Author Topic: Question for Romance Writers.  (Read 6611 times)  

Online Rosie A.

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #150 on: May 16, 2018, 09:21:49 AM »
The Romani's origins are from Northern India and although I've seen gypsies with lighter skin colors I've come across ones with skin color like mine (dark). Make of that what you will.

I mean, the OP asked a question and some of us have done our best to provide a helpful answer, whether others agree or not.

Offline Becca Mills

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #151 on: May 16, 2018, 09:42:50 AM »
POC as a term doesn't just stand for Black, Asian, but to be honest, when someone describes a character as "tan/olive/dark tan", I don't think POC either unless there's some other identifier. And that's mostly because I assumed the person who wrote it wasn't going for POC. They were going for "tan white person" or "olive skinned white person".

If you want a majority of readers to absorb that a particular character is a race other than white, I think you have to be direct and probably repetitive. We all probably remember the fan anger over how the Hunger Game films supposedly transformed white characters into people of color, when that wasn't the case -- the casting generally followed the books, with the possible exception of the main character, where the transformation went from racially ambiguous to clearly white. Apparently, Collins didn't hit her character descriptions hard enough to break through presumptions. Having read the first of those books, I'm honestly not sure how hard you have to hit it to knock the presumptions down. Collins's character descriptions seemed pretty darn clear to me, with phrases like "brown skin" or "dark brown skin." That info just doesn't sink in, apparently.

Online L_Loryn

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #152 on: May 16, 2018, 09:56:14 AM »
If you want a majority of readers to absorb that a particular character is a race other than white, I think you have to be direct and probably repetitive. We all probably remember the fan anger over how the Hunger Game films supposedly transformed white characters into people of color, when that wasn't the case -- the casting generally followed the books, with the possible exception of the main character, where the transformation went from racially ambiguous to clearly white. Apparently, Collins didn't hit her character descriptions hard enough to break through presumptions. Having read the first of those books, I'm honestly not sure how hard you have to hit it to knock the presumptions down. Collins's character descriptions seemed pretty darn clear to me, with phrases like "brown skin" or "dark brown skin." That info just doesn't sink in, apparently.

You do. You really do.

Phrases like "dark brown" and "brown" will sink in as non-white to me, but given I'm around white people that are always so excited to get "tan" or describe their own skin tone as "olive", those particular descriptors aren't enough for me to see the character as a POC without something added to it.

In fact, changing "tan" to "fawn" or "tawny" would change perception to me. But again, it's because my exposure to the word "tan" mostly references white people not wanting to look pale.

Offline notenoughcoffee

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #153 on: May 16, 2018, 10:03:42 AM »
Quote
If you want a majority of readers to absorb that a particular character is a race other than white, I think you have to be direct and probably repetitive.

For real.

I've lived most of my life next to the border. I know a lot of people who look white white white... and barely speak English. They're Mexican. 100%. They identify as Mexican (or Hispanic, depending on who you ask). If I were writing in a character like that, I'd have to address how their interactions go with people, how they are assumed to speak English, how they are assumed to be American. But I'm not sure that's my story to tell for them.

I also know a whole lot of Hispanic people, with Hispanic names, who have never been to Mexico and don't speak Spanish. They're third and fourth generation, often with no ties to Mexico at all. Their skin tones run the gamut from pale to very dark. I'd have to write in how they are assumed to speak Spanish, assumed to be first or second generation, and how they get prejudice from all sides - white people assuming they don't speak English, and Hispanic people taking issue with them being too "white" or too "American" (I see this being especially an issue when one doesn't speak Spanish). But I'm not sure that's my story to tell for them either.

I have one WIP (not much intent to publish it, it's a pet project as there's not really a market for this sort of plot) with Hispanic characters because it's set in the deserts of southern New Mexico. I didn't want to whitewash a book that takes place in an area that is predominately Hispanic. The characters have Hispanic names. They toss out Spanish words sometimes. They physically look Hispanic. This comes into play later in the book when they are in Mexico; a person of any other race, who didn't speak Spanish, just wouldn't work for the plot, when I need characters that blend in, not stick out. I couldn't swap out the MC for someone who is African American, or Asian, or Russian.

Online L_Loryn

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #154 on: May 16, 2018, 10:17:19 AM »
For real.

I've lived most of my life next to the border. I know a lot of people who look white white white... and barely speak English. They're Mexican. 100%. They identify as Mexican (or Hispanic, depending on who you ask). If I were writing in a character like that, I'd have to address how their interactions go with people, how they are assumed to speak English, how they are assumed to be American. But I'm not sure that's my story to tell for them.


I think as writers, we get a free pass to tell anyone's story we feel we can do adequate justice to.

And I know where you're coming from. One of my closest friends is Hispanic and doesn't speak Spanish. He's assumed to speak Spanish, of course. But I don't think anyone with unique cultural experiences would be upset that you sat down and wanted to talk about what they go through. To me, it would be kind of nice.

I mean, if someone wrote a story about how American Black people aren't exactly accepted by African Black people (I don't know if that's even the right way to say that), but then American White people ask them if they want to go back to Africa. If someone tackled that in a story-- and pulled it off well-- I wouldn't be mad at all.

Online RRodriguez

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #155 on: May 16, 2018, 10:33:37 AM »
I don't know if I should answer since I don't write Romance, but I do write stories with very heavy romance themes, but I wanted to throw in one more answer for you anyway.

For me, it's all over the place. My first novel features one white hero and one racially ambiguous hero (who will, admittedly, probably be read as white). Initially the second hero was described as having brown skin, but I decided to take that descriptor out after realizing there were too many ways that could be interpreted as offensive/problematic. Now, the book does have two POC supporting characters, but they are minor.

My second book has a white hero and a POC heroine, with a very small supporting cast that's completely mixed.

My third book has a 100% POC cast as it's set in a fictional country modeled after Mexico.

I don't know if that's important or not too. I write fantasy, so I don't know if that also effects things. For example, in my second book with a white hero and a POC heroine, they are both from the same country and share the same cultural background and heritage. Still, for what it's worth, I like to try to create a realistic mix. My books are all about featuring people who are LGBT+, differently abled, different religions, etc. So it's only realistic there's a range of skin tones as well.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2018, 10:54:27 AM by RRodriguez »
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Offline Greg Dragon

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #156 on: May 16, 2018, 10:37:23 AM »
I mean, if someone wrote a story about how American Black people aren't exactly accepted by African Black people (I don't know if that's even the right way to say that), but then American White people ask them if they want to go back to Africa. If someone tackled that in a story-- and pulled it off well-- I wouldn't be mad at all.

Stop airing out our dirty laundry... (runs away from thread)

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Offline Becca Mills

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #157 on: May 16, 2018, 10:42:28 AM »
I think as writers, we get a free pass to tell anyone's story we feel we can do adequate justice to.

And I know where you're coming from. One of my closest friends is Hispanic and doesn't speak Spanish. He's assumed to speak Spanish, of course. But I don't think anyone with unique cultural experiences would be upset that you sat down and wanted to talk about what they go through. To me, it would be kind of nice.

I mean, if someone wrote a story about how American Black people aren't exactly accepted by African Black people (I don't know if that's even the right way to say that), but then American White people ask them if they want to go back to Africa. If someone tackled that in a story-- and pulled it off well-- I wouldn't be mad at all.

Some might be, though. This is a significant challenge, I think, the balance between bringing more diversity into books (for those authors who want to do that) and not taking over stories others may feel belong to them ... while recognizing that the whole question of cultural belonging is difficult and prompts a wide array of responses. An added wrinkle: the issue of cultural appropriation, as I've seen it discussed, is connected to the environment of scarcity created by traditional publishing, where a company may only afford one author the opportunity to tell the story you describe above (or any other), such that if a white author takes that berth, an author of African heritage will not have the chance to do so, despite their personal and/or cultural connection to it. Indie publishing doesn't work that way, exactly, so perhaps things are somewhat different in our part of the book world? I don't know, it's hard to say. It's definitely something I think about, though.

Online L_Loryn

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #158 on: May 16, 2018, 10:42:52 AM »
Stop airing out our dirty laundry... (runs away from thread)


AHHHHH. LOL.  :D :D :D :D

Online L_Loryn

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #159 on: May 16, 2018, 10:47:52 AM »

I don't know if that's important or not too. I write fantasy, so I don't know if that also effects things. For example, in my second book with a white hero and a POC heroine, they are both from the same country and share the same cultural background and heritage. Still, for what it's worth, I like to try to create a realistic mix. My books are all about featuring people who are LGBT+, differently abled, different religions, etc. So it's only realistic there's a range of skin tones as well.

Answer appreciated.

I like that you mentioned "differently abled". I mentioned POC but we could have the same cycle with that topic (I guess now I know what to bring up for my next controversial thread).

I don't generally mention religion.

Offline notenoughcoffee

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #160 on: May 16, 2018, 11:07:32 AM »
Quote
I think as writers, we get a free pass to tell anyone's story we feel we can do adequate justice to.

I'm not sure that I could. I'm not in their heads before, during, or after interactions where their race comes into play in a negative manner, even though I have personal experience with that myself, as there's a lot of prejudice coming from Hispanic people toward white people down there, but that's not the same as knowing what anyone else feels when faced with bigotry that's been embedded in the region for hundreds of years. Despite being a minority where I grew up, white people still didn't have the systemic racism and outright terrible treatment that Hispanic and Native Americans in that region did and still do. I can't even begin to compare my experiences with theirs, nor should I try to. Being bullied for being white is not even close to knowing your great grandparents were shot because they refused to live on the reservation, or seeing your parents struggle to get a home loan despite being qualified simply because they are Hispanic and speak broken English. It's not the same as getting poor treatment in a restaurant because you're speaking Spanish among yourselves (even if you also speak English well). It's not the same as getting pulled over by the cops again and again simply because you drive a lowrider.

I will never know what racial profiling feels like. I will never know what it's like to be unable to have the same basic rights granted to me as easily and seamlessly as white, and white passing, people. I will never feel like I have to work twice as hard for the same accolades as my white peers. And having an understanding of that is exactly why I feel I'm NOT qualified to write POC if their race is an issue in the book.

Online L_Loryn

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #161 on: May 16, 2018, 11:19:34 AM »
Some might be, though. This is a significant challenge, I think, the balance between bringing more diversity into books (for those authors who want to do that) and not taking over stories others may feel belong to them ... while recognizing that the whole question of cultural belonging is difficult and prompts a wide array of responses. An added wrinkle: the issue of cultural appropriation, as I've seen it discussed, is connected to the environment of scarcity created by traditional publishing, where a company may only afford one author the opportunity to tell the story you describe above (or any other), such that if a white author takes that berth, an author of African heritage will not have the chance to do so, despite their personal and/or cultural connection to it. Indie publishing doesn't work that way, exactly, so perhaps things are somewhat different in our part of the book world? I don't know, it's hard to say. It's definitely something I think about, though.

It goes back to telling the story appropriately. You're fine to tell my story, White, Asian, Purple Alien Monster as long as you do it correctly, do your necessary research, and do it accurately.

I see where you're coming from and I definitely see how some people would get upset at not being given the chance to tell their story. For me, I feel like if no one else is telling it, someone has to. If there's no one in the publishing house writing about the struggle some Hispanics experience in America, and a White person picks up the premise, does their homework, and prints a novel dealing with it. Sure, a Hispanic person now can't tell that story, but no one was in the first place?

It's different if there are twenty stories sitting on a desk about the same topic and the publishers pick the White person over the person who has a cultural tie to the story, but it's another if there's only one manuscript and the story happens to have a White author.

As far as indie publishing, well. It's a little different in that anyone can publish what they want, but there's a stigma attached to POC authors like there are female authors (or male authors) in certain genres.

For me, the question becomes: Is it more important for someone with a cultural tie to the story to tell it, or for as many eyes to get on the story as possible?

Offline Mr. Sparkle

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #162 on: May 16, 2018, 11:23:09 AM »
cultural expectation of U.S. readers: the less you describe a person, the more likely people are to assume the character is white, straight, cis-gendered, able-bodied, and male.

genre reader's expectation of the MC: me!

I realize this is oversimplified. I know a lot of people here said they don't like to imagine themselves as one of the main characters.

I think the success of Rick Riordan, Bella Forrest, and Stephanie Meyer proves that most U.S. genre readers disagree.

Reading literary fiction, I almost never imagine myself as the main character, because experience has taught me that there's usually no happy ending and terrible things will happen in the book. Reading genre fiction (besides horror) at least gives me the reassurance of fulfilling my escapist side: even if bad things happen to the MC, she's probably not going to die and will likely get a decent ending. I want to imagine myself there, as that character.

Children don't have nearly as many hangups as adults do imagining themselves as people of other races, genders, ethnicities, etc. That makes it even more crucial that the way we write characters in children's books reflects lived experiences (outside of spec fiction).

I strive to go against there being a "default" setting at all in my fiction. I have yet to write a white male character as my MC, and that kind of just happened. But one of the reasons I stopped writing romance that wasn't paranormal is because the audience seems to be less tolerant of PoC on covers, and I have to make money. The fastest way to change the system would be to have a massive influx of characters of color as MCs, out there and visible on the covers, but until I stabilize my income, I can't be the only one writing outside the sea of white football players, doctors, billionaires, rockstars, etc.

[JFYI for non-USian authors: PoC / people of color originated from the phrase gens de couleur libres, or free people of color. Historically, the term referred to both a certain group of Haitians struggling for equal rights under French law and a general group of people in the Americas with multiracial heritage. It gained wide usage in New Orleans in particular and spread from there.

It'soften confusing to ESL speakers why two terms, "colored people" and "people of color," both nouns using genitive expressions, are not interchangeable in the U.S. "Colored people" or "colored" was a segregation-era classification used to denote separate and unequal public and private services like bathrooms, water fountains, etc. "People of color" is a self-selected phrase that PoC have used to describe themselves for a long time.]
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Online L_Loryn

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #163 on: May 16, 2018, 11:23:49 AM »
I'm not sure that I could. I'm not in their heads before, during, or after interactions where their race comes into play in a negative manner, even though I have personal experience with that myself, as there's a lot of prejudice coming from Hispanic people toward white people down there, but that's not the same as knowing what anyone else feels when faced with bigotry that's been embedded in the region for hundreds of years. Despite being a minority where I grew up, white people still didn't have the systemic racism and outright terrible treatment that Hispanic and Native Americans in that region did and still do. I can't even begin to compare my experiences with theirs, nor should I try to. Being bullied for being white is not even close to knowing your great grandparents were shot because they refused to live on the reservation, or seeing your parents struggle to get a home loan despite being qualified simply because they are Hispanic and speak broken English. It's not the same as getting poor treatment in a restaurant because you're speaking Spanish among yourselves (even if you also speak English well). It's not the same as getting pulled over by the cops again and again simply because you drive a lowrider.

I will never know what racial profiling feels like. I will never know what it's like to be unable to have the same basic rights granted to me as easily and seamlessly as white, and white passing, people. I will never feel like I have to work twice as hard for the same accolades as my white peers. And having an understanding of that is exactly why I feel I'm NOT qualified to write POC if their race is an issue in the book.

That's fair.

Offline Nic

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #164 on: May 16, 2018, 11:40:41 AM »
Yeah, Romani being considered POC is a debate, actually. I don't have the answer. They have, however, been discriminated against for years (centuries), so I feel like they get a place at the table.

The reason for their discrimination is however ethnic, not skin tone related. Irish Travelers are subjected to the same kind of discrimination, lately also for instance Polish migrants. And just to clarify, there are regions in Africa and Asia where anyone not of the local ethnicity and skin colour is discriminated against, including white Europeans or Americans.

Offline Nic

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #165 on: May 16, 2018, 11:59:42 AM »
I disagree. Tribes and races are not the same thing. And it would be counter-intuitive biologically since we're more likely to be killed by people of our own race. Also, some people adore/fetishize other races which would happen far less commonly. They've done studies with young children and found they don't make racial distinctions. It's something people are taught.

That's the politically correct take. I even sympathise with people opting for it, because it makes some discussions with racists easier.

Unfortunately "discrimination" is something hardwired into our species, and not just ours. I've personally seen "racist" dogs which will accept only mates of their own breed, my nieces tell me of equines preferring to socialise not just within the same breed, but which even drill it down to associating only with the same coat colour. No one has shown these animals a mirror or told them such and such is better [for them]. Curiosity or disinterest in children without any need yet to function on a tribal level has no real import on later behaviour, especially when these abilities and distinctions are relevant for survival. Yes, in some this is more, in others less expressed. Doesn't equate that it's only learned, or that it can be dismissed. The problem is that the whole thing is much more complex than we might currently wish for.

Fetishisation often happens when the object is taboo for the fetishiser. The thrill of the forbidden. In light of the fact that for example there are people fetishising amputees (right down to specific kinds) or artificially fattened people should give a hint to where that may originate.

I'm backing out of this part of the discussion because I don't want Becca coming down on me. But if this interests you, there are scientific texts out there about this.

Offline Nic

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #166 on: May 16, 2018, 12:15:57 PM »
The Romani's origins are from Northern India and although I've seen gypsies with lighter skin colors I've come across ones with skin color like mine (dark). Make of that what you will.

I wouldn't use the term "gypsy". It's like using the n-word for a black person, and roughly of the same level of disrespect.

The actual origin of the Romany is still unknown. Their partial derivation from Northwestern Indian Aryans is a hypothesis and hasn't been proven, though quite a few have tried in the recent past. That India claimed the Romany is highly contended, including and especially among the Romany themselves. There is no scientific proof for this at the moment whatsoever.

Again, in Europe skin colour, short of being black, is rarely ever a decider of ethnicity or race. Go to Corsica for your next holidays. I am sure you will meet a lot of people of the exact same shade who all are considered French and white.

Offline Nic

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #167 on: May 16, 2018, 12:19:19 PM »
Indie publishing doesn't work that way, exactly, so perhaps things are somewhat different in our part of the book world? I don't know, it's hard to say. It's definitely something I think about, though.

One would hope so.

As to appropriation, I believe underinformedness is the biggest problem. And the easiest to remedy.

Offline Becca Mills

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #168 on: May 16, 2018, 12:30:09 PM »
I'm backing out of this part of the discussion because I don't want Becca coming down on me. But if this interests you, there are scientific texts out there about this.

Where racism comes from is a really interesting question, but yeah, it does go beyond our boundaries.

BTW, it's nice to see you, Nic -- it's been a while. :)

Offline Lara Reznik23

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #169 on: May 16, 2018, 12:41:54 PM »
My new romantic suspense novel, Bagels & Salsa has a Jewish heroine and a Hispanic hero.
 

Online L_Loryn

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #170 on: May 16, 2018, 12:43:22 PM »
My new romantic suspense novel, Bagels & Salsa has a Jewish heroine and a Hispanic hero.

Love the title.

Online Paranormal Kitty

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #171 on: May 16, 2018, 01:42:11 PM »
My new romantic suspense novel, Bagels & Salsa has a Jewish heroine and a Hispanic hero.


Totally off topic, but you and I nearly have the same first name and I also have a Dr. Quintana in my books (she's female and specializes in treating vampires though) :)

Offline Logophile

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #172 on: May 16, 2018, 03:38:37 PM »
Well, as shown by this very thread, it can certainly be a minefield.

In our current social climate, writers are even less likely to explore writing different groups for fear of giving offense. It's a real shame, too. I could almost swear there was more diversity in books five to ten years ago than there is today.

This is true. Too much political correctness nowadays.

Offline Jenwrites

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #173 on: May 17, 2018, 05:54:02 PM »
L_Loryn, you said, "I'm also not the type of person that "puts themselves" in stories."


Maybe I'm weird. I always put myself in the story whenever I read. It doesn't matter if the story is first person, third person, male, female, etc. When I read, I am the character.

Now that I think about it, I don't know of anyone else who does that. Guess I am weird after all.  ;D
« Last Edit: May 17, 2018, 06:05:43 PM by Jenwrites »

Offline Crystal_

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Re: Question for Romance Writers.
« Reply #174 on: May 17, 2018, 08:17:54 PM »
If you want a majority of readers to absorb that a particular character is a race other than white, I think you have to be direct and probably repetitive. We all probably remember the fan anger over how the Hunger Game films supposedly transformed white characters into people of color, when that wasn't the case -- the casting generally followed the books, with the possible exception of the main character, where the transformation went from racially ambiguous to clearly white. Apparently, Collins didn't hit her character descriptions hard enough to break through presumptions. Having read the first of those books, I'm honestly not sure how hard you have to hit it to knock the presumptions down. Collins's character descriptions seemed pretty darn clear to me, with phrases like "brown skin" or "dark brown skin." That info just doesn't sink in, apparently.

I think this was two things. One was that people didn't realize Rue wasn't white, which is understandable IMO because most of her descriptions focus on how much she reminds Katniss of Prim.

The other was that the studio was casting only white actors for the role of Katniss. She is more racially ambiguous in the book, so she could be white, but she could also be not white. People were upset that non-white actors weren't considered, though I think we'd all agree that Jennifer Lawrence did a great job.