Monday, April 19, 2010

Back on the Blog Chain: Writing the Other

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!

14 comments:

Michelle H. said...

A wonderful post topic! And a question I'm eager to sink my teeth into when my turn comes.

I think I'm going to hang back in answering the question. I love reading what other people think of the topic. Again, great post!

Kat Harris said...

Great topic!

*slinks away to work on response*

:-)

Eric said...

Wow, great topics. This is going to be fun, but I'll answer both also. I like how you have characters that are all over the board. That's pretty bold.

nomadshan said...

This is a topic I've thought about a lot because of one of my WIPs. Interesting that we do write characters so different from us. It is a great opportunity to live in someone else's skin. I wonder if writers as a group are more empathetic than most people. Hmmm. To ponder.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I'm with you, Sandra. I've written main characters who are different from me in every way that you described. Sometimes, it feels so good to stretch out of your own skin.

lbdiamond said...

Great questions! I won't give my answer away for the first one, but I will say I don't do "exercises" per se, but let me tell you, my WIP's certainly turn out to be exercises, LOL!

Robin McCormack said...

I would love to do more writing exercises but really don't have the time for them. I guess you could say my blog and class papers are exercise enough for me. I can't wait to finish my Liberal Arts degree so I can take more writing classes. I look forward to some interesting, challenging writing exercises.

All my characters have been different from me. I've written a handicapped character, a former priest, old foggie. Research - taking people from life and exaggerating them. My main character in 1st wip which is in the process of being rewritten was injured under nefarious circumstances which has really impacted the story. Makes it interesting.

Shaun Hutchinson said...

Both are great! And I can't wait to read Across Two Universes.

I have this spectacular book of writing exercises that I got from a creative writing class in college. If I could only remember the name of it.... I don't do them much anymore, but one that I do still do is where I just close my eyes and free write. It's a freeing experience and helps me unclog my brain when the words aren't flowing.

Christine Fonseca said...

Great topic Sandra! Hmm...how to answer....

Cole Gibsen said...

This is a great topic - one I'm going to have to stew over for a bit.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Two really interesting questions here!

B.J. Anderson said...

Great topic and wonderful answer! This one is going to be a tough one to answer.

Mandy said...

Great topic, Sandra! You've got me really thinking on this one. Should you write what you know or step out of the box? Excellent post!

Sarah Bromley said...

I really liked this topic, and I think it's great that you've looked into the heritage of your characters and know it even if it doesn't play a vital role in the story. It helps you, the writer, know where your characters are coming from. Good job!

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