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Authors/Writers' Corner > Writing About Another Race

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message 1: by Arch , Mod (new)

Arch  | 6570 comments Mod
When you write about a person from a different race than yours, do you just write what you feel the person will be like or do you research that race to make sure you present that person right?

I will speak for myself. I don't research anything. I write what I feel the person would be like, because we are all human and every race show their human side.

I know some people feels that "this race" wouldn't do this or wouldn't do that.

In my story, they will do what I want them to do.

I'm a make believe writer. I will write some make believe stuff in my stories, after all they are fiction and although fiction have reality in it - it also have make believe in it as well.

message 2: by A.M. (new)

A.M. | 349 comments Hi Arch,

Good questions. For me I guess my writing is more about writing human charcteristic that have nothing in particular to do with race, but more do with ones personality.

Like you I don't research, I just write the story as it the charcters tells it to me.


message 3: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Williams | 128 comments Hmmm, good topic. I come from this perspective:

Since I have traveled around the world since I was two, and lived in Italy for four years and still travel and married to a Sicilian, I noticed that there are some differences in how other races may respond to different sitations, how they love, their sarcasm (which is way different from ours), their bluntness, things like that.

In Northern Exposure, I wrote about a Finnish man. I've been to Finland many times, so it was easy to write about his personality.

Now, if you don't have first hand knowledge about a race and want to write them as just being another human being, that's great! We need to see more of that. I just warn people not to fall into sterotypes.

message 4: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More), Sees Love in All Colors (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 7311 comments Mod
I think that humans are all the same underneath. However, different cultures do come into play at times. I can see where everyone is coming from. Like Arch and Brenda, I write based on the similarities of the human state between all people. But, if I'm writing about a person from a certain distinct culture, I try to capture that flavor so that it feels authentic. I do feel that requires some degree of research or personal interactions.

I read a book called Blue Diablo by Ann Aguirre. I was very impressed with how well she captured the culture of the Texas-Mexico border. I'm pretty familiar with it, because I live in Texas and work with many people from Mexico. If she had not been experienced with that/or did her research, she might have messed up a few things. Now, she made the choice to highlight this. If you don't want to go into that kind of detail, you can probably get away with it. But, it really added some flavor to this book.

By and large, I don't feel that race determines cultural differences. I think region and nationality has more of a factor in that. So, that Americans from the South (regardless of race) are going to be more similar than Southerners and Northerners of the same race.

I also have to say that I hate stereotypes. They drive me nuts. I don't ever want to fall into that trap.

message 5: by Arch , Mod (new)

Arch  | 6570 comments Mod
I tend to have my characters live in the state that I live in with make believe cities.

If I was to let my characters be from another state. I would make sure the city is make believe too, because I can use my make believe skills in that story. I wouldn't have to worry about getting things wrong. Such as the kind of food the people eat,etc.

message 6: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More), Sees Love in All Colors (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 7311 comments Mod
It's a lot of fun to make up new cultures. I'm not terribly good at it. But it was interesting to play around with that in Wedding the Desert King.

message 7: by Arch , Mod (new)

Arch  | 6570 comments Mod
Danielle, your culture seems so real. :)

A good writer can pull stuff off like that and you are a good writer.

message 8: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More), Sees Love in All Colors (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 7311 comments Mod
Thanks, Arch. You're so nice to say so. :)
I did a little borrowing, but I'm glad it came together alright.

message 9: by new_user (last edited Sep 10, 2010 02:07PM) (new)

new_user I agree that culture is distinct from race, and "races" do not all share some kind of hivemind/collective culture. One's experiences are much more relevant, and that is usually influenced by region, etc., as Danielle said.

That said, if we're talking about characters living in a heterogeneous society, like the US or UK, for example, then you can easily write from your own experience, regardless of race, as different people assimilate to different degrees. So not everyone with minority parents and not every immigrant will maintain a second culture with distinct traditions, etc., although many authors seem to assume this is the case. Everyone doesn't absorb/receive America [insert home country] in the same way.

Culture or not, however, everyone is the same underneath, like Danielle said. The rest is just overlay, traditions that come from roots we can all recognize: religion, etc.

message 10: by Dyanne (new)

Dyanne | 10 comments Ditto, on not researching characteristics. I do research foreign countries I haven't been to, and I do go to foreign restaurants and sample the foods. I also interview people for different things.

For instance for LET'S Get It On, half of the story takes places in Pakistan. I needed to know the smells, the heat, the sounds. I needed to know the customs. I also needed to know the immunizations that would be needed in order to go. I needed to know if the wife became upset if the husband could comfort her in public. There was a ton of info for that book that wasn't in the book but things I hadn't known, assumptions.

As for the characters, I listened to them concerning their emotions.

message 11: by LaVerne (new)

LaVerne (lavernethompson) | 77 comments I think when it's comes to writing a character in general no research is necessary, unless their background comes into play.

We're all human beings and we don't live in vacuums in that we are apart from other humans. And I think it's a given when dealing with cultures you haven't been exposed to a little or a lot of research is necessary. Someone mentioned geographic cultural differences within the US, North and South. I'd also add at times there can be economical and educational cultural differences. People that grew up in the inner cities or suburbs mere blocks from each other could have a real difference in attitude and responses. If your story is one trying to stay true to a mind set sometimes a little research might be necessary.

If I was writing about a character from the inner cities and was trying to stay true to that life I'd need to do a little research. If I was writing about a housewife in the suburbs of that city no research necessary. LOL!

I have a question for you a common error I have found in books but it shows the person didn't do a little research - What's the difference between Champagne and Sparkling Wine? Stephanie don't answer that. LOL!

message 12: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Williams | 128 comments ROFL!

message 13: by Dyanne (new)

Dyanne | 10 comments You knew we were going to look this up. LOL


Champagne is a region of France, and only wines which come from this region can properly be called "Champagne". Similar drinks from California, Massachusetts, and the rest of the world should be called "sparkling wines".

Champagne's signature bubbles were included by accident! Back in the 1700s, wine was supposed to be flat, like most wine is today. Bubbles were an error in the process, and the monk Dom Pérignon worked hard to remove them. Instead, he found methods of blending and clarifying the drink, and soon it was sought after by French aristocracy. The rest, they say, is history!

Champagne is made using the Methode Champenoise, which requires two fermentations. You can read all about the Champagne "Methode Champenoise" Process if you'd like!

Champagne is stored for drinking just like any other wine - at around 55F, in a dark, damp location, stored on its side to keep the cork from drying out. Champagne should be served at about 45 degrees. A few hours in the fridge should bring the temperature down, but never store any wine for more than a few days in the fridge. Serve your Champange in tall, narrow-necked glasses, called flutes. Do not use wide-brimmed glasses - they cause the drink to quickly lose both bubbles and flavor.

There are different types of Champagne. Brut is the driest, and the "standard". If you want to get a "great" Champagne, go for a Brut. Extra-dry is less dry than Brut. Sec is sweet, and Demi Sec is even sweeter.

message 14: by LaVerne (new)

LaVerne (lavernethompson) | 77 comments LOL! Hi Dyanne yeah I guessed some people would, but the point is most don't they just make assumptions and I was just demonstrating a point. The other thing it is also the proper name for this type of wine and should always be capitalized.

Yes we are all the same under the skin, but our environments and upbringing have exposed us to many different experiences and crafted the things we do and how we act sometimes that's what needs to be researched.

message 15: by new_user (new)

new_user I agree, Dyanne and LaVerne. And I'm glad you pointed out that even smaller details ought to be researched in a novel. They make a book.

message 16: by Arch , Mod (new)

Arch  | 6570 comments Mod
What needs to be researched in regards to race?

message 17: by LaVerne (new)

LaVerne (lavernethompson) | 77 comments If we're writing from the stand point of humanity, none. But we don't write entirely that way. At least I don't. Maybe it's fairer to say no research is necessary in the general sense in that we're all humanoids subject to the rules of human nature. But we're also subject to the rules of nurture culture has to be considered and that's where research comes into play.

So if a man walks into his bedroom and sees his wife getting busy with his best friend, if he takes her life by most peoples he'd be convicted of murder. Premeditated if he suspected and wanted to catch them in the act. But some races would see his reaction as justified and if he didn't kill her his community would.

Another example is in some places it is considered an insult to eat or touch another with the left hand. There was a time among some races suicide was considered the only way to restore honor to a family.

Among some races it is considered normal to just get up leave your life, hearth and home to wonder the dessert or outback for the next 30 years.

message 18: by LaVerne (new)

LaVerne (lavernethompson) | 77 comments Okay typing too fast that's desert. LOL!

message 19: by Arch , Mod (last edited Sep 11, 2010 01:36PM) (new)

Arch  | 6570 comments Mod
Let me make it clear at to what my thread is about.

I wanted to know as a "writer and whatever your race is", do you find it easy to write about another race or do you think it's hard and you have to research it.

Example. If you are a black woman, do you think it's easy to write about a white person or do you have to research white people and see how they would act. Well, all white people aren't the same, just as all black people aren't the same.

I am not talking about Culture differences. I'm not talking about education levels or even where a person lives. I'm talking about "a race."

I'm a black woman with a touch of Native American/Indian running through my veins. I have white blood in my generation as well. But, if you see me, you will see a black woman, unless you are good at seeing my Native American/Indian traits as well. If you ask me, I am a black woman. I'm not African American. I'm a black woman.

Okay, with all that out of the way. I have never been to Africa and I know that if I wanted to write an interracial story where the woman is an African woman and the man is white, I would have to research Africa culture. Well, only if she lived in Africa all her life and then came to America. But, say if she was born in Africa, but moved to the USA when she was one years old and now she's 30 years old. I would not research anything about Africa, because she's in America and I will write American.

As I have said before, I write all my characters as humans.

Where I am from, the people are different than where you all are from. The rich people are different. The poor people are different and even the way we cook are different.

I hope I have made myself clear, as to what I was looking for. If I haven't, please ask me to explain myself again.

message 20: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More), Sees Love in All Colors (last edited Sep 11, 2010 12:45PM) (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 7311 comments Mod
I get where you're coming from, Arch. It's an author's choice to make culture/ethnicity/race a focus in their story. If they decide to do that, then they have a choice to make it as distinct and authentic as they want.

message 21: by Arch , Mod (last edited Sep 11, 2010 02:40PM) (new)

Arch  | 6570 comments Mod
Danielle, I know it's an author's choice to make culture, ethnicity and race a focus in their story. I would hope that if an author chooses to go this way, she writes about the people in "her world" and not try to make it seem as if everyone around the world that walks in the same shoes as her character(s)are the same.

Example: Every black parents aren't against their daughter being with a white man, just as every white man's parents aren't against their son being with a black woman.

You will find this theme in a lot of bw/wm interracial stories.

I can't write a reality in a real city that I have never been too, but I can write what I want in a false city/real state.

I can't even say that every woman or man in this real city is like this, because everyone is not.

That's why I like writing about humanity.

message 22: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More), Sees Love in All Colors (last edited Sep 11, 2010 07:59PM) (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 7311 comments Mod
It sounds kind of preachy to me for an author to write from the standpoint that she knows about all people of a certain race. That kind of writing wouldn't appeal to me. Since no one knows every person on earth, that's pretty ridiculous and arrogant for anyone to assume they write/speak for everyone. But, I do like reading a book about a certain culture and seeing things that are realistic in her writing.

At the same time, I like when authors make up worlds and everything it it. That's why I love fantasy/speculative fiction. It gets my imagination going!

message 23: by Arch , Mod (new)

Arch  | 6570 comments Mod
I don't recall reading a cultured interracial bw/wm story. I mean besides yours. Unless, I have missed that in the bw/wm books I have read over the years.

message 24: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More), Sees Love in All Colors (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 7311 comments Mod
I can't say I've read a lot of those either, Arch.

message 25: by Chaeya (new)

Chaeya | 454 comments It depends on the story really. So far, I haven't. I have friends who are from everywhere, so if I ever came across a question, all I need do is ask them.

Now my historical I have coming out next year, I've had to research a lot since my character is half Taino Indian.

message 26: by Ruth Madison (new)

Ruth Madison (Dev Love Press) (ruthmadison) | 13 comments What a great question!

I tend to do some research so that I'm knowledgeable and don't have readers saying that I'm being disrespectful. If one doesn't read up on the issues and stereotypes surrounding a particular race or culture, then you could easily accidentally play into bad stereotypes.

If I just depended on what I think in my head of someone from a particular race, what if racism I didn't realize I had snuck in?

My characters are, of course, their own people and not ruled by their race or culture, but I still like to make sure that I've learned enough to not accidentally be disrespectful to their race either.

message 27: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More), Sees Love in All Colors (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 7311 comments Mod
That's a good plan of attack, Ruth.

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