I made a slideshow about how to create a fictional character… I got most of the information from the ‘start writing fiction’ (free) course on the OpenUniversity website and found it incredibly useful so here’s a visual version for you :)
Anonymous asked: Should I use a real tribe or fictional for my American Indian character?
Questions to ask yourself:
What’s the purpose of creating a fictional Native American nation? To avoid having to “get it right”?
If this is your reason, please reconsider. All it takes is thorough, careful research into the NDN nation of your interest via primary sources such as books, articles and documentaries (written & created by NDN people) and perhaps speaking with Native Americans of the nation(s) you wish to portray via forums or by finding someone to discuss with at diversity check list.
Will this fictional tribe virtually mirror an existing one and you’re just cloaking it as something else for the sake of your story? And will your story’s other ethnic groups’ cultures be fictional counterparts of a real culture as well?
If you’re setting your story in an alternative/fantasy world, and only hope to allude that a certain group of people are say, Ojibwe, for your story world, then that should be fine. However, even this depends on how the other ethnic groups are being assigned.
Are White Europeans still White Europeans, Yoruba people still Yoruba? You’ll want to “do onto others” if you will when it comes to creating a fictional group of people. To have a fictional Native American nation in the midst of real ethnic groups and tribes is like implying real NDN people are fictional or fantasy.
If you’re creating a fictional tribe, will it be a mash-up of others?
If your plan for a fictional nation is to take bits and pieces of different NDN cultures or just speculate for a new one in a similar fashion, this could be a problem.
Native American cultures are not interchangeable and shouldn’t be homogenized. It’s disrespectful to take a culture with real traditions and items of significance and just blend them together into one for the heck of it, erasing all context and meaning.
On the flip side, there is a possibility that natural cultural sharing could occur within fictional nations (or one based off a real one) and thus you could have a nation that has cultural elements from another… Just make sure there’s an explanation for it and that we know this is the case, so it’s not viewed as cultural misappropriation.
We discuss cultural appropriation, misappropriation, and cultural sharing more in the FAQ.
~ Mod Colette
All from Ingrid’s Notes on Wordpress, direct link here.
Fanfiction writers here’s a treat
What was is like to live during different eras of history? When writing something that doesn’t occur in the present or future, this is important to consider.
If you’re planning on writing a novel, you are likely going to have to do far more extensive research than what I have compiled here, but hopefully these can serve as a starting point. I will try to find more sources on a wider variety of cultures (I am aware that this list is very Euro-centric) in future posts. Ideally, I would like to come up with different lists specifically for Victorian England, WWI germany, the persian empire, etc. and list them to be searched by tags on my blog.
I also hope for a day when I have enough followers to take requests on what you would like a master list of!
Writing Indian Characters
So the first thing that pops into my head when I think about writing Indian characters (as a second gen immigrant who was born in India and moved to America) is the overwhelming diversity within just the blanket term “Indian character.”
Writing Indian Characters in India
North Indians and South Indians are very different from each other. Things change dramatically from state to state as well, whether you’re talking about the food or the language or the style of clothing. There’s also religious diversity in that while the dominant religion in India is Hinduism, there are also Muslim Indians and Sikh Indians and Buddhist Indians, all of which have different perspectives on what it means to be Indian. India right now also has a pretty large age span, where with the population boom, there are just as many old people with prejudices as there are young people with liberal mindsets. India’s also at a point now where it’s an up and coming country, with values and goals of young people changing rapidly. The information age hit India pretty hard, and there’s large discrepancies between the rural areas with few, if any, accesses to technology, and the urban settings where there’s large amounts of technology everywhere you look.
That’s the main thing I would try and keep in mind when writing characters IN India — just the ridiculous amount of diversity and change that’s happening now in India. Young people there also have this mindset there that the Western world is better and everyone seems to want to immigrate to American or Britain when they grow up.
If you’re talking about writing Indians in Western countries, like immigrant stories, that’s another story.
Writing the Indian Diaspora
There, it’s still important to keep in mind the diversity of India because that could change the perspective your character has on the Western world as well. Research is once again, your best friend. Research holidays that your character might celebrate like Rakhi and Holi and Diwali, research religions and the religious holidays (Hinduism has an enormous amount of gods and goddesses and holidays for them as well). Research where in India your character is from, because that colors things differently too. As I said, South Indians and North Indians especially have different views on a lot of different things.
The other thing about Indians living away from India is that they’ll find each other. Literally everywhere we’ve lived in my life we have had neighbors and communities of Indian people that we would collaborate on showing Indian movies in local movie theaters with, people we would send things to India for our family with and ask them to bring things back for us. We’d put on festivals and shows and dances and things with them.
Of course, you can’t forget the racism either. As a brown girl growing up, you get made fun of for how you smell, how you wear your hair, the clothes you wear, and then you also get to watch as everyone grows up and ~discovers~ these things and wears henna and bindis as if they’d never made fun of you for doing the same thing before.
That’s about all I have off the top of my head. If you have any other specific questions, feel free to send them in, and we’ll do our best to help!
If any other Indian followers have anything to add to this, please let us know as well!
1) The extremely ordinary girl who is average, plain, and bland in appearance, personality, and general character development and who constantly talks about how boring she is and how there’s nothing special about her. This character is boring. This character is flat and static. The plot throws her around and everyone else figures things out for her. What she does do is make one or two very asinine decisions. Authors often use that as an opportunity to let a male love interest step in and fix everything for her. She then moves on from the mistake without having learned or without having changed from the experience.
Your characters, especially your protagonists and main characters, deserve so much more than that.
I should say that characters who genuinely believe there is nothing special about them do not fall into this. The characters who don’t genuinely believe it are the ones who mention it in a nonchalant way when they’re confused as to why someone would like them romantically and who then never mention it again. This belief is not shown in their dialogue, their emotions, or their behavior. They never express their concerns and no one else notices that they have low self esteem.
2) Female characters who are tokens. They’re introduced as the Strong Female Character, or what authors think a strong female character is, and do nothing but nag to show that women are always right and men are always wrong. They contribute nothing to the plot, are not well written, and rarely have relationships with other female characters.
3) The evil ex girlfriend needs to go or at least get an upgrade. She often shows up with the first character I described. She’s the ex girlfriend of the hot guy who is in love with the super average girl and she’s often the opposite of the protagonist. The protagonist is kind, gentle, innocent, and pure. The evil ex girlfriend is rude, dresses provocatively, hates the protagonist, and is an antagonist. This author gives all traits they consider immoral to this character and they’re used as a tool for preaching.
There are a lot of things wrong with this character, including sexism, blatant “white and black” morality, the “virgin vs whore” symbolism, and general craft failure. I think the only well written version of this character I’ve seen is Regina George (prior to Janis’s plans to mess with her).
Another version of this character is the “crazy ex” who stalks the male love interest and who is often referred to as being insane or mentally ill. These characters are less common in the YA age group though.
4) Female characters who are only love interests. These characters can be taken out of the story without losing anything important to the plot or characterization. This is craft failure.
5) We need to stop “fridging” female characters. This is when a female character is killed off by the bad guys for the purpose of angering the male protagonist. The death most often happens in the beginning of the story or shortly before the story begins. This trope is used way too often.
6) Female characters who are used to show that femininity or being attractive is inherently bad and that it makes other characters like that bad people. These characters often complain about other female characters and prefer to hang with the boys because they’re “not complicated” or something.
7) This next character isn’t one that we need to get rid of, but one that needs to allow others to take the role of the protagonist. I see so many times in fiction, particularly in speculative fiction, that female protagonists need some unique skill or ability to be the protagonist. Male characters get to be the unlikely hero who comes from humble beginnings just as much as they get to be someone with a unique ability. Female characters don’t get that chance too often.
Anonymous asked: As I’m not a rude weirdo going around touching other people’s hair I’ve been struggling to describe my PoC protagonist’s hair and it’s texture. I’ve seen ‘cloudlike’ as a description I really like! Any suggestions, tips, or advice for describing natural hair both to depict a character and to indicate her race when white readers tend to assume white regardless of skin color?
Glad to hear you ain’t touching folks’ hair! ;]
I happen to love the description of cloud-like. There’s something very lovely about it to my ears. As for describing natural hair as a means to depict a character and indicate race, you’ll likely want to pair that with other indicators.
For example, you can describe a PoC who has coils ‘n curls and still readers might be like “Ah, very curly-haired White person. Got it.”
But when you’ve got description like, say, “Dark cloud-like hair formed a halo around her brown face, a silver stud protruding from a short, rounded nose…” It makes it easier for readers to imagine a PoC from the get-go. There’s no sin in just stating their race either, in one way or another. See this post on introducing race & skin color.
Another way of getting a feel for describing natural hair is by looking at images of it. Hit up your pal google and get to studying all the different variations, from texture to color to curl pattern.
Natural hair comes in all mixes & shades of black, brown, blondes, reds… it can be rough, soft, a combination of soft and rough… It can be wiry, tight under the hands like a spring, coily…. this not even covering dyed, styled, & braided states and such…there’s just too much diversity in natural hair to cover in one post to be honest!
So yes, cloud-like is good. Better when paired with other indicators of race.
Also, enjoy this.
How It’s Said (substitutes)
In a happy way: laughed, rejoiced, giggled, joked, lilted, sang out.
In a sad way: cried, agonised, bawled, blubbered, lamented, sobbed, groaned, snivelled, wept, mourned.
In a bossy way: insisted, bossed, demanded, preached, dictated, professed, ordered.
In an angry way: raged, miffed, seethed, fumed, retorted, thundered, blurted.
In a pained way: barked, cried out, cried, screamed, jabbered, bellowed, groaned, howled, shrieked, roared, grieved, wailed, yelped.
In a frightened way: quaked, stammered, shuddered, quivered, trembled.
In an understanding way: empathised, accepted, consoled, crooned, comforted, sympathised, agreed.
In a tired way: mumbled, struggled, emitted, wearied.
In a begging way: beseeched, begged, implored, pleaded, entreated, appealed to.
In a mocking way: mocked, ridiculed, derided, hooted, japed, insulted, jeered, parodied, taunted, teased, chaffed, flouted, degraded, sneered, disdained, jibed, gibed, disparaged, belittled, decried, flouted, fleered, leered, scoffed, sniggered, swiped, scorned, repudiated, lampooned.
In a seductive way: purred, simpered, coaxed, wheedled, persuaded, baited.
As an answer: As an answer: responded, retorted, replied, rejoined, answered, acknowledged.
- Have your characters talk/brag about how the vampires in your story don’t sparkle. That only happened in one book series. Sparkling vampires are not an established and expected vampire trope. Besides, Twilight hate is passe.
- Make it really obvious that a character is a vampire but have the main character be clueless (unless this is a comedy).
- Have a vampire main character who is the only vampire cool enough to have non-vampiric traits/habits.
- Have zombies (as modern pop-culture portrays them) in the same story without the fact that zombies and vampires are pretty much the same come up as a plot point. Zombies as reanimated slaves to sorcerers are okay.