Hello, everyone. I hope all of you experienced a great week. Today I’m giving you a blog that discusses how you can broaden your story and your readership from an article by Bharti Kirchner. This was originally published in the Writer magazine.
Why venture into unaccustomed territory when it comes to characters? In a globalized world, re regularly meet people.e very different from us in race, class, ethnicity, religion, politics or ideology. Modern novels and memoirs, as mirrors of a society, increasingly depict this heterogeneity.
In addition to expanding our readership, a diverse character, whether the protagonist or a secondary character brings a broader voice to a story. In the case of the novel Tulip Season, protagonist Mitra meets a mysterious German man, and the contrast between the two adds an element of tension. With dissimilar actions, attitudes and world views, backgrounds and upbringings, their interactions spark a great exploration of Mitra’s world.
Creating Authenticity: How do you get started writing about a person foreign to you? By immersing yourself in that particular culture of community through direct contact and by building relationships. Armchair travel can also help, as can books, videos, movies, art, and the Web. Remember, in the end, it’s your story and it’s fiction. You’re facing challenges no matter what. “If you’re going to write fiction, you’re going to write about people who aren’t you,” says David Guterson, author of 10 books, including Snow Falling on Cedars. “You should feel some healthy trepidation about that.”
Respect, openness, and empathy are keys to depicting an unfamiliar culture or perspective. Here are additional tips and techniques.
First Impressions: What a reader first notices is how the character looks, dresses, sounds and behaves. Bring the character alive with physical descriptions, but not too much and not all at once. Allow readers to use their imagination to fill in the blanks. Pay special attention to the rhythm of the spoken language. A foreign born person might speak with an accent and fall back on native words as necessary.
A Character from Inside Out: You’re writing about individuals, and the methods you usually employ to develop a character of any kind still applies. Remember that all cultures have hopes, fears, and dreams, and it’s your job to portray that.
Does a diverse character have to be sympathetic? Peter Mountford, the author of two novels, including A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism, says no. “Actually, I’m not sure he is very sympathetic because of the choices he makes,” Mountford says of Gabriel do Boys, the 26-year-old, biracial protagonist in his novel. “He builds a lucrative career instead of abandoning it for love. I feel for him, definitely, but a lot of readers struggle with him, and I suppose that is the key to writing “the other,” for me.”
Beliefs and Conflicts: Every culture or community holds common beliefs about marriage, family, money, status and friendship. A character is likely to suffer moth internal and external conflicts when going against these beliefs and sometimes even when conforming to them.
Showing Universality: By wrestling with choices and obstacles, a diverse character, like any other, grows and changes. In the process, he or she displays common human characteristics as fear, anger, joy and love. Although I’m different, I’d feel much the same in the same situation, the reader realizes, and perhaps gets more involved in the book.
You can make a character accessible in other ways. Show how he or she relates to friends. Let him or her grapple with everyday issues like traffic. An element of humor can also help. We gravitate toward people who lighten our days with a joke or a funny situation. It is in those moments that we let go of our differences and embrace our common humanity.
I hope this article helps to make your writing this week easier. The more knowledge we have the better writers we are. Blessings to all.