Obviously having someone be X just so you have an X is dumb, but if you have a large cast it probably shouldn't be all straight white neurotypical men between 20-40. So how have you balanced those two extremes? I'm probably going forget a couple dozen and a lot of characters are only barely defined so far, but here goes. (The story isn't based on Earth, but a lot of the areas correspond roughly, so I'll just use the Earth equivalents.) - The main character, Delia, is white, straight, widowed, and possible asexual-ish (she's got a son). She's also not especially attractive and kind of muscle-bound. - Her brother-in-law is white and straight. - One of her best friends, RV, is black and straight. The animal shelter they volunteer at is run by a black woman. The main vet is a Latino guy (My notes say: "Basically he looks like a young Latino Santa Claus.") - Wild Rush, one of the main bad guys, is bi, prefers women, and white. He has serious mental problems. His two henchguys are gay and in a relationship. They're both white, although I could change that with little problem. His girlfriend is white and straight. - Jill, another villain, is white and straight. She's got some sort of medical condition - I haven't decided yet what. I'm leaning towards diabetes. She briefly dated Wild Rush, and another villain, Gimmick, who smokes, is Native American and black, and straight (so far). - Techrat, another villain, is white and asexual, but that's because he has serious mental problems, so it doesn't really count. He's got sensitivity issues, phobias, and some other stuff. I think that covers everybody whose sexuality is defined. - At some point, Delia is going to hire one of her son's friends. She will be trans (MTF) and non-white, but I haven't decided what exactly yet. - In the police department, Aurita is 3/4 black, 1/4 Hawaiian, and a little person. - Delia's boss is kinky and I think bi, but I don't remember. - One of the villains was going to be black, but I changed him to white because I was afraid of Unfortunate Implications (he ends up turning into a catman. It seemed questionable). After his transformation he shares his brain with the alien that transformed him. - A minor character, a reporter, is gay and married to another woman. - Isha and Shaitan are Indian / Middle Eastern, as is a friend of Isha's. Their gangs are mixed. One of the other gangs is primarily Indian and Asian. I need more good guys that are non-white, but my problem is that I mostly write about the bad guys. I also need more LGBT etc characters, although sex and sexuality doesn't come up much (but I'm working on showing SSM is considered normal - there's another couple of minor male characters that married with kids). Oddly enough, I also need to add more Asians. I think because the random generator I made for physical appearance just gives colors (dark, light, freckled, olive, etc) and not ethnicity.
www.curiouslylydean.net - comics, writing, and other geeky things
(That Guy You Met Once)There's actually nothing wrong with having a character be an X just for the sake of being an X, if you're a good enough writer and aren't anvilicious about it. I know I'm not the best example because my writing quality is mostly unproven, but I'm intentionally trying to create a Cast of Snowflakes and I regularly make characters a (insert race, religion, or age group) just because I've never written a character like that before, if it fits into the setting. Edit: Although I've never written an openly gay character, but that's because I haven't had any stories that directly deal with sex, love, or sexuality at all yet. Without going into detail, one main character is implied to have some very strange same-sex Foe Romance Subtext, though.
edited 19th Sep '12 8:48:29 PM by Wheezy
Honestly, it's my opinion that the whole "...for the sake of being an X" mentality is coming from an entirely wrong place to begin with - basically buying into the idea of (whatever)normativity by making deviations from the norm something a writer has to "justify".
(That Guy You Met Once)That seems kind of backwards. Isn't making an "X for the sake of X" character specifically doing it without justifying it?
edited 19th Sep '12 8:40:16 PM by Wheezy
What I mean is that the whole mentality that comes up with "X for the sake of X" criticism in the first place seems to be buying into the concept of (whatever)normativity. For instance, saying that "Bob is black for the sake of having a black character" implies that being black is a deviation from the norm that needs some "justification" to account for it.
Tolkien freakAll Cuban, two main characters mixed African/European, one Black.
The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
I'm of the opinion that your cast should reflect whatever diversity would be natural in that setting. If you're set in Heian-era Japan, having a cast of snowflakes doesn't make sense. If your setting is a modern American setting, having all white guys doesn't make sense. My series is set in a modern city (and is meant to combat a lot of stuff about most superhero comics that bug me - like having every hero be a white straight guy). The current cast breakdown is probably a fairly good match for a real city - and I'm trying not to have all skinny, conventionally attractive people as well (although I have a lot of tall skinny guys in nice suits. I can't resist a little Author Appeal.)
www.curiouslylydean.net - comics, writing, and other geeky things
What I mean is that the whole mentality that comes up with "X for the sake of X" criticism in the first place seems to be buying into the concept of (whatever)normativity. For instance, saying that "Bob is black for the sake of having a black character" implies that being black is a deviation from the norm that needs some "justification" to account for it.I'm oddly reminded of Joss Whedon's response to a question about why he wrote so many strong female characters. "Because you’re still asking me that question."
Cynicism is like salt; you should add just a little bit of it to everything, but it's useless on its own.
Soft and fluffyMain character is a white male with blond hair and blue eyes, but he is bisexual, then we have a half Lithuanian-Arabian guy, a (possibly) white male, a Japanese 16-year-old girl who's actually a 106 year old immortal, a black woman and a really tall and buff Caucasian guy. Yeah. In the other story I'm working on, my main character is Korean, but most of the rest of the cast is Caucasian. The only person I really invoked diversity is the african-descended woman, Gabrielle, but that's because I noticed that I tend to not make characters who are black. I like diversity, but if it feels forced along with some anvilicious highlighting of its diversity, then it can get a bit sickening.
edited 19th Sep '12 9:26:28 PM by Tehpillowstar
"Life is eternal; and love is immortal; and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight." -R. W. Raymond
(That Guy You Met Once)
What I mean is that the whole mentality that comes up with "X for the sake of X" criticism in the first place seems to be buying into the concept of (whatever)normativity. For instance, saying that "Bob is black for the sake of having a black character" implies that being black is a deviation from the norm that needs some "justification" to account for it.Ah, so you're not talking about the use of the "trope, " you're talking about the criticism of it. That makes much more sense. —
My series is set in a modern city (and is meant to combat a lot of stuff about most superhero comics that bug me - like having every hero be a white straight guy). The current cast breakdown is probably a fairly good match for a real city - and I'm trying not to have all skinny, conventionally attractive people as well (although I have a lot of tall skinny guys in nice suits. I can't resist a little Author Appeal.)That sounds very similar to Ganzfeld. (My 2nd comic project.) It's set in a nameless City Noir*, and the "pilot chapter" for the series was originally written for a superhero contest. The main characters are a BBW telepath, a 78 year-old black telekinetic, and a jerkass teenager who gets recruited by the other two after he starts having prophetic dreams.* Their enemies are The Men in Black - well, technically, Occult Detectives from a fictional agency who pose as FBI, but effectively the same thing - so there are also a lot of tall, thin guys in nice suits. However, much like real police and feds, they're nowhere near uniformly tall, male, or thin. It's cool, nothing new under the sun. What's yours about?
edited 20th Sep '12 12:32:05 AM by Wheezy
K-11-2If it isn't something that proceeds naturally from the setting or the worldbuilding, it doesn't really have value. And it won't do the quality of your story any favors to make diversity a goal unless your whole point was "I have an axe to grind about diversity". In which case that's still likely not doing your quality of story many favors, but you have a chance. I have casts that reach beyond simple human diversity issues; I have casts that are model images of how uniform training and discipline standards annihilate the usual measures of diversity and its problems; I have casts that do diversity of things other than gender/race/orientation but which actually exist.
(That Guy You Met Once)
I have casts that are model images of how uniform training and discipline standards annihilate the usual measures of diversity and its problems...Problem is, that's often the opposite of how it works in Real Life. ...Well, civilian live, anyway. I suppose a lot of militaries make it work well enough. But on the other hand, most elite forces are very selective. So I'm not sure what to think about that.
edited 20th Sep '12 12:57:05 AM by Wheezy
Indecisive GoldfishMy Greetings from Magical Los Angeles story has racial diversity. Well, one of the Cast Herds a few white dudes, a Mexican woman, a Chinese guy, and a Japanese woman. One of the other Cast Herds is a Finnish guy, a Chinese girl, a Chinese/Italian guy, and an Indian guy. And the third Cast Herd is a white guy, a black guy, an ambiguously brown mother and daughter, and a congregation of beasties. The villains kind of run the whole gambit. In terms of diversity in sexuality, there's not a fat lot of it. There's one gay guy and the only romances that are explicitly mentioned are two heterosexual ones, one extraordinarily bad break-up and an engaged couple. Most of my other fantasy settings tend to be a bit racially homogenous (I'm usually between fantasyland that is European-like, China-like, or Middle Eastern-like) because for whatever reason I nearly never write long-distance travel with intent to settle into the setting. For some reason, I almost never have black people. I have created maybe like... five black people out of all my attempts to make stories and I fart out plot bunnies and character ideas like no tomorrow. It probably makes the least sense in the Magical Los Angeles setting. Lately I keep talking myself into writing more gay guys, though the two most recent ones are sort of hiding in the closet. I've never written a lesbian. Well, I considered it once, but then the character in question became asexual. I have one biamorous bisexual. I tend to peg a high proportion of my characters as asexual. No one is trans because I have no blasted clue. I'm pretty bad about age diversity. The majority of my characters are late teens or in the twenties. Next most common is 40s/50s because the teens and twenty-something's parents or legal guardians might be plotly relevant. It took a lot of agonizing to decide one character of mine is 30... I'm not sure why I feel weird writing 30-somethings...
edited 20th Sep '12 1:19:45 AM by Kaxen
If it isn't something that proceeds naturally from the setting or the worldbuilding, it doesn't really have value. And it won't do the quality of your story any favors to make diversity a goal unless your whole point was "I have an axe to grind about diversity". In which case that's still likely not doing your quality of story many favors, but you have a chance.Honestly, I think every step taken to destroy the idea of the straight white male protagonist as "default" has value. Call it an axe to grind if you want, but I think the simple depiction of a cast that isn't homogenous does far more good (and is far less obnoxious) then a thousand explicitly-stated aesops about tolerance. I mean, in a purely Watsonian context, it's true that it might not add anything to the story. But in real life, the mere idea that people are equal regardless of [characteristic of your choice] is an incredibly new thing, to say nothing of its actual implementation. So I definitely think there's "value" in diversity beyond just what it brings to the in-universe content of the story.
edited 20th Sep '12 1:45:47 AM by nrjxll
Wolf1066I tend to have a wide mix of ages, sexes, races, sexualities, religions, cultures, physical forms (tall/short, slim/average/chubby etc) and levels of "attractiveness" (they don't all look like supermodels). I don't set out to do so, the diversity just grows from the setting of the story and it's not treated as a big deal as my characters tend to look for competency, trustworthiness and other virtues rather than what age/sex/race/religion etc the person may be. The diversity, however, does give rise to interactions and relationships that flesh out the characters (like having two friends, an atheist and a Christian who frequently debate religion and make friendly jibes/jokes about each other's views - showing the level of trust and friendship they have and their own unshakeable belief in their own viewpoints).
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
K-11-2I'm not advocating for the straight white male (because he doesn't always proceed naturally from the worldbuilding either; greetings, stories set on continents other than Europe and/or involving professions dominated by females!); but rather that in the end without a very large cast or some kind of randomizing factor (say reflecting the recruiting base as opposed to the area you're actually working in; a common issue with governments above the local level or large cities) you're usually going to end up with a cast dominated by a particular ethnicity/gender/orientation set because that's a good match for reality.
edited 20th Sep '12 2:11:27 AM by Night
I think this is making the assumptions that everyone here is writing characters who all 1) belong to a specific, singular group or organization (and even then, it depends on the nature of the group) and 2) are from modern Earth. Not only are those assumptions probably not true, but they sort of miss the point of what I'm saying, which is that the writer's thought process should be "Why should I not have a diverse cast?" instead of "Why should I have a diverse cast?". If there's an actual institutional or other setting-based reason, then that is an answer to "Why not?". My argument is to those writers for which there's no preexisting reason a character should be any specific race/gender/etc.
(That Guy You Met Once)& The abridged version: Just avoid Black Vikings.
edited 20th Sep '12 2:55:46 AM by Wheezy
K-11-2No such assumption is really required since that would hold true for a non-modern Earth and, ultimately though perhaps to a somewhat lesser extent, any gathering of intelligent social creatures, who will seek out those like them absent compelling reasons to do otherwise, exterior dynamics (work), or lack of knowledge that those folks over there aren't like them (orientation, sometimes).
edited 20th Sep '12 3:55:06 AM by Night
Devout FlutistHmm, I'd say I have a pretty diverse cast, though I never really have diversity in mind when I first create characters. And usually, it's just trivia bits or not necessarily important to the plot. I generally form a character's appearance first, so whatever race they are basically depends on what looks right to me. Then I typically decide their name and heritage, and then personality and personal details like sexuality, religious beliefs, and whatnot. But yeah, I have Loads and Loads of Characters in my primary 'verse, so of course it's pretty diverse. But as I mentioned before, most of this doesn't come up unless it's relevant to whatever's going on at the time.
"HE'S JUST A RACIST ASSHOLE WHO GOT HIS FIRST BONER AND OVERREACTED BIG TIME." - DR SHRUBBERY, on Frollo
It's cool, nothing new under the sun. What's yours about?Mine's not necessarily something tremendously creative. The background is that about 30 years ago, superheroes stopped a world war. After that, mutants showed up and ending being declared legally not human. The story itself is set in a city where the gangs are bad enough that everybody avoids being out after dark, including the police. Delia's husband is killed in a mugging, which ends up being the final straw for her (her brother was killed in the war, her parents lost all their savings because of gang violence, etc). She creates an armored suit and goes out to find her husband's killer, fighting for justice in the process. From then on it's a fairly typical super hero story - Rogues Gallery, Cardboard Prison, and all.
www.curiouslylydean.net - comics, writing, and other geeky things
Manliest Person on SkypeI think the advice "Don't make an [X] character just to have one, " is meant to emphasize the one. Don't treat different ethnicities, sexualities, etc. as a checklist that you can safely ignore once you've ticked off enough boxes. Actually treat the characters with these traits as characters, not tokens. And don't get the idea that once you have one (for example) Hispanic character, it would be "repetitive" to have another.
Thunder, Perfect MindI concur with what nrjxll and Karalora have said. To create a character of a given race or ethnicity purely for the sake of having one only enforces the perception that there is some kind of default. Granted, if we are to believe that the "baseline" or "default norm" for the characters of any work lies with the author, there are going to be certain curves one way or the other. But that's not quite the same thing...
I think that underestimates authors, to a certain extent.
Thunder, Perfect MindI meant not just that the cast will resemble the author, but that the author's experiences, interests, and above all will are the arbiters of the story and its cast. That might mean that ethnically the cast will be utterly divorced from the author's own lineage, or psychologically quite difference, but there is still that conscious or unconscious mould being set. It's hard to explain without sounding like a lot of vagueness.
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