Audio Edition Coming Soon!
Okay, right off the bat, we have a problem. Actually, I suppose it’s a problem with how we’re approaching the problem. Read the title of this entry again: “Writing Ethnic Characters.” It’s making the assumption that most readers for this entry will be white writers trying to figure out how to create and describe characters who are not white without relying on stereotypes, over-used cliches, or offensive terms. It also could be said that it makes the implicit assumption that white is the “default” while everything else is “other” or “ethnic.”
Unfortunately, I’m not sure how else to segue into this discussion of this challenge that white writers can face. While writing All’s Fair, I found that I had to research how to describe certain characteristics of people who are not white since I have had very little contact with people of color in real life. (A slightly embarrassing example is my search to find out what black people look like when they blush. They might feel their cheeks heat or burn, but what does that look like to someone who is watching them?)
This is something I’ve started to struggle with now that I’m aware of how lacking in diversity many of my stories have been. I don’t want to have token non-white characters, but I also want to take advantage of how many variations there are in the colors, sizes, shapes, and looks of humans. It’s easy to describe non-human characters; usually your protagonist will be human and if they are encountering elves, orcs, or dragons for the first time, they are going to notice how they look. But how do you work in descriptions for characters without waving your arms and shouting, “Hey! Look! Here’s a black person, and Asian person, and a Hispanic person! Hooray for diversity!”