1. RightWrite

    RightWrite Member

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    Is it advisable to create an east Indian detective

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by RightWrite, Mar 13, 2019.

    Is this advisable? I'm asking because an East Indian detective would be considered to be an "atypical" protagonist in the mind of the westerner and the western world. Although I would surmise that it is not so "atypical" to the eastern world. I have doubts as to whether using an east Indian detective would garner a large reader base as it would generally cause readers to turn away from it. For instance if you look at the amazon sales rank and number of reviews for the title Inspector Singh Investigates https://www.amazon.com/Inspector-Singh-Investigates-Peculiar-Malaysian/dp/1934609897
    It has very few reviews compared to similar American mysteries (over ~200 to 1000 reviews). As a side note, I wonder if Hercule Poirot was an "atypical" detective to the western world. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
  2. RightWrite

    RightWrite Member

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    Any advice guys? Thanks.
     
  3. Hammer

    Hammer Active Member

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    I don't think any kind of writing is "advisable" - nine hundred and ninety nine times out of a thousand (or more), it is a lot of hard work for no money. Generally we do it because we enjoy it or get personal/creative reward, so if you think you will enjoy creating an Indian detective, then knock yourself out.

    Personally, I think it sounds like a great idea - I am from the UK and we have long established links with India (not all good, unfortunately, but strong nevertheless), I can't see this part of the West feeling alienated. There is the #OwnVoices element of course, but India is such a cauldron of cultures, mysticism, erotica, drugs, food, wealth, and poverty, that - practically - it is just as impossible for somebody born there to claim to represent the culture as it is for someboey born anywhere else (imho of course, "the internet" may not be as forgiving...)

    It may be difficult to distinguish between what is cliche, stereotype, or charactarisation if you don't know the subtleties, but - done well - there is a huge pool of inspiration to draw from.
     
  4. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    I would say "go ahead" but be aware that Westerners might need to have a lot of contextual stuff explained. This can be part of the fun, if you invent a Western character that happens to be along for the ride and needs to have a slot of stuff clarified for him or her.

    Since Piorot worked in a European milieu, little of that would have been unfamiliar to a Western audience.

    And as for finding your readership, let that be a secondary consideration for now. If you've told your story well, I'll bet your readership will find you.
     
  5. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Senior Member

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    Really?

    Typical or not typical detective is about how he/she solves crimes. Does ethnic or cultural background effect that?

    Atypical detectives:
    - A priest using his professional skills to solve crimes.
    - A Russian chess master using his strategic and tactical thinking to solve crimes in a hotel he can't leave.
    - Pippi Longstockings.
    - Ukrainian supersensitive nose.
    - New Sherlock.
    - Old Sherlock in his time.

    Being atypical as a detective = atypical in doing detecting.

    ("Amita" in Numbers has Indian background. She is not atypical ally/love interest.)
     
  6. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Evangelizing Athorist Contributor

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    Why not? The detective genre is well-established, so there's a guaranteed potential audience out there, and as was pointed out above, most every detective has a "hook" (priest, mystery writer, whatever neurological issues Monk had, etc.) so you could be the one who leads the great wave of non-Western detectives.
     
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  7. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Senior Member

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    Alexander McCall Smith is a Scottish writer who writes mysteries where the detective is an African woman solving crimes in Botswana. It does really well, and goes out like crazy at the library. Even made into a tv series. I'd say that's pretty atypical to the western genre, and it's popular
     
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  8. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    There could be a lot more factors at play regarding "Inspector Singh Investigates". It's very unwise to assume it all boils down to one reason.
     
  9. RightWrite

    RightWrite Member

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    Thanks for the replies guys -- all great advice.

    Here is a brief sketch of my detective:

    I'm planning on creating an Indian detective born to a British mother and an Indian father. My detective is unmarried with a peculiar set of eccentricities and a unique brand of detective techniques. He immigrates to the U.S. to escape his physically and emotionally abusive father. There he meets and befriends a retired medical doctor of British origin who comes to admire my detective's revolutionary techniques of detection and his well rounded personality. His personality is characterized by both a great brain as well as a great heart. The pair find themselves solving unusual, baffling, and challenging crimes that the local police and other private detectives find insoluble or just plain unfeasible. As a side note, my detective is the only character in the stories that is of Indian origin.

    What do you guys think? This is just a brief sketch, but of course I will develop it more.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
  10. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I assumed that you were referring to an Indian detective in India, where a Western reader might know very little about the culture and context. I see pretty much zero issue with an Indian detective in the US.

    The brilliant detective/British doctor seems like a pretty clear Holmes/Watson parallel. I don't know if that's intended or not.
     
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  11. RightWrite

    RightWrite Member

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    No, it wasn't intended. I just had the detective born in the UK as I like the British culture including their way of life, dialect, slang, and other characteristics. And my detective is brilliant as that is his normal proclivity. Also the doctor comes into play because he can be more of a help when it comes to assisting my detective in investigations that require acute medical knowledge and professional medical experience. So it is coincidental that it seems to miror the Holmes/Watson duo. :)

    Do you guys think I should modify this setup?
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019
  12. Fallow

    Fallow Member

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    Whether coincidental to YOU or not, your potential readers are not going to see it that way. It will just look like "Indian Sherlock". Consider someone with related training, like a forensic anthropologist/museum curator or a former criminal.

    I don't know what era you are setting this in, but an East Indian is going to run into racism in the US that is different, very serious and more obvious than he would in Victorian England where India is part of the Realm. If the story is modern, I don't know if the character's origin is interesting at all.
     
  13. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There has never been a better time to choose an "atypical" (read ethnically diverse) lead character.

    Any well-written, memorable character has a good shot at drawing readers' interest. Consider the obese, lazy, arrogant Nero Wolfe. Most people of his time (or even ours), would look upon him with distaste if not open disgust, except for his obvious brilliance.

    To even ask the question suggests to me you aren't comfortable with your ability to write unique characters in general. If that really is the case, I recommend lots of practice. While you're learning, it might be helpful to center your characters around whatever is most conventional a character for you, so you won't be as desperate to make your unique characters carry the story. Then when you are more sure of your characterizations, you can "promote" your characters to leading roles.

    Trust your abilities, and simultaneously, work hard to extend your mastery.
     
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  14. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Senior Member

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    This sounds like Sherlock Holmes NYC reinvented.

    No it is not. Coincidental is not the correct word here. Plagiarism is the word you should use.
     
  15. Fallow

    Fallow Member

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    I don't think you have any insight as to what is happening in someone else's head. Doctors are common sidekicks in many types of adventure fiction, not just Holmes. Like Master and Commander.
     
  16. Maggie May

    Maggie May Member

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    Would I read it? Probably, I've always enjoyed "Sherlock Holmes" types of stories. But, it would need to be well written and have a captivating story line. Might be more misunderstanding in the US if he uses phrases that are British, that could make it "funny" in a way. Anything that happens to him has to fit the story, don't add something just because you think it is mandatory, I'm talking about racist reactions.
     
  17. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    If the doctor was the narrator, describing the brilliance of the detective's deductions and just being a witness and occasional backup to the detective's endeavors, then I might agree. But if the doctor is portrayed as a partner, not a spectator, and the relationship is portrayed in the manner of a colleague and friend, I think RightWrite is on safer ground.

    I never really saw Holmes and Watson as a team of collaborators; it was pretty much a one-man show. (Was there any time when Watson was doing independent investigative work? I can't think of any; it certainly wasn't a trope of the series.) So if your characters really are a team, working independently toward common goals, you've already distanced yourself from Conan Doyle.

    As you write, you'll be the best judge of whether what you write evokes the Holmes/Watson situation, and can take steps to reduce the similarity when necessary.

    Since the language of your pair of detectives is British English, and their environment is the US, you've set yourself an interesting challenge when you're creating dialog. It would work very well to reflect the mind-sets of the characters in your story. To spice it up, your detective may drop an Indian English phrase into his dialog once in a while, to indicate that in some ways he isn't totally acculturated to British or American language.
     
  18. Hublocker

    Hublocker Member

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    Why not? The genre is crying out for "out of the box" detectives.

    Where I live in Vancouver it would not be out of the ordinary at all. There plenty of Indo-Canadian uniform cops and lots of Indo-Canadian connections to crime too, particularly drug gangs. Shootings every week. Lots of meat on the bone there.
     
  19. RightWrite

    RightWrite Member

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    Thanks for your feedback guys. I'm going to go back to the drawing board and re-sketch my main characters so that I don't "plagerize" (trying not to be too similar to Holmes/Watson) but at the same create interesting, round, and compelling characters. I might end up dropping the doctor persona in my sidekick and instead make my detective well versed in practical medical knowledge in so far as it aids him in his investigations. Reluctantly, I might have to drop the Indian detective all together and create an interesting and unique American, European, or British detective. I'm leaning more towards an American. By the way, my setting is going to be the contemporary U.S.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2019
  20. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Why drop the Indian detective?
     
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  21. RightWrite

    RightWrite Member

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    One reason is the unfair and misunderstood perceptions that westerners have for "outside" ethnic groups like the typical East Indian. So, the East Indian detective may not be well received in this context. I'm afraid racist perceptions and attitudes for the typical east Indian are something that may affect readership. I really don't want to drop the Indian detective as it would be a fresh and unique persona in the detective/mystery genre and it would also be a fun and satisfying writing experience. What is your opinion?
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2019
  22. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I don’t see a problem, for Western readers, with an Indian detective in a familiar Western setting. An Indian detective in India could be an issue just because of the unfamiliarity of the setting.
     
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  23. RightWrite

    RightWrite Member

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    Ok. That's a good reiterated point. I won't drop the Indian detective then. Thanks.
     
  24. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    Just how many people do you think have these racist attitudes and perceptions?

    And more importantly, how many of those people do you think are readers?

    How many of *those* do you think read books like yours?

    Don't drop the Indian detective. Challenge readers perceptions if you truly believe it's that big of a problem; that's a great attitude that many greatest-of-all-time authors have had.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2019
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  25. RightWrite

    RightWrite Member

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    This is a very good point. I won't drop the Indian detective. Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2019
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