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  1. Aurora ✾

    Aurora ✾ New Member

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    Writing & Race

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Aurora ✾, Jan 10, 2020.

    Hey everyone!

    I’ve recently come up with the character I want to put into my story, and the character I have in mind is an African American high schooler. However, me being a white, middle-class female, I’m unsure of what the rules here are… Since I want to write about the struggles that come with race, I was wondering if I even have the right? Are there guidelines to follow?

    Any insight all of you experienced writers have would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!
     
  2. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Nefarious Flamingo Staff Contributor

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    You certainly have the right to do so,but with a slight of caution first. You need to read a lot of history and work in related areas of what you're writing in order to get a feel for what the accepted literature is. Then what you really need is experience. Have you asked for the perspective of African American high schoolers around the same situations that you're trying to write? A lot of times, and Toni Morrison was especially good at this, African American and caucasian students are indistinguishable in personalities. Other times,they certainly are different.

    I guess what I would do in your situation, is first to figure out the what and why you are trying to write, then try to interview others near to what you are trying to create as characters. This may make it so you don't blunder into insulting someone racially. You certainly can write it,just don't rush, and do your background work.
     
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  3. Kallisto

    Kallisto Ruler of the world... somewhere... Contributor

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    Just write it. The "rules" that exist are stupid and made up by overly sensitive people with nothing to do and trying to get pings on their social media.

    It comes from the outright wrong belief that only the "inside" perspective is valid. Anyone on the "outside" will just be wrong because they don't have that first hand look.

    Well, that's not true. We all know that person who has an inflated opinion of themselves. We all know that one person who underestimates and doubts themselves. This suggests the "inside" perspective can be just as biased and distorted as the outside view point.

    Do your research and don't listen to the SJW harpies that scream "Write your own story, Whitey!" Those guys don't give a crap about racial issues. They're usually writers themselves who want to keep people out of the market, because they don't want the competition.

    This isn't to say that you shouldn't do research and you can't be sensitive about the topics. Only that you don't need to be "careful."
     
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  4. More

    More Member

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    I'm of southern Irish descent . I grew up among the Irish community living in London.As a child in the nineteen fifties/sixties I experienced a lot of prejudiced from the English and Irish Protestants. Prejudice towards the Irish is not as blatant as it once was , and my origins are not obvious .
    I believe it would be difficult if not impossible for an English writer to create an accurate Irish character living in London at that time . It is not that I have any problems about the English , but It would be impossible for them to occupy that space and understand how it feels . Personally I could not write about a schoolboy and a black American , impossible . But if your still at school and have some black friends , there is no harm in trying .
     
  5. Nesian

    Nesian Member

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    I don't see what the problem is. You could offer a unique perspective for your character that noone could offer you through an interview just from your own personal experience or what you glean as a writer through empathy. Imo, if it is ideal for your plot for your character to experience some kind of emotion or thought then write it and if it works, your readers will relate to that part of the story no matter what race your character is.
     
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  6. Maggie May

    Maggie May Active Member

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    You want to write about a African American High schooler and then you describe yourself as a white middle class female? What do you have in common with your character? Slightly inferring that the high schooler is not middle class? You did not say that this character is the main character of your story. Are you choosing a character to create a story around or do you have a story the character fits into. I'm confused.
     
  7. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    There's no particular requirement to have anything in common with your characters - for example i'm white , straight, and british, and fairly middle class... one of the characters I'm currently writing is Hispanic, gay, American and grew up on the streets of Miami...

    Looking at my other books Ive also never been a special forces operator, a battle of britain pilot, a private detective, a zoo keeper , a venture capitalist, or an ambulatory tree.

    Research and imagination.
     
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  8. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The bastards hung me in the spring of '25.... Contributor

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    You're too modest... I'm sure you'd make an excellent tree!
     
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  9. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'm sure i wood but i decided to leaf it to others
     
  10. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Aaargh.... :blech:
     
  11. Dogberry's Watch

    Dogberry's Watch Member

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    I think one of the biggest problems I've seen with people writing a race that isn't their own is falling into the stereotypes of physical characteristics and sometimes the fetishism of those stereotypes.

    It's also important that even if people seem oversensitive, they may not be the only ones thinking a certain way about something we've written. I'm of the mindset that if one person's considered something a problem of my writing, then someone else might feel the same way. This doesn't mean I don't write it, but I try to take into account what the comments are saying and see if I can maybe fix it to fit my audience a little better.

    Letting the world dictate my story isn't going to help me write it well, but understanding how to write without alienating readers is something I think about a bit more nowadays. I don't think it's because there are so many "snowflakes" or whatever, but people are more aware and in tune with the way the world works more than ever with technology and social media advances.

    In the end, of course, it makes no difference what I think, but more what you think. Honestly, if you question it too much, there's probably something that can be tweaked to be less ... I don't want to say offensive, but that's all I'm coming up with at the moment.

    Sorry if this is rambly. I thought I was making sense, but reading over it I don't know that it does.
     
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  12. Malisky

    Malisky Sirocco Contributor

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    Some movies and series for your research that cover multiple different scenarios:

    - The Wire (Series)
    - Atlanta (Series)
    - Morris from America (Film)
    - Moonlight (Film)
    - Do the right thing (Film, older but masterpiece. Actually watch any of Spike Lee's films)

    Have a good time researching!
     
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