A few years ago I used to frequent a small lesbian fiction forum, and someone posted a top on the race of characters. It was an interesting discussion from many view points. So I wanted to get everyone's opinions on the matter. In that discussion the main question was, what is the general race of your characters?2/21/2007 #1
Meaning are all of your characters white by default, unless other wise stated. It is something of a default in modern literature of the characters to be white, unless they are in a specific genre. Though it almost seems like interracial romances stories are somewhat of a fetish genre now. It's so rare to see a character who doesn't have blond or brunette hair, or who doesn't have the almost standard mood altering green/blue eyes. (That's a strange phenomenon by the way!)
I can't speak for everyone but I like reading about Asian, Indian, Spanish, African main characters. They feel like an often underused subplot once in stories, but again these are purely my opinions and observations. So I want to know what do you think about interracial characters, and the race of characters in modern fiction as well. Is there a race standard in fiction, or do we just naturally assume the character is whatever race the reader desires, barring any specific traits, blond hair, green eyes...etc.
I know this may be a touchy subject, but this is what forums are for right?
I too like to read about the other races in stories. Although you are right, I do assume the characters are white unless I am told other wise. I also think most of my characters are labeled white. Not on purpose though. Its just what I am use to, I guess. I am an awful creature of habit.2/21/2007 #2
Side note- I am one of those weird people who eyes change from green/blue/grey do to lighting and mood. I guess people write about it the most because it makes their character/s magical and unique without having to place them into the supernatural or sci fi genre.
I too, usually assume characters are white because I just don't think about race when I'm reading/writing. I feel like such a bad person now... I'll try to be more aware in the future. But I do like reading stories about other races, I just don't realize it's about another race unless I'm told.2/21/2007 #3
I actually really like brown eyes, and not just because I have them... eheh. I think brown eyes just have this warmth that blue eyes don't always have. My dog has brown eyes, and when he looks up at me with such cute doggie love... It makes me melt. I think that's one reason why I like brown eyes on people too. *nods* warmth and depth. Yup.
|Rae D. Magdon
You're right, Knightmare, this is an awkward subject for most of us, but it's something that should be remembered. A large percentage of my characters are white, and it's something that I'm trying to fix. I mean, I've dated black, asian, indian, ect. people in the past... I've got lots of black, asian, indian, ect. friends... why don't I write about them? The only example of a non-white character that I currently have posted is Maya in Dying Secrets, and I'm a bit ashamed of that.2/24/2007 #4
My girlfriend, however, has lots of characters of different races. We should all try and be more like her! And yes, I do assume that the character is white unless otherwise stated. Oh, you guys might want to check this link out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_privilege_%28sociology%29
PS: There are several lists of "Heterosexual Privilege" on the internet, just in case you're interested in looking some up.
|all you need is oxygen
I guess in most of the stories I assume the characters are white. I feel awful, but unless it's stated otherwise, I don't normally think they're of other races.2/24/2007 #5
I usually do make my characters white, but I'd like to focus more on Asian aspects, I'm just not so sure if I should since that would involve more Asian dialect... Okay, off topic.
But yeah, I think that most of the stories I read are centered around white people, and it sort of ignores other races. I feel like an awful person now :(
I didn't want to make anyone feel 'bad' for never really noticing. But that's just a fact of society I guess. I mean you can be the most pro black person living deep in the projects and look up a story, there's about a 2% chance that person would even expect the main character to be black. But for 90% of writers it isn't done on purpose, it's just a natural default. And I guess white characters are just easier to write, they're more accepted and natural. After all once you stop outside of that race, you're seriously limited on hair/eye description types, being most races are locked into certain features. Most Asian's generally have black hair and black eyes, Indians generally have black hair and black eyes, though many have hazel and a few gray. Unless you go a little less ethnic with Russian, French, Dutch, the differentiating white races. I've used a few of those in my early works.2/25/2007 #6
But I liked the responses and this topic wasn't to criticize anyone, or make you feel bad for not making other races. It was simply to spread awareness, and hopefully open a few more doors. After all, how do you think someone would feel reading a first person story, and two chapters in they find out the main character's an Asian homosexual. What would be more offsetting, the race of the character or their sexuality?
In a way it tells something when we have to label our stories 'MM, FF, or even Interracial' just to prevent those who are offended by that save themselves the trouble of writing a flame review, or have their day ruined by something they didn't want to see. But everyone has their own opinions on the world and society, and we do have to respect that, even if we're trying to show them the very same people they ignore, are also their friends and neighbors, and possibly future children.
It's good that we feel bad about it. Now, I'm going to think about character's races when I read. I'm glad you made me aware of this!3/8/2007 #7
Eh... I guess a good percentage of my characters are white. But that might just be due to the fact that my first lesbian romance was with a white girl, whilst I am asian. So that's where I draw inspiration from. Actually, that's how a lot of my stories are... strange...3/9/2007 #8
But on the matter, I don't honestly associate race with charcters. I view them almost as objects (is that bad?) ... I don't read "Alice" (for example) and think 'white girl'. I read "Alice" and think "Alice".
That's just me, though, so no offense meant if anyone else feels different.
Well for me, I've only written/started one story. That story so far has a bunch of different races, mainly because I'm used to living in an area where white people are a minority. I guess, being a white girl with brunnete hair and 'mood altering green/blue eyes'(I don't think they're mood altering..but one day they're green and the other they're blue o.o)I don't find that odd, but it is tiring to see. Brunnette and blond hair are common, so there's nothing I can do about it.3/21/2007 #9
Before I started writing, I was more of a 'picture art' type person, so I like to visualize things. So I admit that automatically, I assume that the character I'm reading about is white, until I read something that tells me otherwise.
It's hard for me to say which would be more offsetting, being used to so many races and attending a school that's known to be 'the gay school' by anyone that doesn't attend it. So I can't really say much on that subject.
As for labeling the story, I don't care if someone reads it and gets dissapointed because they don't want to read about lesbians or interracial romance. I put the label there mostly because it makes it easier for people to find. I like it when it's nice and easy to find a story by simply searching 'lesbian' or 'femslash', and I wanted to make it easier for everyone else since there aren't many lesbian stories around.
I like it when stories are labeled because that's how I find all my good femslash. ^_^ I just search for the word "femslash"3/21/2007 #10
I hardly ever write my two main characters both to be white. But this may be because black people are simply cooler to write. *Cough* But I have to say, I am *sick* of the boy-meets-boy, girl-meets-girl, boy-meets-girl or *whatever* stories, where both lead characters are white.3/25/2007 #11
Because they're *everywhere*.
Are you not allowed to fall in love with someone if they have a different skin colour or something?
We're writers of fictional stories, not American movies, people.
It's just a fact of life interracial romances will never become mainstream. But that doesn't have to stop anyone from making fics or movies about it. It's not Hollywood's fault, they only churn out what people are conditioned to see. Hmm, maybe it is a little their fault, but that's why we have indie artists who aren't corporate (yet) and break through walls and speak for all the little people. I'll continue making interracial fics just because I like the variety, that doesn't mean it's the beginning of a revolution, though that would be pretty neat.3/25/2007 #12
I was going to go through and respond to all these posts, but then my scrollbar disappeared so I'm like, "Damn. I better shut up." Here are my basic points:5/6/2007 . Edited 5/10/2007 #13
1. I actually have a lot of non-white characters, especially if you count what Knightmare Elite said about Russians and the French and such, although I never really pay attention to that. They just turn out that way, unless there are certain reasons -- e.g., I have a fic set in 1955 -- that they can't be. I mean, diversity is great, but you should still try to be factual. It really bothers me seeing these fics set in the 60s and there's a black kid dating a white kid. It's very WTF-worthy, because even if it's legal, it's still very taboo.
2. I never pay attention to character's ethnicities, though sometimes I'll randomly assign races to characters and then find out they're the opposite of what I thought and then be mad confused. Like whenever I see the name Carolina or Natalie, I think: ASIAN, because I know Asian kids named Carolina and Natalie... then I find out they're, like, Hispanic or something... it hurts my brain. :\
3. My stories with interracial couples never pay any attention to the fact that they're interracial. Well, except for this one that I'm thinking about -- it's set in the '20s -- and then it'd be a big deal, but in everything past the '70s, no one really cares.
I've finally decided to write my first femslash - however it's over on FanFiction in the HP genre...but I'm making one charcter caucasion and the other African American. It's part of the conflict in the tale.
I too, tend to automatically imagine characters (unless specified) as white. It's a bad habit that I didn't even notice until now...some names though will trigger certain races (I can't imagine a girl named 'Alicia' or 'Maria' as anything other then Latino)
I like it though, when I read things that deal with these issues to overcome. I enjoy more the emotional part of Femslash then the carnality - though both are interesting to read. I like to read and write reactions as well.5/30/2008 #14
I'm so glad you made this a topic! I, like most of the people on this board (I think), also tend to assume that the characters I'm reading about are white, unless someone actually says they aren't, and I also tend to make my characters white as well. I think it's because a) I've grown up in a predominantly white community, and b) I'm half white, and this, combined with a) means I tend to think of myself as white.
Then again I'm also half Asian, which is probably why I sometimes wonder why nearly ALL the characters I read about are white by default; this is gonna be a huge assumption, and I'm probably wrong, but I'm guessing the people who said that they "never really thought of it" on this thread are white? ...Anyway, I've never really wanted to point out character race because I thought I was just being paranoid and overly-PC. (BTW, do you really have to label your stories interracial?)
That being said, I don't think you should create an "ethnic minority" character simply for the sake of having a token black/Indian/Arab guy--and if you do I don't think you should overemphasise the fact that they're not white. There was this one story I read over on FFnet where the character was Chinese (she was a self-insert of the author), and what really bugged me was the fact that she wrote some of the Chinese dialogue in Chinese characters and you had to wait until the end of the sentence to figure out what the hell the MC was saying. If you write in English, then it's arrogant and unfair to expect your readers to put up with non-English text, imo.
But a bit of dialect isn't always bad; there was another story written by a Singaporean (she said she came from Singapore in like every author's note) who wrote SOME of the phrases in Chinese, but wrote it in the Roman alphabet and usually in an English sentence, so readers could figure out what they were saying. (There were translations if they couldn't.) That's the way I think non-white characters should be portrayed; the culture is obviously there, but it's not in-your-face. (I can't really talk though, 'cause the only femslash I've written on this site has a character I've described as "mixed-race" and "half-Korean".)
I also think that that giving a clue about your character's race through their name, especially surname, is a good way of getting it across too.5/31/2008 #15
and I'm probably wrong, but I'm guessing the people who said that they "never really thought of it" on this thread are white?
(BTW, do you really have to label your stories interracial?)
I would hope not - as it's supposed to be that people are open to such things - I know I am - yet people tend to hiide behnd thier bigotry.
If you write in English, then it's arrogant and unfair to expect your readers to put up with non-English text, imo.
Fanfiction is different from Fictionpress though - and I've had to put with that as well. I read a fic that had a character speak in French whenever she was really emotionall (i.e. half of the time) and another character who spoke in Spanish a bit. The author put translations at the end of the chapter, but she left context clues as well, to figure out what was going on. (A Pirates of the Caribbean story)
I also think that that giving a clue about your character's race through their name, especially surname, is a good way of getting it across too.
Agreed. :)5/31/2008 #16
Just want to say that I actually prefer it when author's label their stories interracial. I don't care if people avoid it, because they'll probably stop reading when they find out anyway, but the fact that interracial stories are so rare... I don't want to miss one. I don't see labels as warnings, just... labels. Makes it easier to find what you're looking for.5/31/2008 #17
Interesting point. Sort of like my opinion on labeling something femslash - I wish it didn't have to be labeled, (afterall stories aren't labeled 'this is het') but it makes it easier for searching, and chasing away those who would just comment evilly.5/31/2008 #18
To be honest. One of the main reasons I label my stories is to stop the flamers in their tracks. If they are clearly noted on what they're going to read, then they have no right to complain. Yes that's sad in this day and age we still have to 'warn' people a story has gay or minority character but that's life. But as another poster said, labeling also helps those who are legitimately looking for those types of stories.
And the thing about cluing a character's race by name isn't really good. I mean there are plenty of white people with ethnic sounding names and vice versa. Ex: Black girls named Brittney and Megan. Or white girls named Natasha and Mikka. I'm just saying names aren't good indicators but as long as the author doesn't make a token character it shouldn't be a big deal. No need to throw the race in the readers face, as in all situations it comes down to the quality of the writing to convey everything.5/31/2008 . Edited 6/11/2008 #19
(BTW, do you really have to label your stories interracial?)
I would hope not - as it's supposed to be that people are open to such things
I thought that too- that's why I noticed when whoever it was (sorry, I forget) said that they had to label their stories interracial. And whilst I do agree with Indirect Object that labelling is just, well, labelling, it's a little worrying that in this day and age, interracial relationships are still seen as... I hate to use the word "fetish", but that's all I can think of. Then again, I guess you could say the same thing about slash, femslash etc. and this is a femslash forum isn't it?
Fanfiction is different from Fictionpress though
How does that impact on languages used? You didn't really make it clear... Anyway, I've already said that I don't mind contextual clues, and putting translations at the end is generally a good idea. Ages ago I wrote a story on FFnet in which one of the original (minor) characters was French, and could speak ONLY French. I didn't put translations at the end because I knew that a couple of my readers could speak French and I didn't want to patronize anyone, so I just wrote whatever he said in English and italicized it so they would know he was speaking French. But every now and again I'll put what (I thought) were simple French words and phrases that could easily be translated by an English speaker, and at the end of a chapter one of my reviewers said something like, "Aw, the end seemed really sweet... wish I could understand French." Though she did get the gist from the context, she didn't get the whole meaning, and she's a pretty loyal reader/reviewer, so I learnt to be careful with using foreign words. (Btw, this Pirates of the Caribbean story... is it by any chance "The Trouble with Women" by Cayenne Pepper Powder?)
Sort of like my opinion on labeling something femslash - I wish it didn't have to be labeled, (afterall stories aren't labeled 'this is het')
My dilemma too- I like being able to find stories that I want to read about, but I don't like the double-standard for gay and het fics. (This is what political correctness does to you ;p) Trouble is, not everybody labels their story yuri, femslash, lesbian etc. There should be a 'pairing' option on this site, sort of like the ones you get over at FF; but instead of character names, you have Man and Woman... or something.
@ Knightmare Elite:
One of the main reasons I label my stories is to stop the flamers in their tracks.
Because I'm so self-serving, I use labels to get potential readers' attention; it hasn't really worked with femslash though (but then I've only written one; two, if you count fan fiction).
If they are clearly noted on what they're going to read, then they have no right to complain.
The thing about flamers is that they're pretty persistent, and flaming itself is pretty immature. Some people will flame you for writing femslash regardless of warnings.
the thing about cluing a character's race by name isn't really good. I mean there are plenty of white people with ethnic sounding names and vice versa.
I should've been clearer, I meant ethnic-sounding surnames; 'Lucy', for example, is a white name, but 'Liu' gives away her Chinese heritage. Same with Jackie Chan, Stephen Chow, etc. That being said, you wouldn't be able to guess from their names that Naomie Harris and Naomi Campbell are black, so...
And before I forget, thanks for the C2 links!6/3/2008 #20
How does that impact on languages used?
Well, in some stories (like in HP and the character Fleur) some characters speak natively in another tongue, so it's not that out of place to have some other languages used...
(Btw, this Pirates of the Caribbean story... is it by any chance "The Trouble with Women" by Cayenne Pepper Powder?)
Yes, it was.
There should be a 'pairing' option on this site, sort of like the ones you get over at FF; but instead of character names, you have Man and Woman... or something.
Oh that would be awesome! I find it hard to find something to read on this site, outside of C2's because it's so hard to search...it would make this site so much easier to navigate...6/3/2008 #21
Something that I've been thinking about that's kinda related to this thread was the actual races involved in an interracial couple. Does anybody here think that some interracial pairings are more acceptable than others? For example, is it 'better' for a white man/woman to date an Asian man/woman than it is for him/her to date a black man/woman, and if so, why is that?7/5/2008 #22
Unfortunately I know from experience that people ( at least near the D.C. Metro area ) accept way more interracial couples than black/white ones. My family is white, and two of my cousins married immigrants from Mexico. My mom's boyfriend is black, and they've been together for about nine years. Hardly anyone spares a glance at my obviously white cousins when they walk hand-in-hand with obviously Mexican men, and they're treated just like anyone else from what I've seen and heard (except for the occasional jackass, but everyone deals with those for one reason or another). My mom and her boyfriend went to a restaurant. They got there before three other couples, and yet they got served last. And I don't mean food orders either. They didn't get to order their drinks until the black/black and white/white couples were served. They had plenty of waiters around, too.
Ted, my mom's boyfriend, said that even when it was busier and he was there with his friends, they got their drinks almost as soon as they sat down.
It pisses me off sometimes. :(7/6/2008 #23
Things like that aren't fair and in 2008 as much as people are quick to say 'But things are better' nothing has really changed. People are just more careful and tolerant, but what's accepted in one state is vile and attacked in another.
As for character pariting, well that in a way also reflects on society and the enviornment of the writer. If they see more of a certain pair, or if a certain pair is generally accepted then that's usually what they'd base an interratical pairing around.7/6/2008 #24
When I read in English I'll assume the characters are white, if the story didn't note otherwise. And when I read in Chinese I'll assume the characters are Chinese. Same goes for Malay and French. So I guess its natural to have tha mindset, is it not?12/13/2008 #25
I don't tend to think about the race of a character much, unless there's a description of physical features.2/11/2009 #26
Popping in for shameless self-promotion: my fic 'More Than You Know' is about an interracial couple.
But when reading other people's fiction, unless they specifically spell out physical characteristics (and sometimes not even then), I don't tend to visualize a character as much as I hear them speak. For me, believable dialogue is what it's all about; I want to hear real words in a real voice.2/11/2009 #27
That makes me wonder, from the content of your story is it safe to assume that you're a pretty audio oriented person? I've always preferred visual to audio. May or may not be because I've always been interested in many visual art forms. I've also been sort of a 'visual learner' in school. I guess hearing the characters speak isn't as important to me as seeing them in my mind, even though hearing them as well does help add to it.2/11/2009 #28
Hm ... that's really interesting! Probably being a visual learner would make you more visually oriented when you're reading as well. I'm a musician in real life (life outside FP, that is), so maybe that accounts for the way I absorb a story.
We should hear from a kinesthetic learner, to see if they act out the events as they read. :)2/13/2009 #29
First off, I wanted to thank you, Knightmare Elite, for bringing this up. Don't worry, you're not the only one who has noticed that there is still a lack of characters that aren't white. It's actually a case in all genres (I believe), especially Young Adult, Fantasy, and Science Fiction. I'll admit that when I was younger I didn't think about the ethnicity of my characters. They were white by default, but right now I'm adding characters with different ethnic backgrounds and outside my race (I'm Latin American/Hispanic/Caribbean.) So far, I have written main characters who are Chinese, South African (black), and there's a Portuguese MC that I'm developing for a (possibly) future Lesbian novella. And I have varying physical appearances (some of my characters are blonde, brunette, have black or red hair; some have hazel, green, brown eyes, etc.)
This is also a case in Disney and even in Japanese anime. For example, notice that Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame has green eyes, although she's a Gypsy (the majority of them have brown eyes.) And that Aladdin happens to have European features (the nose especially.) In anime, there's the concept of white beauty. Notice that the majority of characters in anime have hair and eye color other than black. I have a friend from college who visited Japan once for her summer vacation and she told me that she got a lot of attention (mostly from the males) because she has blonde hair and blue eyes. There were people who say that Japanese people are racist. While that's not exactly true, some Japanese people are biased against foreigners, it's more because of their concept of beauty. But currently, there are more black characters appearing in anime (playing main roles instead of being at the side), like Michiko e Hatchin and Basquash! (could be because of Obama being President in the United States), and from other ethnic backgrounds too (El Cazador de la Bruja.) And there's Nadia: Secret of Blue Water, which has a main female protagonist who's not white or Japanese. Anyone who happens to be an expert on this, please correct me if I'm wrong.
Then there's the whole having a character who's not white being a Mary Sue characteristic. Honestly, I don't like Mary Sues or self-insert characters, but I don't understand how having a MC who's black, hispanic, asian, native american, multi-racial, etc. makes them Sueish. A writer could do that and have them believeable and realistic. I just think that there needs to be diversity (I actually attended a multicultural high school and currently live in a community of people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. If only if it were like that in books. *sighs*) Then again, some people live in different types of communities (some live in an all-white one.)
Sorry if I got off topic here. Was just mentioning Disney and anime as examples.11/14/2009 #30
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