I am a white woman and usually find myself writing from a white female perspective. Why? Because I know white women best, seeing as I am one. Sometimes I write from perspective of a man, of people with other sexualities, or of people of different races or ethnicities from my own.
It’s not an easy task. You absolutely cannot just sit down and write a character based on what you see in the media. You cannot write a character based on your one gay, black, or Jewish friend. If you do this, you’ll be sure to offend a reader, because it isn’t an accurate depiction. In fact, I had a professor who was writing a book about being the only white kid in an all black school. His depiction of black teenage males was both extremely stereotypical (all of the characters spoke in such heavy dialect that they sounded unintelligent) and highly offensive. All black people are not the same–in the way they look, act, talk, dress, etc., etc., etc. This man didn’t and wouldn’t do his research and in the end, will be the one that really looks unintelligent.
Today I came across an article called “How to Write Women of Colour and Men of Colour if You are White” by Kayla Ancrum (http://kaylapocalypse.tumblr.com), a young adult novelist. I will discuss some key points from the article, but also be sure to read it in its entirety.
First of all, you MUST do you research. Forget what you think you know about a group of people. If you are writing about a black woman, read a novel written by a black woman about a black woman. If you have a gay character, read a novel written by a gay man about a gay man, etc.
“Then,” Kayla writes, “I would delve into ‘complaints.’ There are thousands upon thousands of articles where black women complain about their portrayal in media. These complaints are both valid and often eloquently expressed.” This can be applied to any character you are writing outside your realm of knowledge. If you are writing from a gay male’s perspective, think of all the things going on in the LGBTQ community right now. There are bound to be a plethora of blogs about what somebody from that community feels or thinks.
“Basically, if you are going to write a character who is not like you, it takes work and time. Lots of work and time,” Kayla writes. She’s right.
Read Kayla’s entire article here: Media Diversified
Please leave comments to let us know about your experiences in writing characters different from yourself in some way.