1. Lina Lavender

    Lina Lavender New Member

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    Writing Diverse Cast

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Lina Lavender, Jan 17, 2021.

    Hello, everyone! I'm fairly new here and this is the first time I'm writing on this forum. I decided to go out of the lurking mode in search of your advice. I will appreciate any input.

    I'm writing a graphic novel which I eventually intend to draw myself. It features a cast from all over the world. I need to state that I'm Russian and lived my whole life in Russia but I visited 10 other countries and have a few friends from overseas. The graphic novel will be in English and it's not intended for Russian audience. It's young adult / new adult in nature.

    I'm a female but my main character is a white European male. His love interest is a white girl and this is essential to the story that they come from the same town in a small fictional country inspired by Lichtenstein. But apart from them the pretty important characters are a gypsy man, an Asian girl, a Yoruba man, an Egyptian young woman, an Indian family, a Spaniard family, Jewish, Indian and Latin kids. I don't focus too much on their respective cultures because all of them travel the world as one close group and they share the same occupation.

    I try to stay away from stereotypes but maybe I fall right into them living in a country where almost everyone is white. Do I need to research the cultures more? Some of these characters are not that important while others are very.

    My character eventually ends up working for the gypsy man and the Yoruba man. They happen to become his bosses in this story. The Yoruba man happens to be a big and strong black guy. But he's very down-to-Earth, warm-hearted and knows up to 10 languages so it helps him communicate with different people pretty easily. I hope this is not too much of a stereotype and I don't want to offend anyone.

    As for sexual orientation the Asian girl happens to be pan and a Egyptian girl is a lesbian, they have a small side storyline. But it doesn't get as much attention as my two cishet leads. I worry if in today's society it may generate hate from some readers. I write this queer relationship more like heterosexual ones I've experienced in my life. Am I wrong to assume queer people feel similar things like butterflies in the stomach, jealousy, unrequited love, deep respect, sudden realization of one's feelings?

    Also I'm afraid the Egyptian girl comes more of a POC strong woman stereotype. She's skeptical, she's fierce and she's really confident in herself (though in the story her confidence would be tested and she will realize she's not always right).

    I'm a white Russian married woman and I have visited some countries but not the whole world and I'm really afraid I'll fail at representing all these people from different backgrounds. I mainly try to write them as humans and research stereotypes but maybe I've overlooked something.

    I'll appreciate any advice on writing characters that are different from the author.
     
  2. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's cool you're writing a diverse cast and trying to portray them fairly. My first question is: What's an "Asian" girl exactly? Which country is she from? Asia is huge. Isn't much of Russia in Asia? :)

    Gypsy is a racial slur, so please don't use that. Romani is the proper term.

    It's kinda hard to comment on so many nationalities. Are their ethnicity/nationalities important to the character?

    You may be better off illustrating them, maybe writing/storyboarding one or two major scenes that really showcase the essence of their characters, and then hiring a sensitivity reader to go through them. A sensitivity reader is someone of the background of your characters who reads your work and informs you whether you've dealt with the portrayal of this minority group accurately and whether there are problematic areas. However, I think usually this is a paid thing - you may be able to get other writers of the right background to take a look for you as a favour or a swap for critique.

    You may also wanna read book or graphic novels with characters from the same racial backgrounds as yours and see how they were handled.
     
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  3. Lina Lavender

    Lina Lavender New Member

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    Thank you so much for your reply and tips!



    I'll make sure not to use this word. This character and his mother call themselves Roma so I'll make sure that this is how they're referred to in the whole narrative. It's hard to understand connotations of certain words not being a native speaker.


    The nationalities may be important for some characters and not that important for the others. It depends. I'd say that Roma, Egyptian, Yoruba, Spanish and Indians interest me particularly.



    This girl is actually Korean and the story takes place in the past when Korea was united. However she's detached from her roots being adopted and raised by a Roma woman. This girl's parents' were poor and had too many children so they decided to give her up for adoption. I also subtly wanted to address the issue of women being seen as lesser than men for a long time in many Asian countries such as Korea, China and India. It was a shame to have a firstborn daughter and with the introduction of ultrasound many women aborted their girls which led to great disproportions in population. This fact really saddened me. But there's hope. I've learned that things are getting better in these countries and more families decide to have daughters.


    Anyhow this girl who was raised a traveler considers herself a free spirit and a child of the world. She's notoriously optimistic despite the hardships she has endured. Actually she is one of my favorite characters and I love writing about her. It makes perfect sense for her to be pansexual because she's nonjudgmental and always tries to find good in people.


    In a way she reminds me of my Russian-Korean friends who are pretty detached from their culture and don't even speak Korean. Apart from Korean surname and looks there's not very much difference between me and them. They fit in pretty fine and I never noticed any racial prejudice to them in a group. Even though it's kind of sad they didn't retain most of their culture.


    As for Russia, yes, we have a huge part of the country in Asia but it's mostly populated by white Slavic people. We may consider ourselves European but our culture was hugely influenced by different Asian cultures. We adopted many of their customs, dishes, words and other things which places Russians in-between Europe and Asia where we are geographically.



    Thank you so much for this advice! I'll definitely do that. I wanted to hire an editor to correct my dialogs anyway. And sensitivity readers might also help because I don't want to fall into stereotypes. I've got experience of having my expectations reversed when I visited different countries and people there amazed me when I got to know them.


    I also see so much of bad and utterly laughable representation of Russians in Western media. I know that people in the West have some ridiculous stereotypes about Russians due to the Cold War and misinformation. Starting with the fact that only drunkards drink vodka here, it's not that popular among general population. And we don't call anyone "comrade" these days. It looks like the creators in Hollywood don't even bother with checking things out. The only good representation I saw was in Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy. There we got a sympathetic representation even though it was not 100% accurate it was still pretty solid.



    I'll try to find such books.
     
  4. More

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    I don't have any criticism of your ambition and it is not a bad thing to have a book involving many races and sexual orientation. I would also point out that my limitations my not be yours. I also know it is not difficult to publish books if you're a very good writer. Part of being good is understanding your strengths. Going by your questions your understanding of different cultures is limited. I have lived in India and different parts of Europe and I now know it would be impossible for me to write about other cultures with any depth.
     
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  5. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    Firstly, welcome and happy to have you here.

    Writing a diverse cast is pretty common, especially in Fantasy where there tends to be a grander scale on everything. It's going to take a lot of time to get these characters spot on and you don't want to be yet another writer who has poorly represented someone or looked at stereotypes and created a character from those. You don't need to represent everyone in just one novel because you'll be unable to go into depth about them all in just one book. The main thing is not about representing others but in telling a good story. Look at their role in your story and see how important they are - don't just cram a bunch of characters in just for diversity, I have seen that happen.
    Research is going to be key for you here and I don't just mean reading a bunch of information on the internet. Some leg work might be involved. Visiting the countries you want to write about, speaking to the people who live there for example. It's hard to write what you don't know. The best place to draw from is life and what you know and experience.
     
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  6. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    @Lina - of course while there's no reason a Korean family can't have too many children and opt for adoption, I feel like you've reversed the stereotypes instead? It's such a direct reversal that it's a bit odd. The Roma are known for having many, many children. The Koreans, not so much - I'm less familiar with Korean culture but 1-2 children are common in East Asia. Certainly not "many". And since your character is Korean born and raised by Romas, this just feels odd?

    You may wanna research on something called the Third Culture Kid. It's when a child grows up with a culture that is neither their birth culture nor their parents' culture. Depending on how your character was raised, they may be varying degrees of exposure and significance between her Korean culture and her Roma culture, and the resulting mix would be considered a "third" culture, because it's not exactly the same as pure Roma or pure Korean culture.

    The feelings of belonging for someone like you describe are complicated, and certainly no two people would feel it the same. It depends a lot on how they were raised, the attitudes around them, how they took what happened to them, how much support they had, their own personalities, the general culture of inclusion or exclusion. Very complicated. I'm a third culture kid myself (British Chinese) and in my latest novel, my MC was also British Chinese and I include a little of my feelings/experiences in the book actually. Since you have Korean-Russian friends, you should ask them about their experience. While you may have accepted them as "just like you", others may not have. Also, in my experience, the rejection can come from within yourself as well - my English friends treat me like I'm English, and they accept me. However, within myself, I feel pressure to be English when sometimes I'm not, and you feel like you're not part of the group anyway.

    I don't know how norm my experience is, but since I only emigrated when I was 8, I remember Hong Kong well enough and I was not a blank slate just to right over with British culture. I loved my friends and they loved me, but their utter lack of interest in that whole other side of me often hurt and can be a form of exclusion - like you're only included if you're the same, when you can never be exactly the same.

    Someone like me may interpret things differently - like when one of my English friends lived in Brussels for a year and moved back home to the UK, and I asked her why. She said, "Well I only speak English and I was afraid of being misunderstood because other people's English was not native, so I didn't want to talk to them." Now, I've known this girl since she was 12 years old and we grew up as close friends, and I know she wasn't talking about me or my family, but her words really hurt. Because my parents aren't native speakers. If I hadn't emigrated, I wouldn't have become a native speaker. Does that mean she wouldn't have wanted to be my friend if I hadn't possessed native English? I found her words narrow-minded and plain hurtful. Had it not occurred to her to appreciate the Belgians for speaking in their second language to her just to include her? Had it not occurred to her to attempt to learn French and Dutch and perhaps to feel an element of shame that she has not or cannot learn their languages when they have learnt hers well enough to at least converse?

    Anyway, none of this needs to apply to your character. Does she feel a sense of loss over her Korean culture? Because some people don't. I don't think my sister feels any loss over her Chinese culture, yet she would more readily say she's Chinese than I would (she was older when we emigrated - 11 years old vs me at 8). Some people don't feel any discrimination - although I'd also say a lot of discrimination is passive, rather than malicious. Take my friend whom I mentioned above - I do not for one second think she realises what she's really said. It's still discrimination, but they may not be aware, and it may not even be intentional. I let go of a lot of discriminatory behaviours and comments because I know they come from a place of what they understand to be kindness, or other times ignorance, but there's no malice involved. Take all those people who would wave at me and say "Konnichiwa" (hello in Japanese). I'm not Japanese. Others say "Ni Hao" (hello in Mandarin - I happen to speak Cantonese, not Mandarin). I don't take offense. But I have a Korean friend who does take offense at that. I've had people insist to me that I'm really from China, not Hong Kong, which is plain offensive (difficult political situations and also HK developed away from China's influence due to being a British colony, so HK culture is quite distinct and our sense of identity is different). I don't expect other people to know this, but don't come to me and tell me where I'm from, for crying out loud. That's just rude. And now I live in the Czech Republic, and we had a Czech acquaintance whose children really wanted to meet me because "they'd never met anyone from London before" (I'm not from London - I lived there for just one year after graduation). The family and the children were just excited - I took it for what it was and chatted with her kids and it's fine, really, but from a different perspective, there's also very much an element of, "Oh you're exotic, so different, not normal" - like I'm some novelty to be explored.

    Anyway, talk to your Korean-Russian friends. Ask them for stories. Or if you have a plot point in your story, run it by them and see what their reactions are with the way you've portrayed the Korean side of the character, if you've managed to capture any nuance. But, if you don't mind me saying, even your own comment: it's sad they didn't retain most of their OWN culture - who are you to say they are not Russians? Is Russian not their OWN culture? Why does the fact that they were born Koreans by blood mean they must have any affiliation with Korean culture, and what makes Korean culture "theirs" if they don't even speak Korean and were born and raised in Russia? They are Russians. They did retain their own culture - that is, Russian culture. Russia is their home as much as it is yours, and Russian is their culture as much as it is yours. I would normally not pick on this, as I know you say it coming from a good place and mean no harm, but since you're trying to learn to portray diversity and each minority individual's experience, this is something you need to pay attention to. Even wording like that feels discriminatory - imagine if your Korean-Russian friends heard it - how would they feel? If you don't know, it may be a good question to ask them.

    Also, just a heads up, these days in publishing, representing diverse cast is rather trendy - there's a whole #ownvoices movement, not sure if you've heard of it. That is where the writer belongs to the minority group that the main character represents. So, in my book with the British Chinese lead, that would be an own voices work from me, because I am also British Chinese. There's some backlash against authors writing about the minority individual's personal experience of being a minority where the author herself is not of the same minority group, however. That is not to say you cannot write about black people or Korean people etc - you absolutely can and should have people from different backgrounds. But be very careful when you're trying to delve into their personal experience of say, a Korean being Korean in a Roma community, since you're not Korean. I'm not saying you cannot write this, and I love it that you're trying to do it with sensitivity and to do it accurately - however, in the publishing scene, if you go for traditional publishing, this could become controversial. However, if you're just touching on the issues without letting them take over the main plot of the book, you should be ok. The graphic novel scene might well be different from the novel writing scene as well, so research into that.

    Again, not to say you cannot write something. You absolutely can and should. But you should know, if you intend for this to be marketable to traditional publishers, what might be considered controversial.
     
  7. Lina Lavender

    Lina Lavender New Member

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    @More Do you believe it's possible for an author to expand the horrizons of knowledge by doing better research and talking to people? May being more empathetic help? We're all humans after all. I'm really interested in other cultures and when I speak to people from different backgrounds we find common ground after some time. Of course, I will never fully understand their experiences because I will never be in their shoes but I'm at least willing to try. Not once have I met people from different cultures both in Russia and other countries and we ended up talking for hours about life and the world.
     
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  8. Lina Lavender

    Lina Lavender New Member

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    @cosmic lights Thank you so much for your reply and tips! I'll definitely do my homework. If not for COVID restrictions I would have already visited some places I want to describe. I've been to central Europe on which my fictional country is based upon (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Austria). I've also been in the Middle East and North Africa. I admit that every country I visited is unique and sometimes even the regions of the same country differ a lot (Italy is a good example. I would love to visit South East Asia after the restrictions will be lifted. Right now I'm limited to the internet. Maybe Quora could help.

    I don't want to write diversity for the sake of diversity. It actually makes sense to the story to have such a cast because I'm writing about a group of travelling nomads. This group has formed over the time. The people in it have different backgrounds but they all have something in common. They're the weird ones, the outcasts that don't fit into the societies of their respective homelands. So they decided to stick together and do what they do.
     
  9. More

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    I can't say what others are able to do. I do know some people that can speak a number of different languages but most can only manage one. It is posable to research anything, and for me, it is one of the best parts of being a writer. On the other hand, I keep research to the minimum. I try to use my time writing with some research, rather than a resurcher that writes a bit It's your time your using, you get to decide what you do with it. But you asked the question.
     
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  10. Lina Lavender

    Lina Lavender New Member

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    @Mckk The reason why this particular Korean family has many children is because the story takes place in the end of 19th century and there was no birth control at that time. My Romani woman, on the contrary, was infertile and thus was ostracized by her community. I found out that this attitude is documented in some studies.

    " In all the families surveyed children are highly valued, and infertility is seen as a disgrace. It is often judged as a sufficient reason for breaking the marriage. In the sample studied, two women have been married for several years and have not borne children. Both are saddened and humiliated".

    This is from JUAN F. GAMELLA ∗ Marriage, Gender and Transnational Migrations in Fertility Transitions of Romanian Roma Women. An Ethnographic Case Study

    In my story the Romani woman married early but her husband left her due to her infertility. And her parents saw her as a disgrace. She was forced to get a job to provide for herself and she still desperately wanted a child. So she adopted one at first. And when the child grew up she adopted more. This is a pretty tragic story but she managed to make a lemonade from lemons. This is not my personal story but I have friends who want to have children but it's very hard for them to do so and those who gave birth to ones but experienced problems and I empathize with their pain. I try to imagine what I would do in their place and what kind of pain all these obstacles may have inflicted. Actually I have a chronic condition that will make childbirth difficult for me too and I prepare myself for it in the near future and listen to my friends' tips. Back in the days without modern medication I too would be infertile. And as a woman in a workforce who lived on her own for years away from her hometown I know how hard it can be to make a living and survive without my family's help.

    I try to incorporate some of my life experiences into all of my characters and they come as a mix of something being mine and being borrowed. I've heard about #ownvoices movement and writing what you know but I can't populate the entire graphic novel only with carbon copies of me. So borrowing something from other people is inevitable. I hope I'll be able to do it respectfully. And I have my imagination. At least I can try to imagine what the life would look like if I was that person. I think this is what writers do - they try to be empathetic to truthfully portray a wide array of different personalities because every book has different characters. I think an author can be considered good if he succeeds at making a character different from themselves believable and understandable. For example, Leo Tolstoy wasn't a married woman engaged in adultery when he wrote Anna Karenina. But he knew the society well enough to portray this woman and her struggles believably that's why he's considered a great writer.

    The Korean girl was saddened by the fact that her birth parents gave her up when the truth was revealed to her even though she found consolation in her new family. Years later she searched for her parents and they were amazed in a good way by the person she has become.

    I guess I really need to talk to my friends and maybe ask some people online about the Third Culture. My Korean-Russian friends were born and raised in Russia so I guess they have every right to call themselves Russian. As my Chinese-American friend calls himself American. And thank you for correcting me once again. I should have said that their ancestor's culture didn't pass to the new generations. I also compared it to the situation with some people of Jewish origins I know and they preserve their heritage at all costs. Jewish people I know stick together no matter where they live and have strong connections with their extended families. But for some reason my Korean-Russian friends are not like that. For example, my former roommate decided to stay in Russia when her mother moved back to Seoul. She visited her mother from time to time but chose not to live in Korea. Also my colleague’s grandfather ran away from Korea to emerging USSR during 1920's, married a Russian woman and didn't teach his kids Korean. He even never told his family why he fled his homeland in the first place.

    Here in Russia people often don't choose their words carefully. Thus we have a reputation of being rude and it's true, many Russians are insensitive and they brush off any offence their words might have inflicted. This expression of utter and notorious ignorance without borders is called "Ne, nu a cho?" which can be translated "So what?" and it means "I don't see anything wrong with it". Even though I try to be as polite as I can and I never use profanity in my daily life I admit that sometimes I can slip and overlook certain things. It's easy to perceive some things as normal when you live in such a culture and constantly told not to be overly sensitive. I hope it gets better in the future because more and more people in Russia recognize that certain types of behavior shouldn't be tolerated. If I told you the examples of this behavior I guarantee you would be horrified. We are light ages away from the West in this case. Many are deeply traumatized and fortunately they don't want to inflict this kind of pain on other people and especially don't want to raise their children like that so the society can have a better future.

    I guess your friend hasn't realized her comment was hurtful to you. And I don't think she had ill intent. But I've heard that some English-speaking people come to different countries and expect the population to be speaking English just as well as they do which is strange to my opinion. They probably never tried to learn a foreign language themselves and don't realize that it's pretty hard. Here in Russia not many people speak English, especially to the level I do. They may know very little, or they've learned German at school (it was popular in USSR). Or they know grammar but they're often terrified to speak. My peers who can read pretty well told me how all words disappear from their head when someone actually addresses to them in English, how they don't recognize the pronunciation and how they're embarrassed because they're unable to communicate despite learning the language for years. Native English speakers have told me how they experienced a lot of troubles because most people in Russia couldn't understand them. And I, too, have been in this position when I realized that regular people in Italy and Turkey don't understand basic English and I tried to talk to them using gestures and some phrases in their language I found in a dictionary. They generally responded very well to my efforts to learn a little bit of their language.

    I think that in many cases what you're doing is the right thing to do. You have a unique perspective being British Chinese and have every right for your voice to be heard. I haven't chosen this Korean girl or a Romani elderly woman to be my main protagonist. That's why these diverse characters are supporting or side characters. I don't own their experiences. But it's important for them to be of different nationalities because they are essentially a group of nomads who travel the world and they're also wizards. Many of them were considered weird by their communities.

    I don't intend this graphic novel to be traditionally published. I intend to go for Webtoon and Tapas and leave it free for everyone to read. And those who like my work could support me on Patreon. I've read free comics myself and I want to repay this community somehow by leaving my work free too. And if somebody would want a printed version I'll go on Kickstarter.

    I'm Russian in a Russian community but I can relate to this experience in some ways because I was not always accepted and I was bullied at school. So the feeling of not being a part of the group, of being somehow different and not included is very familiar to me. To this day I experience it sometimes because I'm a journalist, a writer and an artist. I had encountered people who didn't understand me even though we spoke the same language and I've been able to form a deep connection with the people of other cultures. It's still a miracle to me how this can happen and how people who speak a different language, born and raised in a different culture can understand you better than your own peers.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2021
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  11. alw86

    alw86 Active Member

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    I would check out Writing With Colour, they have a lot of resources and an ask function if you get stuck on something specific. I've found their work extremely helpful when writing outside my own experience: https://writingwithcolor.tumblr.com/
     
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  12. Lina Lavender

    Lina Lavender New Member

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    Wow, thank you! I will certainly consult this resourse. Haven't heard of them before.
     
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  13. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Of course you can have a racist character who calls them Gypsies out of contempt. There's nothing wrong with this since it does reflect reality accurately, and if you completely ignore racial slurs etc then your writing may start to feel 'lightweight' or trivial. It's kind of a tightrope to walk though, you know?

    I haven't read all the posts above (wow, there's a lot there already!) and I;m sure you've gotten some excellent advice already. The only thing I would want to say is, maybe don't try to present the people so much in terms of their culture or ethnicity, if that makes sense? Mention for instance that one character is Indian, but if you don't really know any Indians, I wouldn't try to give that character much depth or use Indian traits. focus more on their personality or their character traits, rather than on ethnicity etc.
     
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  14. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    I love how thoughtful your responses are. I think you're on the right track. You seem to have done your research and genuinely interested in those who have been marginalised, not just racially but for other things too. I also take an interest in these minority experiences - trauma, pregnancies, sexuality etc. That's interesting and sadly unsurprising about Romani women being ostracized. Anyway, after a while of talking with people from everywhere, perhaps living in other places, you do think differently. It's an enriching experience that somehow results in a lot of loss - you find you don't quite belong in the home you thought was yours, at least not quite so perfectly - and you can't go back either. It has forever changed you.

    I'm sure your graphic novel will be stunning. And hey, even stereotypes can be used to amazing effect. I loved the film Rush Hour with Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker - it uses racism to make fun of racism, so it has lots of stereotypes in it actually.
     
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  15. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    What an interesting thread and subject @Lina Lavender . I wish you great success with your graphic novel.

    In some ways you have made it easier for yourself because you have a group of very diverse characters who are traveling 'the world' together. This means you don't need to immerse yourself in any particular culture. Wherever the group 'visits,' they will be there as visitors, and will see only what visitors will see. So you don't need to know every nuance of every place they go. In fact, as visitors, they are very likely to make mistakes in perception!

    If it were me, I would tackle your story by first establishing the personality of each of these characters. Then maybe something about how their culture and personal history helped to shape their personalities. Some may have had stronger cultural influences imposed on them than others. Some may be very attached to their culture, while some may be less so, and act in a more individualistic way.

    And then, when you get the plot of the story going, think about how each of them is likely to react to what happens to them and to the others.

    I've always been an advocate of the notion, when writing a novel, to 'start small.' Don't overwhelm yourself with every possible detail of every culture that impacts on your story. Instead, maybe just get the group together, figure out the dynamic between them, figure out why each of them is in this group in the first place, and go from there. The cultural backgrounds will matter, but maybe less than you originally thought!

    By the way, your command of written English is very impressive. I'm sure you'll manage to succeed at this venture.
     
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  16. Naomasa298

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

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    @Lina Lavender the thing about third culture kids is, as you noted yourself, apart from any obvious physical differences, they are indistinguishable from people from the culture they have been brought up in.

    Take tennis player Naomi Osaka, for example. She has a Haitian father and Japanese mother, and she represents Japan. I think she's a Japanese citizen. But she was brought up in the US, and she is basically American. She speaks and acts American. She has traits you might identify as Japanese, such as being very self-effacing and respectful, but in the main, if you didn't know, you'd think she was American.

    She has received some backlash in Japan, with people questioning her "Japanese-ness", asking why, for example, she doesn't speak in Japanese in interviews. As it happens, she does speak Japanese, but I believe she's not fluent and is more comfortable in English.

    Stories with these kinds of characters often revolve around the conflicts between their heritage and their upbringing. Discovering and re-connecting with their heritage is often a powerful story arc. Otherwise, the character is simply someone from their adopted culture with a different face - although they could face backlash from members of the community. I don't know how the other Roma would react to an adopted Korean child, but I have the impression it's a community that's not used to outsiders.

    On a side note - I've seen pictures of people from Vladivostok, and a lot of them look very East Asian.
     
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  17. ruskaya

    ruskaya Senior Member

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    @Mckk, I shortened your post to focus on the point I wanted to respond to. In my experience when people come up with such silly practical responses is because they themselves feel uncomfortable and don't understand why. Her fears of being misunderstood prevented her from trying to adapt to the new place, but that is a weak motivation for not trying. A practical argument like that locals won't understand her because they don't speak native english is one step more extreme than not trying to learn the language to interact with locals. In my opinion, her attitude hides a general discomfort in the new culture. She probably didn't like living there from the beginning, she liked the idea of it enough to move, but once there she didn't manage to find anything familiar that could make her feel she could fit. There is nothing wrong with that, but we live in a world where travelling and being enthusiastic about different cultures is a must. Maybe is the result of the sharing-the-happy-selfie social media culture, but visiting or moving to a different culture is difficult and can bring negative feelings we don't allow ourselves to feel. I really don't think her experience reflects in any way how she feels about you or your family.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2021
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  18. Naomasa298

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

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    Brits - and English speakers in general - are pretty poor at learning foreign languages. In part, that's because there's less motivation to do so, because so much of the world speaks English.
     
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  19. Lina Lavender

    Lina Lavender New Member

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    Thank you so much for these tips! I guess, racial slur may occur when Romani interact with some outsiders. I know there're a lot of prejudices against these people.

    I try to focus more on personalities but at the same time I'm concerned if readers will find this representation offensive because not all of my diverse characters can be called "good". Some characters are in a gray area of anti-heroes. Some are predominantly good but still have flaws and make mistakes and bad decisions. All of that also applies to my white characters (one of which ends up to be a mentally ill sociopath).

    This whole trend got me thinking about other ways I could learn about different cultures and I remembered that I live in the city where many embassies are situated. They often have cultural centers that educate people. These centers hold events and festivals and teach classes. They don't work for now due to COVID but they'll reopen when the restrictions are lifted. I think I need to visit some of them.
     
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  20. Lina Lavender

    Lina Lavender New Member

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    Thank you so much for your support! I'm going to continue my research as I feel there are still things to discover to make my characters be more like actual humans with their backstories, troubles, aspirations and things that make them happy. I find myself often rooting for the underdogs in different stories because I can relate to their pain and understand what it's like to be an outsider. And I desperately want them to succeed, find their tribe, be happy and accepted. And I guess nomads once become nomads forever because travelling truly alters your perspective of the world and only people with similar experience may understand this.

    From what I've learned about Romani people I know that their communities are very closeted and very conservative. They travel the world but they don't interact with people from outside their communities much. They often marry distant relatives because it's frowned upon to be involved with non-Romani.

    I'll try to do my best with this work of mine. And I'd definitely check out this film! I've heard about it but I haven't seen it before even though I like Jackie Chan.
     
  21. Lina Lavender

    Lina Lavender New Member

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    @jannert Thank you for stopping by in this thread and for your kind wishes! All of your tips are great! And I think I knew some of these in the back of my mind but couldn't put it into words to process it consciously. Yes, my nomads are expensive travelers with a lot of experience but they still don't stick anywhere for too long and they probably didn't visit all the countries in the world. That allows them to make mistakes in perception. What an excellent point you've made! I'll continue developing these characters, getting to know them better. I want them to be a family even though they're not related by blood.

    Thank you for complimenting my English! I've been studying it for years and though I've never been to the UK or the US yet (hard to get a visa, very expensive trip) I've had a lot of experience talking to Native speakers both on the internet and in real life. I love meeting people from other cultures and getting to know them. And also love English as a language and appreciate its beauty.
     
  22. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I tried to look into the Roma, but it's frustratingly difficult. I found a message board with some discussion involving a very helpful Roma (Certainly he wouldn't be called a Roman? Wonder what it is? Romani maybe?) The only other source I found after a fairly long and involved search was a blog where a Romani 'answered questions', but all she really did was keep saying "How dare you ask such a question! You should learn about the Romani before saying such things!", and there were countless responses saying "We've tried to learn, but there are no resources for it. This blog is the only one we've found, and you're no help at all. How is the world supposed to learn if this is the response any questions bring?"

    I can understand it, but it's extremely frustrating, especially if you want to write a Romani character.
     
  23. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    In the Uk we say romany, but it appears the i spelling is more common

    ETA this appears to be a useful resource and the author has a website and twitter where she could be contacted https://folklorethursday.com/folklife/real-gypsy-life-belief-and-customs/

    also this http://www.romaniarts.co.uk/

    ETA2 and this site has lots of links including points at which you could make contact https://www.gypsy-traveller.org/heritage/celebrating-gypsy-roma-and-traveller-history-month/
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2021
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  24. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    It occurs to me, for those cultures you aren't able to learn much about especially, you don't need to really say anything about it. Let them be mysterious. People are individuals after all, and not all of them represent their supposed culture, as Naomasa was saying about the half Japanese American woman.
     
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  25. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Wait, in what sense though?

    An individual is a Romany? And the people or a group of them are Romani?

    Edit— just saw your edit Moose, thanks.
     

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