Welcome back to the Blog Chain! It's my turn to choose the topic. Last December, I reviewed a book called Writing the Other: A Practical Approach. I'd like to extend that topic to the Blog Chain by posing the following questions:
Have you ever created a character different from yourself in some significant way, such as (but not limited to) different gender, race, ethnic group, religion, or sexual orientation? If so, what, if any, research did you do to portray these differences? Was this character a main character, secondary character, or walk-on? Did these differences have an impact on the story?
In case anyone is uncomfortable with this topic, I have an alternate one:
Have you ever written writing exercises? If so, did you find the experience useful? What type of writing exercises were they, and did you do them on your own or as part of a writing class or workshop?
Since I'm proposing two topics, it's only fair for me to answer both of them. I'll address them in order.
I've written characters who are different from me in all of the ways I've listed--sometimes different from me in several areas. I do this more in my science fiction than my fantasy. Based on current trends, I think it's reasonable to say that the U.S. will look more diverse in the future than it does now. I think it's important to show this, though I know I can't depict someone from another group as accurately as a writer from that group could. All I can do is try to write the characters as honestly as I can and try to avoid stereotypes. (This site is an interesting resource to look at commonly used character tropes.)
Although the main character of Across Two Universes, Paul, is a white male, he's surrounded by women in positions of authority and people of different racial/ethnic backgrounds. (Even his sister has some Filipino and Native American ancestry). Paul's best friend, Scott, is both black (he has European ancestry as well, but he identifies himself as black) and bisexual. In earlier drafts, Yvonne, Paul's girlfriend, was a typical blue-eyed blonde, but in this draft, she's also of mixed African and European heritage. I have to admit I don't do much with their racial background in the story, though they do encounter some prejudice when they travel back in time to 1980. (The spaceship where they live is a pretty tolerant setting.) I have done some basic Internet research on bisexuality, such as looking at official websites on the subject. Scott's bisexuality does play a role in the story, as he admits to Paul at a critical moment that he has a crush on him, and that affects how Paul and his friends interact. As far as writing from the other gender's perspective, yes, Paul is a typical teenage male interested in sex, and he can be impulsive at times. I look for feedback from my reviewers to help me write a solid male character.
I haven't done writing exercises for a long time, if ever. Most of the time I simply work on stories. But after I finish this current draft of Across Two Universes, I'm going to put it away for a month or so before revising it again. I'm still trying to decide how to spend my writing time during that month, but I'm considering trying some writing exercises to help me with description. I feel I really need to incorporate more description into my stories, but I'm not always comfortable with it. I haven't made a final decision yet, but if I do try some exercises in description, I may post them here.
That's all I have for now. Head on over to Eric's blog to see what he has to say!