Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Dagger
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I'm curious about other writers' approach to this subject. I have multiple POC and queer characters in a few of my ongoing RPs, but I was wondering recently if there are people of those demographics (or other writers in general with experience) who have advice they'd like to give straight, white writers like myself to better represent them in their stories. I've noticed for a while that there aren't a whole lot of POC characters specifically on this site, so it could be especially helpful for anyone who wants to get their feet wet with writing a character who doesn't share their race. For example, if there's anything anyone wants to share regarding their culture, terms/language specific to a minority demographic, mistakes they've seen in others' writing (without pointing fingers) or other details that aren't commonly reflected in RP, I'd love to hear them!

I'll also mention that this could be a good spot for people to discuss and share questions about writing different genders if they have any.

Writing outside of your own life experience can be a powerful thing, and I hope this will be helpful for anyone who wants to give it a shot!

--

Note: Please keep all conversation classy. This is meant to be an inclusive thread designed for learning, and I don't want to see it dissolve into arguments, intolerance or hateful speech. Thanks!
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Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by Vatonage
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Speaking as someone LGBT+, "Bury Your Gays" is a trope to be wary of. This isn't to say that LGBT+ people in your writing can't have tragic experiences; many people today still struggle with homophobia, transphobia, being assaulted for being LGBT+, etc. However, for an underrepresented community of people in media, it does get tiresome seeing LGBT+ characters constantly written as someone whose life is hell and/or is killed off to where it is a refreshing (and thankful) change of pace whenever the opposite happens.
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Dagger
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Speaking as someone LGBT+, "Bury Your Gays" is a trope to be wary of. This isn't to say that LGBT+ people in your writing can't have tragic experiences; many people today still struggle with homophobia, transphobia, being assaulted for being LGBT+, etc. However, for an underrepresented community of people in media, it does get tiresome seeing LGBT+ characters constantly written as someone whose life is hell and/or is killed off to where it is a refreshing (and thankful) change of pace whenever the opposite happens.


Thanks! I’ve heard that’s a reason why Schitt’s Creek was praised for being a homophobia free zone.
Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by Kassarock
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Yeah, so I'm a member of the LGBTQ community, and something I've noticed about fiction involving gay men when written by non LGBTQ people is how they often replicate quite stereotypical or even toxic heteronormative dynamics. I think this is especially common in slash fiction and yaoi adjacent stuff. But basically, pairings often end up being a question of a dominant and submissive. One will have a bunch of traditional masculine traits, the other will have a bunch of traditional feminine traits, and they will basically fall into traditional gender role divisions, except they're both male.

Now my lived experience of pretty much every relationship I've ever had, has been nothing like that. There are a lot ways I would conform to being the 'dominant' and 'masculine' stereotype, but there are equally a lot of ways in which I don't conform to that. And I would say the same is true for most (if not all) of the gay men I know, they all exist on spectrum of masculine and feminine traits and behaviours, not as a binary.

On the subject of playing POC characters, its something I have done, but generally not in a modern or contemporary setting. Playing a POC in fantastic or speculative situation is very different, because obviously you can abstract away from real world racial dynamics and reinvent them as you please. I won't say I would never play a POC character in a modern setting, I just don't feel comfortable in my ability to write one well as of this point in time.

With female characters, I do write them on a semi-regular basis, but its something I've deliberately tried to research and improve over these last few years. I did this because I thought it was a weak point in my writing that I wanted to improve upon, and you can't improve without practice. Maybe I'll do the same with writing POC characters at some point.

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Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by POOHEAD189
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I'm about as straight as an arrow, but I am of mixed race and I've been in both a lower income multi-ethnic school and a high/middle class predominately white school during my formative years. Honestly I never noticed too much of a difference. Kids are kids and people are people, in my estimation. It's honestly as simple as that. If you write your character as a person and not a caricature, you should be fine.

I am glad this thread was made, truthfully. It irks me some people are afraid to write as colored people or people of a different sexual persuasion. They're afraid because people do call others out on stereotyping, sometimes rightly, but most of the time in poor taste in my experience. For instance, I do remember a female friend of mine reading some writing and telling me that 'women don't like X in bed' whereas my sexual partners have asked me to do the very things my friend said were a no-go. And people who criticize your writing will act like that often.

My point is, people have unique experiences. Your sex, gender, sexuality, or race might change a few minute details about your life (depending on the severity of your society, of course). But at the end of the day, they're just small parts of your greater identity. If someone wrote about either of my parentage's experiences, even if I or they hadn't experienced said thing, I wouldn't call it wholly wrong per say. They have just as much right (and chance at being correct to someone's view) to write a character that way as I do writing for a 13th century mongolian protagonist.
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by ZAVAZggg
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While I don't have anything I can add, I will say that I am glad to see this thread, as it will doubtless be a good place in which to find advice for writing such characters.

I will second what POO said though. Write the character as a person and not a caricature.
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Crystal Amalgam
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I can't help much in the POC department. I am mixed, but I appear white and I really don't know much about my culture (rip). However, I am an mlm transguy, so I'll give my two cents there.

There are simply no trans characters that aren't comedy relief. I can name like 2, and they all look like they poorly pass despite being adults. Most trans people who are adults and a few years into their transition can pass with flying colors. It's also not like...the center of our personality? Sure, I'm trans, I might put a pride flag on my bag if I'm feeling cool, but it's not something we flaunt around (for me it's out of the fear of getting a hate crime against me lmao). The other thing is that our personality isn't 100% depressed. Yes, I have depression, my trans partner does too, but we're not happy-sucking vampires.

Also, the trope that all nonbinary characters are nonhuman or "????? gender" mysterious children. Nonbinary people are people, not aliens. Sure, it's cool if your fictional alien culture has different genders, but there are more than two genders on Earth as well...haha. Nonbinary also doesn't mean androgyny. Many enby people like being androg, but some don't. My best advice? Just talk to trans people. Making this thread was a good step in that direction.

ALSO, I have no idea if you wanted to include mental illness and neurodivergency in this thread, but I'd be happy to talk about it.

EDIT: Basically, just like any character you're writing, avoid outdated cliches lol
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by RainyHigh
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I love this thread and am going to subscribe... will post later more in depth. Like others have said I am happy to see this thread.

I have questions and comments.
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Dagger
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I'm so glad to see that this thread gained traction overnight.

@Kassarock @POOHEAD189

Really helpful advice from both of you. Thanks so much for contributing! It reminds me of why I started the thread in the first place, actually. One of my closest friends is gay, and we were chatting about the value of minority representation in the media. A lot of film and TV shows seem to depict queer characters as either total stereotypes/caricatures or people who could pass as straight if they didn't tell you they were gay/lesbian/bi. There's much more of a spectrum in real life. However, my friend had a really good point that while caricatures can be offensive if done in poor taste, that doesn't mean that queer characters can't ever have stereotypical tendencies. It can also be offensive/hurtful to send a message that they have to be ambiguous enough that their sexuality is unclear, so having a mix of both can be cathartic for people who may feel like it's been ingrained in them to avoid "being a stereotype" at all costs.

I can't speak much to that same point regarding POCs, but I agree for sure that it would be nice to see more variety on the site. I think a lot of people overthink it and know that I even did for a while before I started branching out from straight white male characters. More than anything else, I've noticed the changes to my minority characters are predominantly in their histories. How they were raised, the building and wounding messages they received in adolescence, what their families were like, etc. At the end of the day, they're all human and that's the most important thing to remember, but I've learned that there's something beautiful in at least acknowledging some of the cultural differences between my white, black, Latinx, Asian, Native, etc characters who were brought up by more traditional families. Which is where some advice from people with life experience could be helpful if anyone reading the thread has anything they want to share in that department! :)

@Crystal Amalgam

Honestly, I love hearing from trans people, so anything you want to add about mental health and psychology is totally fine with me. Thanks for sharing! I think trans people are probably the single most underrepresented group on the forum (at least, from what I've seen) so it's really helpful to hear advice on how to write them as characters. That's the one group I haven't tried to write, myself. It's mostly because gender dysphoria is a thing I have experience with and haven't reached a point of comfort enough to create a character that's been through it too, but for other people, it could be helpful to learn about trans people both for general understanding and for better knowing how to approach a character if they want to give it a shot.
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by RainyHigh
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Regarding POC characters *starts to laugh*. I mostly only write as women of color characters. I struggle trying to remember to include and represent white characters.
It used to be quite the opposite for me because, as a teenager, I thought it was customary to write white characters since that's mostly what I read and saw on the screen.
Even though I'm a bi-racial (black/white) person myself!
Side note: I identify most of the time as black--except when people ask if I'm Asian or Latino, I then tell them no, I'm mixed/bi-racial (black/white).
So then I went to a convention session one summer in High School that spoke about the lack of representation of POC in film, books, TV, and comics and was like... well, Holy Shit.
I'm black, and I'm adding to this problem!
I now strive to find fiction/fantasy books about black female protagonists and other WOC (women of color) as the protagonist.
And since I want to read/watch more about them, I mostly write WOC characters to help get more "coverage" out there. LOL.
Now my goal is to get educated more and consume more entertainment about LGBTQ+ characters.

On the topic LGBTQ+ characters, I've only enjoyed writing as asexual or gay characters (I mean other than straight). Bi-sexual and pan-sexual characters are hard for me to write well. But I understand it shouldn't be since, like others have said above this post--WE are ALL human in the end. And I know there are even more different orientations, but I still need to learn more about them before writing tales from their POV. Like I said I'm open to being educated more. Regarding trans characters, I've only written as one FTM trans character in the past, but even then, I barely ever mentioned their 'trans' identity as it wasn't imperative to the story... but then I felt like I was doing the whole 'hiding/closeting' thing. So, unfortunately, I started to avoid that situation instead of learning more.
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Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by ZAVAZggg
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Not sure if this counts as a valid contribution to the thread, but I generally tend to write mixed characters or characters whose race is ambiguous, most likely because I myself am a mix of many different races. Those being Caucasian, African American, Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, and Native American according to my birth certificate. Possibly a tiny bit of Irish, Welsh, and German if my grandmother and her parents, my great grandparents, are correct. Granted, that mostly just influences the appearance of the character rather than the character themselves, least in my case anyway.

I don't think I bring any unique cultural things to most characters though, unless it's fashion or weaponry, though these are generally Asian in flavor mainly because some of my characters tend to draw a lot from anime. Apologies if this is a crude way of describing it by the way, cultural influences and traditions aren't usually my first thought when I create a fictional being and I'm not exactly used to speaking on the subject. Anyway, that's just my personal experience making characters, at least before I started writing god characters, in which case they can be whatever they please and generally act in amoral ways.

Because power's power. Kinda hard to tell a godlike being who can erase you from existence how they should be using their abilities after all. I will say, however, that playing godlikes has gotten me far more comfortable using they/them and it rather than the standard he/she.

Anywhoo, that was more of a ramble on my part, but it's what I got.
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Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by BangoSkank
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I have no experience.

Generally write as some sort of non-human or human adjacent fantasy race. Mostly Halflings. Usually sexuality doesn't come up.

I want to have an African American character in a story in writing soon and I wanted to have a Bisexual Female Halfling in this story I was going to do with TyrannosaurusRex here. I bring this up because I did run into and likely will continue to run into a bit of a conundrum.

As RainyHigh mentioned the "hiding/closeting" idea in regard to Trans I wanted to make these characters but without either making them both Straight White Male characters who tangentially were occasionally pointed out to be not straight white male characters, or going the other direction and making them exaggerations or tropes or what have you.

Particularly difficult in regard to the African American character as the story I want to write him in is set in 1968. Lots of tokenism or white savior or other such tropey traps to avoid. Particularly since my main character in this is literally Captain America.

My thinking is to try to avoid tropey things, in both cases, while also trying to avoid the Trope Inversion trope. Essentially just trying to make a character whose life and views are shaped by these things without making the character's character purely these things. Wish me luck. I'll probably consult this thread for both.
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Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by Fiscbryne
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At the end of the day, they're all human and that's the most important thing to remember, but I've learned that there's something beautiful in at least acknowledging some of the cultural differences between my white, black, Latinx, Asian, Native, etc characters who were brought up by more traditional families. Which is where some advice from people with life experience could be helpful if anyone reading the thread has anything they want to share in that department! :)

Having been raised in a 'traditional' family, I can speak to this somewhat. I think that though what @POOHEAD189 said about us all being human certainly rings true, it can also be a disservice to disregard culture and to treat it as merely window-dressing. We are all human and we share common experiences as human beings, but that which we find to be innate and/or natural can very often be socially conditioned. That isn't to say that people's futures are determined by their cultures, of course (and people of color are not always in so 'traditional' families nor do they have the same experiences within them) but the way people are brought up and socialized has a huge part to play in how so many people live their lives, and the concept of the individual unbounded by culture or family structure or other hierarchical ties is generally a modern one that still isn't true for many people today. I think that writers (especially writers situated in the Global North) can have a specific view of the human condition or human nature which is conditioned by the legacy of the Enlightenment, resulting in mores that are ultimately Eurocentric even if we might think of them as universal. I think in writing someone different to you, it's also good to ask: what makes you different from them? What do you do in your daily life that goes unnoticed because it's just quotidian to you? As the anthropologist Ruth Benedict said, "No man ever looks at the world with pristine eyes. He sees it edited by a definite set of customs and institutions and ways of thinking."

To speak about things that are more actionable for roleplayers, I'll say that it's good to consider culture's often immense impact on people, but also to remember that that non-white people aren't creatures of the past; tradition is a malleable thing and these familles are neither homogeneous nor unchanging; to treat them as such is a huge disservice to them. I would think not "What culture is this character from?" but rather "What were this character's parents/family like—and how did their culture influence their familial relationships?" It's a minor change, but it's a line of thinking that I think both highlights culture's importance but also centers on the specific individuals in question instead of treating a culture as an unchanging and singular monolith.

In regards to writing people of color specifically, one thing I'll add is that roleplayers can sometimes have the tendency to fixate on things like eye and hair color in their RP—which isn't necessarily bad, of course, but they can additionally imply a certain level of importance to that color variation, variation which most people on Earth simply don't have. I haven't seen it especially much here, but having a section in, say, a personal description for hair color and eye color is pretty Eurocentric when the majority of people in the world will have dark hair and dark eyes as a rule. I know that culturally in the West we put a lot of significance into those things (feisty redheads or pure blue eyes or what have you) but they're also tropes reflective of a white-dominated culture that don't really apply to other people. There's also a tendency to ignore that, i.e. have a character who's Asian except for their blue eyes (which really just makes me think of Toni Morrison and The Bluest Eye) in a way that's uncomfortable because it can be read to say that PoC characters aren't interesting enough unless they have colored eyes. The one exception I'd make would be anime settings because of mukokuseki, because then everyone has colored eyes, but that's a trope of the genre rather than a player choice per se. Outside of that one exception, however, I think that these sorts of characters can tend to make it hard to feel seen and appreciated as who you are—instead they can make you feel that people like you aren't 'interesting' or 'beautiful' enough to be worth exploring as a character.
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Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by ZAVAZggg
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I think in writing someone different to you, it's also good to ask: what makes you different from them? What do you do in your daily life that goes unnoticed because it's just quotidian to you? As the anthropologist Ruth Benedict said, "No man ever looks at the world with pristine eyes. He sees it edited by a definite set of customs and institutions and ways of thinking."


I honestly wish I could give an answer or personal example to this, but I've got no idea.

Actually I wish I could add to the conversation as a whole, but again, there isn't too much for me to say.
Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Dagger
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In regards to writing people of color specifically, one thing I'll add is that roleplayers can sometimes have the tendency to fixate on things like eye and hair color in their RP—which isn't necessarily bad, of course, but they can additionally imply a certain level of importance to that color variation, variation which most people on Earth simply don't have. I haven't seen it especially much here, but having a section in, say, a personal description for hair color and eye color is pretty Eurocentric when the majority of people in the world will have dark hair and dark eyes as a rule. I know that culturally in the West we put a lot of significance into those things (feisty redheads or pure blue eyes or what have you) but they're also tropes reflective of a white-dominated culture that don't really apply to other people. There's also a tendency to ignore that, i.e. have a character who's Asian except for their blue eyes (which really just makes me think of Toni Morrison and The Bluest Eye) in a way that's uncomfortable because it can be read to say that PoC characters aren't interesting enough unless they have colored eyes. The one exception I'd make would be anime settings because of mukokuseki, because then everyone has colored eyes, but that's a trope of the genre rather than a player choice per se. Outside of that one exception, however, I think that these sorts of characters can tend to make it hard to feel seen and appreciated as who you are—instead they can make you feel that people like you aren't 'interesting' or 'beautiful' enough to be worth exploring as a character.


I'd never actually thought about this before, but, well, damn xD I've read and written so many RPs with an emphasis on those specific physical traits that I'm gonna have to start thinking of more features to describe for my characters in general. That's good info for the future to get me out of my limiting box. Thanks for sharing!
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by BrokenPromise
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I’m going to use “progressive characters” as a catch all term for “POC, LGBT+, and other minority characters.”

I’ve written (nearly) everything under the sun from a bisexual Chinese woman to her adopted Indian daughter to a Jamaican news reporter. And I’m happy to say that regardless of what you write, you’ll do the best job if you stick to one simple rule:

Write your progressive characters the exact same way you would your normal characters.

I feel like a lot of progressive characters make this mistake where they are so focused on being non-hetrosexual/white/etc that they forget to be a compelling character with motivations and aspirations that extend past their preferences/skin.

I once had a neighbor that happened to be a lesbian, but you wouldn’t know that just talking to her. It took her a few weeks to warm up to my family and I. That was when she felt comfortable talking to us about the tragic death of her wife. Compare that to your average homosexual RP character who makes sure everyone knows how gay they are seconds after meeting them. That's also a surefire way to make your character look like a sex addict, which isn't too flattering.

While it’s good to learn about cultures, it only really helps the character if it’s important to them. As an example, there are lots of Chinese-Americans who are still faithful to the Chinese way of life. But just as many have embraced America’s culture and couldn't care less about Chinese customs. Even if they did, most of these people aren’t going to drop Chinese sayings into casual everyday speech with strangers. It feels pretentious and might even be a little embarrassing for all involved. I’ve personally seen Japanese-American characters who were born and raised in America, yet for some reason they add Japanese honorifics to their otherwise perfect English. It's all reminiscent of lazy translations done in anime. You could argue that their parents taught them to speak this way, but I have yet to hear anyone talk like this in real life. Point is, while culture can be a great thing to learn, over-applying it can turn a character into something that is both generic and bordering on racist. I think that’s something we all want to avoid.

I’d also like to add that you should absolutely bury your gays if the story calls for it. Sure, we’re all familiar with the tropes. How the black dude dies first and what not. But if your story is one that is rife with despair and sadness, excluding progressive characters from the looming threat of death is a disservice to everyone. Making your chosen minority/etc safe or otherwise infallible in a story is just as bad as indiscriminately killing them off. A writer should not be held at gunpoint by their characters.

Ultimately, the less special treatment you give your progressive characters, the better.

If you need to research something, do some reading on the area where they grew up, or the time period if that makes more sense. Learn about their job and what type of skills they may have. Read reports on what happens to people who go through their extraordinary circumstances. That information will serve you well. But also note that this kind of stuff is good for any character you choose to make, not just your progressive ones. I just spent a few hours reading about Kharadron Overlords so that I could play one in my brother's tabletop game.
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Hidden 29 days ago Post by Gravity Bounce
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When you write someone of a different culture, background or race don't focus on the perceived struggle of that group. They are people and are defined by their actions, motivations and personality not the color of their skin. Don't focus on the outward but the internal and definitely don't feed into the stereotypes.
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Hidden 29 days ago 29 days ago Post by Andreyich
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I'm curious about other writers' approach to this subject. I have multiple POC and queer characters in a few of my ongoing RPs, but I was wondering recently if there are people of those demographics (or other writers in general with experience) who have advice they'd like to give straight, white writers like myself to better represent them in their stories. I've noticed for a while that there aren't a whole lot of POC characters specifically on this site, so it could be especially helpful for anyone who wants to get their feet wet with writing a character who doesn't share their race. For example, if there's anything anyone wants to share regarding their culture, terms/language specific to a minority demographic, mistakes they've seen in others' writing (without pointing fingers) or other details that aren't commonly reflected in RP, I'd love to hear them!

I'll also mention that this could be a good spot for people to discuss and share questions about writing different genders if they have any.

Writing outside of your own life experience can be a powerful thing, and I hope this will be helpful for anyone who wants to give it a shot!

--

Note: Please keep all conversation classy. This is meant to be an inclusive thread designed for learning, and I don't want to see it dissolve into arguments, intolerance or hateful speech. Thanks!


Take it from someone who learned English very late in life, people do not randomly inject words from their home language into English. Hollywood often does this with say a French guy saying "bonjour" to great or a Spaniard exclaiming with "puta" but this really doesn't happen that much, its a cheap way for movie makers to emphasize the foreignness of a character without doing something meaningful with them. There are exceptions, i.e. hotel staff because its expected of them to endear them to clients, but its something to keep in mind during judgement.
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Hidden 29 days ago Post by Laser Kiwi
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This is a very good and important topic, and I'm glad to see it brought up! I tick a lot of minority boxes, and I try to write for a lot of them - I love exploring new cultures and getting inside the heads of people who think in an entirely different way, and even though I try my best I do occasionally look back and go "wow, that was probably not what my character would do in that situation".

We're all going to get things wrong from time to time, and the more we step outside of our comfort zone the more likely we are to write something that isn't very realistic. I think the two most important things to consider are 1. writing from a place of love and 2. making an honest attempt to understand other experiences. If you're uncomfortable writing characters of a different race or sexuality, don't feel like you have to in order to make some kind of social statement. Write them because you love those people and want to include them in your stories. If someone tells you you've written some aspect wrong or done something offensive, listen. They might be right or they might be wrong, but take the time to do some research with a focus on opinions and experiences shared by members of that group.

Personally, I'd love to see more people like me in media. More biracial people, more pansexual people, more wlw, more immigrants, more characters with ASD... I know that not all of them are going to act the way I think they should act, and that's okay. <3
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Hidden 29 days ago Post by Dagger
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<Snipped quote by Dagger>

Take it from someone who learned English very late in life, people do not randomly inject words from their home language into English. Hollywood often does this with say a French guy saying "bonjour" to great or a Spaniard exclaiming with "puta" but this really doesn't happen that much, its a cheap way for movie makers to emphasize the foreignness of a character without doing something meaningful with them. There are exceptions, i.e. hotel staff because its expected of them to endear them to clients, but its something to keep in mind during judgement.


That’s an interesting point, and I definitely don’t doubt it. However I also have a couple Latinx friends who do use “Spanglish” in their daily life, so I wonder if there’s some variation across people from different cultures? Living in the southwestern region of America, we have a lot of people from Mexico in my county, and it seems to vary even person to person whether they weave Spanish into their speech or not.
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