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April 28, 2014



I wish we wouldn't talk about "representing" Specific people so much. No one character should define an entire Specific and no Specific can define should define an entire character. It's fiction, people. Just enjoy the story.


I agree with all of that. TFiOS really stood out to me because not only did Hazel have cancer, but she had an outlook on life much different than most people. I myself and more of a Neutral person other than the fact that I'm a five-year-old on the inside, so I don't know how accurate Specific characters are, but I really enjoy reading about them. Of course depending on the story, Specific characters wouldn't exactly work (in one kingdom, people will all have a very similar skin color), but plots that will be able to support a Specific character definitely should. Those books really stick out to me in a good way. ~Autumn


Thank you, Mrs. Hale, thank you, thank you, thank you. However, I do think that there is a lot more to character creation than just skin deep. Oh, sure, we've all read books and thought, "Oh, it's another Normal Character" or, as my fellow book nerd calls them, "Cookie-Cutter Characters". There's the one you're talking about, the handsome white straight able-bodied male with two basic moods and a somehow-attractive scar — and let's not forget his goofy forgettable sidekick/love triangle completer who somehow never finds love and the defiant fiery beautiful petite sarcastic damsel in distress/useless character if she wasn't a love interest for the stupid Cookie Cutter Lead.

Admittedly, these kinds of characters are painful. However, I really don't think the entirety of a character are these base things. I'm not entirely sure how to explain it, but there is one method for creating unique characters that unfortunately I did not invent: take a situation and put a random person in it, jostle them around for give or take a few years, and see how that effects them. For instance, I have a character who is a homeless boy. Instead of creating his character/personality/looks/whatever floats my boat and throwing in his homelessness as a mere, temporary event of misfortune, I bring up a blank template of a fifteen-year-old boy, without looks or personality or any degree of able-bodiness, and then slather the situation all over him before letting it dry and seeing what he looks like now.

There is a downside to this: if the author (and I am not saying that I am immune, only that I am aware of the danger) knows very little about the situation in question, or doesn't know how to portray it correctly, then you could totally destroy the character and get those people who protest again. Hence what you say, when authors are scared back into the Land of Normalcy. But that's overthinking things (at least for me because after a million math tests my brain is DEAD and you should take everything I write with a grain of salt until my sanity has healed).

Point is, I think a huge part in what the character *is* comes when you look at how the author develops them (I'm not really sure how to say this, so if it's confusing, I'm sorry). And really, I don't think your entire view of the story should revolve around what the character is — it's more of how the character deals with how he or she sees themself and how they deal with it, that's what I think.


I'm running into this. I'm currently writing a story where my main character is a girl cursed with blindness. I have never met a blind person and I only know what I've read over the past few years. I'm trying to be as careful as I can in making sure I portray her accurately, yet at the same time due to the curse, her blindness doesn't work like normal blindness.

Reagan S.

Well, what I do is that I research accounts written by people who have experienced it before. Try to get it from multiple people and work off that.


I kind of feel like I'm going to be criticized by someone no matter what I do. On the one hand, I had a conversation on twitter with a black female author who insisted that if white authors didn't write people of color into every book they write, then they are lazy and racist. On the other hand, I read a blog post recently by a Chinese author who talked about how if someone is going to write about a culture/race that isn't their own, they should be as familiar with that culture as they are with their own.

Also, consider this. No one will criticize a black author, or Hispanic author, or Asian author for writing books that feature characters and settings of their own race and culture. And why is that? Probably because we know that there is a need for diverse literature, and the best way to get more of it is for "diverse" authors to write it. In the USA, subcultures are as diverse as skin colors. No one person is intimately familiar with all of them, and most of us are probably only really familiar with one or two. We write what we know, and that is not a bad thing.

So when I write novels, my main characters are probably gonna be white (or maybe Hispanic since I married into a family of Mexican immigrants). Or I'll create a fantasy setting in which I can make up my own damn rules about race and culture and not worry about someone telling me I got it wrong.

Of course, we can always research. And many do. And then they write their book only to have some member of that culture criticize them for getting something wrong. If we truly want fiction to reflect the way the world is, then we need people familiar with diverse cultures to write about them. Because the last thing we need is to inadvertently (or not) promote stereotypes and misconceptions about a race or culture that is not our own.

Skylar, in a comment above, mentioned "cookie cutter characters." Well, cookie cutter has absolutely nothing to do with race and everything to do with two-dimensional, poorly developed characters. This can happen just as easily with diverse characters as it can with "normal" white characters. How many times do we hear that editors and agents want gay characters that aren't your stereotypical gay best friend? That is only one example. True diversity in fiction is a lot more than plugging in a different race, creed, or sexual identity. Authenticity is essential.


Lol, this is exactly why I'm never revealing my true name/identity when I publish. Then no one can know if I'm a girl or a boy or black or white or even human for that matter.
I think what Skylar meant by cookie cutter characters was te tall handsome young white guy who is the hero of every story out there. You don't really see a tall handsome young black guy in TV or books.., do you?
I want to see a cast of main characters representing a bunch of different specifics. That would be pretty cool, I think.
Sorry for bad English ._.


I see lots of handsome black guys on TV and in movies, and I'm beginning to see more of them in books. Other races too. And yes, that is a good thing!


I mean as main character. ._. But that's not it, I don't like how some races are always played as bad. Like Russians and Germans. And Southern Americans are always dumb. Why? There are good Russians and Germans. My friend is from Alabama and she is one of the smartest people I know.


You honestly don't see handsome black guys as main characters on TV and in movies? Will Smith, Jayden Smith, Samuel L. Jackson, Lawrence Fishburne, Jamie Fox, Martin Lawrence, Cuba Gooding Jr., Michael Clark Duncan, Don Cheadle (maybe not all handsome and young, but definitely all black leading males). Just a few off the top of my head.

Maybe I'm not reading the right books, but I haven't read anything recently in which a German or Russian character is the bad guy, or a southerner is dumb. I read mostly middle grade and YA fiction. I remember reading books about diverse characters as a child and teen, and there have been gradually more and more which have diverse characters as I've grown up and have raised kids of my own. Want a non-able bodied white male? THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green. Want fantasy fiction that isn't pure white? THE SHADOW THIEVES by Anne Ursu, THE GRIMM LEGACY by Polly Shulman, THE INHERITANCE CYCLE by Christopher Paolini. Novels in verse featuring minorities? INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN by Thanhha Lai, ALUETIAN SPARROW by Karen Hesse, ALL THE BROKEN PIECES by Anne E. Burg. Want some awesome sci-fi with characters as diverse as the world around us? ACROSS THE UNIVERSE series (especially book three) by Beth Revis and THE LUNAR CHRONICLES series by Marissa Meyer. Judging by your desire to see more books with characters "representing a bunch of different specifics," these books will be more than worth your time. I've read them, and love them, all.

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