1. Deal_with_the_devil

    Deal_with_the_devil New Member

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    Stereotypes in Fiction

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Deal_with_the_devil, Apr 5, 2018.

    So I have the character named Yui. Yui is an overworked college student, attempting to balance her life pursing a medical degree, working overnight shifts at fast food resteraunts, and avoiding the affections of an annoying neighbor in her apartment complex. She also has a very strong interest in the power of gemstones, plants, auras, etc. Shes super into Wicca and the like, but doesnt completly identify with a single belief system or lable yet.

    The thing is, as a character of Asian decent, I found myself wondering if this was the best way to portray her. I really don't want my character to become an exaggerated, problematic version of herself. When she was first conceptualized, I never took into consideration some of the implications of her hobbies/story. Even though she struggles with mental health and relationship issues, i worried I was writing a character that would play into the "super smart/mystic/hardworking/perfect asian" stereotype. Is there any way I can avoid this, while still keeping some of the major aspects of her character intact?
     
  2. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    The thing about stereotypes is they're only a big problem if they're all there is to a character. Is Yui defined by being studious and vaguely mystical, or does she have other attributes that are just as important to her character, and an arc that's not all about playing the stereotyped traits straight? If she's a properly fleshed-out character, then her stereotypical traits may come off as a bit tired simply because we've seen characters somewhat like this before, but she'll have other, original features that make her seem like a real person, not just a bunch of cliches stapled together. (It doesn't sound to me, from the rest of your post, like she is defined by these things, but it's something you have to investigate yourself since you're the only one who knows the story!)

    It also helps to explore the reasons behind the stereotypes somewhat, both on a meta level and in-universe -- which is to say, A) why did you apply these traits to this character as a writer, and B) how did this character end up with these traits as a person?

    Regarding A, it's really easy to just sort of passively recycle things you've seen before into your own work without analyzing them further. That's not always bad, but I do personally think that paying attention to every aspect of what you're writing and interrogating your choices is useful. Specifically with regards to female Asian characters, are you aware of the stock Hollywood Asian girl hair cut/stripe? It's a trope that comes off as harmless, and the more you see the pattern the more likely you are to unconsciously repeat it for no real reason -- it's just part of the media stew in your brain. It's helpful, I think, to be aware of these things and question why you're doing them.

    Regarding B, consider Yui's upbringing. Is she super driven because of stereotypical Tiger Mom-esque disciplinarian parents? Kind of a tired trope. Maybe she could be so focused on her studies to prove wrong or rise above a shitty family, or just because she genuinely wants to do good in the world as a doctor, or because she's passionate about science, or had someone taken from her by illness at a young age and wants to help prevent that from happening in the future. Her reason for being driven doesn't have to be a stereotype. Was she raised with a sort of vaguely spiritual background, or is her belief in crystals/auras/etc an act of rebellion against her background? Was she raised Shinto, and do her vague beliefs have a vaguely Shinto veneer to them as a result, was she raised Christian or with no religion and just got all of this out of books or some Wiccan friend she had in high school, etc.

    Consider where, in her history, all of the traits she has now came from. This is all just part of the whole fleshed-out character thing, and keeps your subconscious from just shrugging and going, "I dunno, I saw this on tv a lot, so it makes sense."

    I also really like the blog Writing With Color and recommend it all the time. Here is their tag specifically where people've asked them questions regarding smart Asian characters, which you might find some helpful insight in.
     
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  3. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Gemstones, auras, and Wicca are very 'white' hobbies in my experience. I certainly don't think of any of them as Asian stereotypes (though Asia is a massive continent - I'm guessing from the name she's Japanese? Still don't associate Japan with hippy bollocks like gemstones.)

    She sounds like a well-rounded character to me, dealing with issues that people of all races deal with. Nothing you said makes me think, "Uh oh, stereotype!"
     
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  4. Midge23

    Midge23 Active Member

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    Hi,

    Just something that jumped out at me: medical degree and a strong interest in the power of gemstones, plants, auras etc., and super into Wicca.

    I get the interest in plants, as some modern medicines will have been developed from them, but the others seem at odds with completing a medical degree. There is natural health shop near me that stocks a magazine called something like What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You. There is certainly a little friction between the two camps. Wicca appears to favour herbal and other alternate medicine but does not eschew all modern medicine.

    You said that you haven’t yet taken into consideration some of her hobbies. I would suggest that if she keeps at her medical degree whilst having these strong beliefs, this conflict should be an important part of the story. Could actually be a really interesting central theme.

    Dave
     
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  5. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Welcome to the site!
    Beyond the general principle of reading as much as possible by authors of a demographic you wish to write, there are 3 things that make any specific character trait stereotypical:
    • Most-to-all of the characters of that demographic in your story have that trait
    • Most-to-all of the characters with that trait in your story are of that demographic
    • Any character(s) of that demographic has little-to-no other important traits
    How many not-super-hard-working Asian characters are in the same story? How many super-hard-working non-Asian characters? What else does each super-hard-working Asian character have beyond that?
     
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  6. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    Here's the thing--there's undoubtedly real people who match every part of this description. Would you call them "unrealistic" or "stereotypical"? Probably not. :)

    Just write them as a convincing individual, and there should be no problem.
     
  7. Carly Berg

    Carly Berg Contributor Contributor

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    Your character doesn't sound like a stereotype but like a real person with her own unique blend of cultural expectations, personal quirks etc. I don't think you have a problem there.
     
  8. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Think about taking your character out of med school and giving her something else to study. Regardless of the character being Asian, we've all seen the stressed and over-worked med student. Also, all the other stuff she's into doesn't really fit with the idea of a med student. Maybe that's what you were going for, some east meats west approach to medicine. I don't know. Still, I would pick a new major for this one.
     
  9. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    I think that might be going a little overboard, myself.
     
  10. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    What do you mean?
     
  11. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    I think that the character being pre-med could still be made to work with everything else.
     
  12. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I mean anything could work, in theory. But this thread is about stereotypes, and I'm just saying that's one we've all seen.
     
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  13. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Because medical school is much more taxing than most degrees; many universities forbid their medical students from having jobs, because it doesn't leave them enough time for their studies. Being overworked is an inevitable outcome of being a medical student, not a harmful stereotype.
     

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