm being accused of is really (you have to believe me) not who I am as a person.

    I'm gay and androgynist so I know how I'd like to see gay and androgynist men shown, as human beings. Bisexuals are rarely ever shown, by the way. I guess whether microaggressions bother one person over another is a matter of opinion, because I don't think about the mean things people say to me on a day to day basis, whether they mean them or not, but it does hurt me, and it does affect me on a subconscious level if I'm not thinking about it consciously. An example was I was going to wear a woman's shirt I got from a women's fashion store and a purse, to meet new people, but then I thought maybe I should wear men's clothes. What if they are homophobic or transphobic? It's because I've been on the street or on the bus wearing a purse and I've gotten microaggressions like weird stares, blatantly insinuating comments or outright comments from different people. When I was looking at women's shirts in the store recently these two ladies passed me and I heard one of them say, "That is new," sarcastically to her friend. I decided to have the King and I mentality about it and pretend like I didn't care or didn't notice (I held my head erect), but it still bothered me enough to remember it in this comment. I'm not saying that happens all the time and I know if I went into my story in finer detail you would see that is not intentions, but I'm honestly not comfortable talking about the finer details of my story.

    It doesn't happen all the time in my story, which I think I may have mentioned in a previous reply on this thread. I'd have to look. My character is forthright, so if someone is being disrespectful, even if they mean to be or not, or an assumption is made about who he is whether black, gay or mentally ill he's going to say something like I would like to in those situations. I'd like to create a character who is more of how I wish I'd be. I have a scenario planned for my book where he calls out a friend for making a snap judgment about a straight white guy. The underlining theme of my story is about how people make snap judgments about anybody, so I want to show that it happens to everyone by having that scene. All of this has been thought of before I even posted this thread. That's the type of person my MC is. I'm the same way, but I don't speak up out of fear. I don't like when people make hasty generalizations or use anecdotal evidence to prove that an entire group is a certain way. Could it be that a lot of our biases in this world, that still permeate to this day are in some way helped along by the continuous tropes that still exist in entertainment?

    I remember there was a black lady on Facebook who opened a GoFundMe for her gambling addiction. People were hinting at racism in the comments but one person said outright that all of her kind are like that and then called her the 'n' word in the comments. That isn't right. That woman was wrong for having a GoFundMe for her gambling addiction, but it gave room for bigoted comments and hasty generalizations about the black community. Call it anonymity on the internet, people hiding behind computers, but the fact that the internet shows a lot of society's true colors is disturbing on a grander scale when you stop to think about it. If people are saying that type of corrosive vitriol online, we can only assume that is their real stance on the issue.

    I want to see villains and heroes that are diverse and that's what I'm actively doing in my plotting stage. I know what you @Wreybies and @Phil Mitchell are saying, but I'm not going to make my character another caricature (on the opposite spectrum). I've been aware of your argument for a while (I've thought about it myself) and you two make valid points, we are all human, but in this current climate of hypersensitivity (from both sides) we still see the norm more than the reality and the reality is that all people are different and not every gay and black person is a sidekick to Jennifer Love Hewitt; or an absurd mob boss and his crew trying to kill Viggo Mortensen; or a token gay guy that gets killed off in the second and fourth installment of the franchise, or the black guy who's the stereotype of angry and violent and who doesn't listen to the white male protagonist. I'm not saying there aren't black people, gay people, or any diverse people who are not human and who do not lapse judgment. There are. I've seen all walks of life in my almost thirty years on this Earth.
     

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