- purebred animal
*This post was inspired by The Daily Post: Pedigree
I have played at writing a novel for YEARS. During that time, I’ve written several short stories. I wrote an article for Goth Times—although I don’t identify as Goth. (I’m rubbish with eyeliner! LOL) But writing a novel is different. It takes patience and planning. (I’m rubbish with both of those, too!) And…it takes courage, especially if you’re writing outside your comfort zone.
I’ve been plugging away at my book, this time using The Snowflake Method. The great part about using this method is the PLANNING. I thought I knew my characters, but the more I worked on my lessons, the more my characters evolved into their own people. I am shocked how this happens, how ideas that came out of my brain, are written BY me, are NOT me. My first attempts at writing resulted in a “Mary Sue,” although my dialog wasn’t quite this bad, but almost!
Anyway, if things are going better, my lessons are being completed, my book is coming along…then why am I faced with a NEW set of fears? Because my cast of characters are much more diverse than they were in the previous incarnations and I’m afraid I won’t have the writing skills to tell their stories in the way they deserve. I’m afraid that MY own pedigree—67% Western European and 19% Ireland/Scottland/Wales—doesn’t lend itself well to writing a diverse cast from my own personal experience. I have a diverse group of friends, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m able to write what it’s like to be multiracial with any realism. And I WANT my book to be relatable to young adult readers.
I feel like there are PLENTY of Caucasian (white) female protagonists out there already, especially in young adult novels, and ESPECIALLY in paranormal fiction. Why is that? And if there is a character of any other background/ethnicity/etc—besides “white” European—they’re usually relegated to the “plucky sidekick.” (Sigh!) By the way, Writing with Color is a FANTASTIC site for ANY writer, especially if you’re writing characters with a different background than your own.
So, anyway I have two NEW fears:
- Getting the details correct
- Cultural Appropriation
I can do my homework, do my research, learn everything I can about the lives I want to write about, and ask a “Sensitivity Reader” to critique/edit my story when I get there…but is this even my story to tell? I mean, it would certainly be easier to stay in my own lane and have an all-white cast, but that doesn’t feel right. The “plucky sidekick” role feels genuinely insulting. I don’t want to write a trope: “the ambiguously brown” character. (UGH!) I don’t want to write a stereotype. I don’t want to insult anyone, but of course, no matter WHAT I do, there’s a chance someone will be offended. That’s just the truth!
I suppose the reasons behind my creation of a multiracial character are important, besides the “obvious.” Last year, my husband, kiddo, and I had our DNA tested through Ancestry.com and it was rather eyeopening. Since we’re Americans, we assumed we were multiracial even if our skin color (all three of us) was “white.” And honestly, the stories we were told didn’t necessarily match our DNA. When you don’t know where your people come from, there’s this…feeling. It’s like there’s something missing. You look at the people around you and wonder, “Are these my people? How about those people?” You don’t know. And then, in our case, you find out the truth…and it’s even MORE confusing. My kiddo can trace his DNA to SEVEN different regions. Sooo…what does that mean? He has over 1000 matches, 4th cousins and closer. His family…covers a BIG chunk of the globe. Which is awesome! But he doesn’t have ONE region of the globe where he can say, “Ah ha! This is where I come from. These are my people.” It’s more like:
Yeah…my people are from…Earth. Yeah…the planet Earth. Cool!
I feel like this is the norm, at least here in The United States. Maybe we’ve been taught one thing, but our DNA tells a far more diverse story. I’d like my main character to reflect this in a believable way, with all the confusing thoughts and feelings that go along with this. Plus, it REALLY bothers me when people make assumptions. Someone has curly hair? Strangers will ask, out of nowhere, “What are you? Where are you from? Are you Black, Greek, Jewish, Irish, Italian, Latino, Middle Eastern, or Other? No??? Are you sure?” Yeah…it’s kind of obnoxious, and if you say they look “exotic,” that’s even worse. Please, don’t do that! Like…ever. Just don’t. 😉
What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you!