Thursday, April 29, 2010
Blog Chain: I'm a Boring White Guy
So anyway. Sandra's up with a really intriguing question:
Have you ever created a character different from yourself in some significant way, such as (but not limited to) different gender, race, ethnic group, religion, or sexual orientation? If so, what, if any, research did you do to portray these differences? Was this character a main character, secondary character, or walk-on? Did these differences have an impact on the story?
Strangely enough, it wasn't until I wrote The Deathday Letter that I began writing these realistic teen male protagonists. My protags have been girls obsessed with quantum physics, twins living in the dust bowl during the depression, an old German man, etc. And even still, I don't think any of my characters as like me. Most of them are funnier than I could ever be. They're more daring, more active. I'm kind of lazy and lazy protags tend to bore readers.
I tend to take a dim view though of authors writing across gender/race/sexuality/ethnic lines who rely on stereotypes. I'm a white Anglo male, but that doesn't mean I should only write white Anglo male characters. In fact, because we live in a varied world, I think we have a responsibility to accurately reflect that world. When I wrote Ollie's best-friend Shane, I thought back to a young African-American man I worked with at the GAP when I was 16. I can't remember his name, but he was so preppy and so shy and SO smart. We got along great. So I didn't do any research when I wrote Shane. When I think of Shane, I think of him as this brainy, bad driver who loves pizza and happens to also be African-American.
Stereotypes exist for a reason, but I think people who rely on them are lazy. I think that if you're going to use a stereotype (like say a poor, overweight white person who lives in a trailer home) then you'd better have a darn good reason for using it. And if have a good reason, then research would be helpful.
Did I go off topic? LOL. So, my answer is that yes, I do write characters significantly different from myself. As I should, because no one wants to read a bunch of books by a boring white guy about a bunch of boring white guys.
I highly suggest that you check out Michelle, who's quite a character herself, and who answered this before me, and then tomorrow you'll definitely want to read the amazing and awesome Abby's take.