Let’s talk about representation!

Forums Fiction Characters Let’s talk about representation!

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  • #109112
    Sarah Inkdragon
    @sarah-inkdragon

    Diversity is one of those things I have a love-hate relationship with. On one hand – yes, it’s real and needs to be actually realistically portrayed in books/media. On the other hand, it’s so over-pushed in secular fiction in an unrealistic and ungodly manner that I sort of hate trying to deal with it. I’m getting really tired of the “offhand comments” about a girl having a girlfriend and vise versa for guys I’ve been seeing in both movies and books lately. It’s inserted for no reason other than “diversity” and drives me nuts. XD

    That, and the romanticism involving mental illnesses/etc. Can we have a love interest that’s not depressed or anxious, for once in the new century? Please? It’s one thing to portray it realistically and to have it there for a reason – but it’s another to just shove it in there “because”. It’s halfway insulting and promotes the type of mentality we see about such things all the time in media – that they need to be coddled and accepted as normal. (And, I’m not trying to say that having a mental illness is necessarily bad – but thinking about harming yourself is certainly not normal and people shouldn’t be pushing for it to be accepted as normal. It’s one thing to have the issue – it’s another thing to never try to overcome the issue because such things are “normal” and accepted as fine.) But anyhow – I’d love to see a romance involving two people that aren’t depressed, anxious, or toxic. It would be nice to see a few wholesome romances every now and then, you know? You can be void of mental illnesses and still have a complex relationship and tension. (*cough* Ever heard of Pride & Prejudice, or Emma, modern romance writers?)

    That said – I do think it’s important to see in fiction. I’ve yet to see a novel or movie in the “Christian” genre that handles something like divorce well, and that’s something that’s been around for just about forever. I’ve never seen one that handles something like mental illnesses what I would call “well”. The closest I can say is that The Chronicles of Narnia handle the idea of death and triumph over evil well, and The Oath handles redemption and paranoia rather excellently. A Wrinkle In Time also handles the idea of unconditional love very nicely, in my opinion. But none of those are very “modern” novels.

    As for racial and cultural diversity – fantasy seems to do this semi-well half the time. I’ve seen some genuinely interesting cultures and races in some novels, like in The Wingfeather Saga or The Songkeeper Chronicles. Personally – I’d like to see a novel with more variety than just copy+pasting our cultures into fantasy with a little mix-up for “originality’s” sake. Can we have some super high-tech advanced pirate-people? And black aristocratic mercenaries employing some “Asian” soldiers? How about having a non-16th century England based culture of white people in stuffy coats, but instead a bunch of warring tribes and groups? Why not have them be voyagers or mountain folks? Or traders? Fantasy doesn’t have to be set in medieval times. It can be set before them, or after them, or at the brink of “medieval” times or at the downfall of them. Personally, I think it would be far more interesting to set a story as the “medieval” world is developing and borders are being defined, with governing systems still being tested out. Or perhaps in the age of explorers, with set governing dynamics and countries but all of them racing to find the next new undiscovered technology or land. (You know, I say that we technically had at least four “ages of explorers” in the modern world: the actual age of exploration, the industrial revolution, the race to the moon, and the invention of the WWW. Why not set your fantasy world during one of those times, not just the typical “dresses, coats, and horses and swords” era? Imagine having a character who’s working for the government to discover a variant of steam power or gunpowder, and all the other countries are out to kill him and steal his work. Or perhaps he’s developing a new area of magic, or applying magic to a new concept.) There’s diversity in world-building and time period, you know – not just in personalities and race.

    Anyhow, I’m going to be quiet now because I need to get back to school since we’re all quarantined to the house and reverting back to homeschooling. XD

    "A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."

    - C. S. Lewis

    #109127
    Naiya Dyani
    @naiya-dyani

      @sarah-inkdragon Good thoughts!

      (It’s not called reverting to homeschooling. It’s progressing to it. 😉 )

      Hearts are like matter--they can be beaten down, torn, and burned, but they cannot be destroyed.

      #109137
      Sarah Inkdragon
      @sarah-inkdragon

      @naiya-dyani

      For me, it’s reverting. XD I started public school my Junior year. 😉

      "A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."

      - C. S. Lewis

      #109138
      Naiya Dyani
      @naiya-dyani

        @sarah-inkdragon Hmm. . . still say it would be an improvement overall. 😉 (JK, my brother’s public schooled, I can’t bash it too much. Still proud homeschooler though.)

        *notices the overuse of winky faces in the last three messages* *doesn’t care and keeps hers anyway*

        Hearts are like matter--they can be beaten down, torn, and burned, but they cannot be destroyed.

        #109142
        DeepRun
        @deeprun

        @sarah-inkdragon


        @naiya-dyani

         

        Wait, you want to read a story where two halfway “normal” people fall in love?  No crippling pasts?  No debilitating mental issues?  No soul wrenching angst?  My library has a very large section of Amish Romance…

        Please hear the sarcasm dripping from that.  Jane Austen has set a high standard.  So high that I think in modern times, it’s easier to circumnavigate the tension she painstakingly crafted by throwing in emotional landmines.  Oh you love this handsome brooding hunk? Boom!  Not only is a rogue government killer BUT he’s got serious commitment issues and he can’t decide wether or not you should live!  Oh yeah, he’s torn between loving you and handing you over to KGB.  The KGB pays well but they’ve also betrayed him.  And you also have gotten to the most vulnerable part of his heart that he thought he’d killed.  Like the other people on his hitlist.  I digress.

        I don’t think those kinds of tension landmines are always bad but I do think that a modern writer places them in a way cause the most collateral damage.  To what end?  Like diversity.

        Because diversity, for diversity’s sake becomes as cliche as the very things it tries to fight.  I believe anyways.

        Maybe diversity happens when we become better observers of our surroundings?  The diversity, or range of expression of the human experience, has always been there.  Maybe it’s just learning to see it, stripped from the trappings of that particular culture and historical period?

        This is all coming from someone who is wrestling greatly with the premise, setting, and characters of the current wip.  White male mc.  Medieval era.  European setting.  Sound vaguely familiar?

        I’ve appreciated this thread to think through what I’m writing.  Crafting the human experience in a dynamic way.

         

        OH!  Ted Dekker delves into mental illness quite a bit.  Simultaneously gritty but extremely compassionate.  The “Three” book in particular.

        You do not have a soul. You have a body.
        You are a soul. - C.S. Lewis

        #109177
        PenSword
        @pensword

        @phoenix Ah, that makes sense. I tend to automatically recoil a little when someone mentions characters with depression, just because it does seem so romanticized in popular fiction now, which hurts the issue. But portraying it well could be helpful, if it was done right.


        @sarah-inkdragon
        Jumping off what you said about depressed love interests, having that seems to perpetuate the thought that “love can fix me” which is incredibly not true and very harmful in and of itself. It’s annoying and unfortunate, and needs to change.

        #109208
        Anonymous

          As a mentally ill person, if someone tried to fix me with love I literally would have no problem with that lol

           

          #109215
          Sarah Inkdragon
          @sarah-inkdragon

          @deeprun

          Haha, yeah. Amish fiction is occasionally good and mostly bad, in my experiences. Having a romance with ‘normal’ people is all fine and great, but I don’t want morally and ethically perfect characters. (Not that Amish people are… but that’s the general portrayal. The farthest it seems to go against the grain is giving the MC a “streak of rebellion” or something cliche like that.)

          I honestly struggle with it a lot still. It’s not that I don’t want diversity – I just honestly don’t really think about it. To me, what makes my characters diverse are their personalities and cultures, not the color of their skin or their looks. So it’s just something I don’t really think about. In my main fantasy WIP, I have some different looking characters, most looking more “middle eastern” with some that look more “white” or “islander” types, but I’ve yet to have a black character. Honestly, I just haven’t found a reason to make a character black or a specific culture that I think would work well. And my four main established characters are already very fleshed out and thought-out, and I’m not going to make one black for no reason other than that. At the same time, I feel like I should have black characters, simply because it’s realistic. I just don’t want to squish them in “because” and I haven’t found somewhere to put them yet, or a reason to put them there.

          We’ll see what happens. I’m not sure what I’ll do, but eventually I’ll make my way through the issue.

          (Also, your love interest is absolutely hilarious in how well he resembles just about every single male MC I’ve read in action novels/seen in movies lately. XD I love a good anti-hero, but that’s just poor writing. I personally have to laugh when people try to portray things like mental illnesses and just go completely overboard. Like, not only did this one character grow up as an orphan and was abused or something, he also has depression, anxiety, and OCD. And special powers, but he can’t harness them because of “mental obstacles”. He’s an amazing character. *sarcasm drips off*)

          I’ll check out Ted Dekker. I don’t think I’ve ever read him! I really like Peretti, but it’s hard to find people who meet his quality.


          @pensword

          Ooooh, yeah. That honestly drives me crazy. I’ve personally struggled with depression for pretty much my entire life past pre-teen and on, and the way it’s portrayed is not only sickening but sort of… insulting. When people treat it as something that can be simply fixed by falling in love or getting a friend, it’s kind of depressing in itself. Because it’s really not that simple, and pushing the message that falling in love cures depression/etc. is just unhealthy. It’s not a message that should be pushed, at all. All that does is gets young girls and boys to think that if they aren’t in a relationship, then they’ve got something wrong with them or that they need to try and find “love” at all costs. And that is not only toxic, but leads to a lot of sin.


          @naiya-dyani

          Haha, it is fun. But I enjoy being in public school, so it’s a little annoying to be home. And it’s difficult to try and learn Physics by myself… XD

          "A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."

          - C. S. Lewis

          #109217
          Candide
          @candide

          I don’t like this topic so much. I think writers should care about theme and let their personal ability to choose the character that fits better to it. Writers should feel free to portray who and what they intend to (or are able to).

          But I would apreciate some stories of a priest where he can do his job in peace, like if it could be a normal part of life of the other characters. Kind of Father Brown from Chersterton…(but nowadays).

          #109236
          DeepRun
          @deeprun

          @sarah-inkdragon

          I’d highly recommend Ted Dekker.  Friends introduced me to his stuff this past fall and I’ve white knuckled devoured seven of his books.  I’m pretty sure he collaborated with Peretti on a book.  The Circle Trilogy is modern fantasy and the others are thrillers.  Reminds me I’ve not read Peretti and really need too!

          I’ve been starting to brainstorm about a story with fantasy type potential in the Ethiopian kingdom after it was literally cut off from the rest of Christendom.  I’d never heard about it until recently.

           

          It makes me wonder if so much of the push for diversity stems from how history is taught.  We grow up with the medieval era tales that morph into revolutionary war stories and it ends there. That was my school experience. Personally drove me nuts to learn nothing more than what contributed to crafting America.  It’s been an adventure the last few years discovering “new” history.

          So is it simply not being exposed so the inner tales we draw from are shallow?

           

          I could go on and on with sarcastic diatribes against the stereotypes in recent entertainment and literature…. Good night.  I’ll restrain.  Or write my own satirical novel of an assassin gone Amish.

          You do not have a soul. You have a body.
          You are a soul. - C.S. Lewis

          #109239
          Taylor Clogston
          @taylorclogston

          “I’m pretty sure he collaborated with Peretti on a book.”

          If anyone wants that book (House) I’m happy to mail it to them. Its audience is this bizarre, specific slice of readers (of whom my mom is a member) who used to love the slasher genre and then became Christians and got a guilt complex about loving horror.

          "...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and Margarita

          #109252
          Daeus Lamb
          @daeus-lamb

          But I would apreciate some stories of a priest where he can do his job in peace, like if it could be a normal part of life of the other characters. Kind of Father Brown from Chersterton…(but nowadays).


          @candide
          Then write it, bro

          😀
          👕👍
          👖 🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢

          #109254
          Naiya Dyani
          @naiya-dyani

            @deeprun PLEASE. WRITE AN ASSASSIN GONE AMISH. I BEG YOU.

            Hearts are like matter--they can be beaten down, torn, and burned, but they cannot be destroyed.

            #109262
            Sarah Inkdragon
            @sarah-inkdragon

            @deeprun

            I’ll definitely check Dekker out. And yes, read Peretti! He’s absolutely amazing at developing tension and inserting Christian elements into genres that don’t seem very “Christian”. I read and loved his “Cooper Kids Adventure Series” as a young teen, and I’ll still re-read some of the strong ones like The Door In the Dragon’s Throat, because they’re good as novels, not just as kids books. The ending of that book still gives me chills to this day. I also really enjoyed The Oath. If you’re not into more horror/suspense stuff however, you might not like him… his sense of theme and overall hope in God is really well written in my opinion however. 🙂

            I think a lot of our view on diversity comes from our culture and the way history is taught, as well. We have a joke around here, about the prevalence “black history” has taken in education in the past decade or so – branching off the bumper stickers that say “Black Lives Matter”, we have a line up here in cow country with “Black Cows Matter”. And someone thought it would be funny to then split off and make one that says “Red Cows Matter”. XD Apparently, they thought the red and white cows were being left out of all the popularity.

            But beyond funny little idiosyncrasies – it’s really odd when you think about it, how much of our perception is shaped by how and what we’re taught. For example – 90% of Americans probably think the Civil War was fought solely to free the slaves. But in reality, while that was a part of it, the war was more over the secession of the southern states than it was slavery. The freedom of slaves was more a symptom than anything, though Lincoln did have strong feelings on the matter I believe. But many Americans(and non-Americans) grew up thinking we had this long, bloody war for a “noble” cause like equality of races… when it really was more about land and money than it was race.

            Or even WWII, one of the most “known” and popularized wars due to the Holocaust and Hitler, still has huge misconceptions on the part of how the war started, exactly how Hitler gained popularity, and what the Germans thought about this war. My grandmother lived through that war as a child in Germany – it wasn’t pretty on both ends. And yet many people still think most of it was the Holocaust, or that the Germans originally started with the message of death to Jews and the “master race”. Or even that the German people wanted the war.

            I think a lot of it has to do with the glorification and popularization of certain historical events like WWII or the Civil War, that make people think there were a lot more noble than they were. Technically, such perceptions could be applied to anything, but it seems to be especially applied to war. People then gain the perception that there are “good” and “bad” sides in war – which to me, seems faulty. It’s war. There are more or less moral quandaries with each side either faces and breaches or break and crush, but it is more about money and power than any “moral message” the audience would like it to be about. But history isn’t as pretty as the books and movies make it out to be, and more often than not the only moral message is that of the depravity of humanity.


            @taylorclogston

            I’m not even sure if I know what classifies as “slasher” XD, but I do enjoy thrillers and intense movies with lots of psychological suspense, so….

            "A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."

            - C. S. Lewis

            #109264
            Corine
            @corine

              I have a question related to representation.

              What’s the best way to write about a disabled character as an able-bodied person?

              I’ve heard mixed views on this. Some people think it’s best not to write a disabled MC if you yourself don’t have that disability. Others say that representation is the most important thing, and that with the correct research it doesn’t matter if the writer doesn’t experience the disability first-hand. The most important thing is to have those characters also present in contemporary.

              What are your opinions? I don’t want to do an injustice to anyone who is disabled in the way I’m looking to portray through my characters, but at the same time, I don’t want to just take the ‘easy’ way out and only ever write able-bodied characters, because that’s not an accurate depiction of the world.

              • This reply was modified 7 months ago by Corine.
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