As all good starving artists do, I pulled my butt out the fire and here I am, back online. 




The key to dealing with Internet providers: speak softly and carry a fully automatic machine gun



 
Today I wanted to talk a little bit about an article that caught my attention, written by Ursula K. LeGuin, author of the Earthsea books. For all aspiring authors this is worth reading: check it out here and see the process for how you can easily lose creative control in adaptations of your work. Her biggest issue was how her main characters, almost none being white, were whitewashed in the program. Oh, the plot was raped, eaten, vomited, eaten, and spat out again into something awful, and she beautifully explains just how that can happen.

It brought to mind 2 things I've been musing on since I read this (I've read the books but never saw the abortion of a miniseries on SciFi - illiterately re-named SyFy). The most important musing is race within a book. What struck me is this: I grew up in a neighborhood that was 60% Black and 40% Latino, my brother and I the only White kids there. In my home I'm the only White one, in my neighborhood I'm one of only a few, even my friends are pretty well mixed...so why are almost all my characters White?



 
To be fair White people are fascinatingly crazy



 
Well I have one answer for that, but it's a theory. I truly believe that as in a dream, in a story, every character is you. Wait, wha? I know, I know. In a dream the visages of background people are called from memory or random people you saw that day, but any that have important actions or speech...they're you. it's your dream, you control it, or at least you subconsciousness does. It's the same when you create characters; both are worlds where you are God, the Alpha and the Omega.

If you have written, look at your characters. Don't just look at their biographies (you should have written up) look at their physical impressions on other characters, their actions, and their speech in the story. You should see that each has at least one characteristic of yourself, something you like, hate, or don't give two shits about. How you feel about that trait often determines how you feel about the character.

I'll often give an antagonist my traits I'm not so fond of. My arrogance or my complete and total lack of faith in romantic love are popular ones (deliciously ironic for an erotic romance writer, I know...deal with it). To my protagonists I tend to give them my strong ethical code that in no way agrees with social mores. The physical traits make sense too: most of my female protagonists tend to be tall because I am 5'10+3/4". I simply don't know how a petite woman views the world differently. One thing that gets applied to almost every character is my race. I am white, obviously, whiter than white. I can't tan and I face a serious threat of freckles every summer.



 
Let's be honest: sometimes race can be funny



 
So why do we do it, even subconsciously? Well, to be fair, picture a Black woman growing up in metro Detroit, an Asian man growing up in Chicago suburbs, a Latino woman growing up in East L.A., and a man of Indian/Pakistani descent growing up in rural Kentucky. Just how different would their lives be? Think on it, really think. How does your perception of the outside world change when you are the minority?

In short, it's damn hard to write from the viewpoint of another race. Think of how much (here in America): it seems to matter all too much. President Obama is half Caucasian and half Back, mixed, and yet as his skin color leans more towards that of Black people, we insist he is. If you have ever seen the Chappelle's Show Racial Draft sketch, you understand what I'm saying. If you haven't, accept that Americans are insane.

Just as with gender, there is a key to fighting this. You can specifically make note of characters' races, but as with gender, don't write about how they think about it unless you know. If you're white and don't know what it feels like to be the only white person in a crowd, find out. That's about the only time I think about my race, and even then I really only wonder about how I am perceived by others. 

Or the better way to handle it, in my opinion, is to specifically not mention race. Mention hair, eyes, skin tone, height, weight, general attractiveness and age, but don't make race stand out unless it matters. When does it matter? If it relates to a plot point. Do carefully ask yourself why it should be a plot point, it's best to save this kind of point for racially charged dramas.



 
The only time I really think about race is when I wonder if we should add a new one: Orange



 
Moving along, the main thing to take away from this every writer should make a decision. Should your work ever have the rights bought to adapt it to another media you will lose control. You may gain exposure and new readers along with money, but is it worth the price? 

Well, you can always just hope to sell as many novels as Stephen King so you can get a producer's credit, but so we all dare to dream. The real lesson here is never trust an adaptation, always check with the book. And think carefully about the impact of your writing. Maybe you don't notice racial homogeneity, but any readers not of your race will. And if you don't think about it, wait for your work to get bought, convoluted, and spat out as something else. Then everyone will notice.