Are you ever intimidated to write a character? How do you write a character who is smarter than you?Coffeeshopkitty
CAN an author write a character that is smarter than they are?Booklover
Absolutely. George is smarter than us. So is Catalina.
Geokinetic mages had power over earth, but their magic differed from the other elemental specialties, like aqua and aero mages. Water was usually a homogeneous solution and air a homogeneous mix of gasses, meaning you couldn’t distinguish individual parts inside the mixture. When an aquakinetic mage moved water, he moved everything that was dissolved in it as well. In a fight both aqua and aero mages proved deadly.
Soil, however, was a heterogeneous mixture. Forty-five percent of it consisted of mineral particles, water and air counted for about twenty-five percent each, and the rest was organic matter. The individual particles of this mixture stayed separate. If you sifted through soil, you could pick out pebbles, sand, clay, plant matter and so on.
Geokinetics controlled the mineral component. Rocks, some ores, and all gems, but not pure metal. They could find ore deposits, but their power over them was limited. They could move solid stone and inorganic dirt through the earth. A Prime could even pull certain minerals out of water. However, in terms of combat, their powers were limited. They excelled at raising defense barriers and they could make sink holes and even earthquakes, but at the core, their powers affected the environment, not their opponent. When they joined the military, they usually ended up as engineers.
Lander Morton wasn’t a combat mage and he had mostly withdrawn from political and business life. Once in a while, he’d pick a fight with his son over something, make a lot of noise, then fade into the background again. What could he have done to appear on Linus’ radar?
Chemistry courses were long ago, so I remembered the difference between homogeneous and heterogeneous mixture, but I didn’t remember the specific terms. I looked up solution, colloid, soil composition, soil classification, air composition, mixture, types of mixtures, until I finally stumbled on to a picture of cereal with milk, read the word heterogeneous, and the light bulb went on. So while it took me a good part of an hour to find it, Catalina pulled out of her brain instantly.
So the answer to the original question is research and thinking. Lots and lots of both.
As an American writer I have always been curious about the process of writing characters who have such diverse backgrounds. Setting a novel in America seems, at least to me, to be so much more work because of the melting pot of cultures and countries. American’s from a european perspective appear to take a disparate attitude to heritage. They cling to it as their identity, blend it via (insert nationality or ethnicity)-American, distance themselves from it to create a new American identity alone which means a loss of heritage which future generations may seek to reclaim.
Do you find the freedom to explore heritages, myths, social norms, etc when writing a novel set in America with such diversity or do you find it gives you too many possibilities?
Wriiting characters with ethnicity, nationality, cultures etc. different to your own, do you enjoy the research process or does it ever feel like you are being “diverse” for the sake of it? Do you have a research process? Have you ever begun researching something and thought it was too complex or sensitive for you to do justice to in your novel?
Being diverse for the sake of diversity is the wrong way to go about it. We don’t have a checklist that we consult and decide that since we are low on LGBT and people of color, we should include a Chinese lesbian into the novel. If you do that, your characters will be lifeless, because you are concentrating on social identification rather than the actual person.
I had a conversation once with a person of Indonesian descent who took an issue with our portrayal of Dali in particular. Her point was that she was second generation American, she didn’t speak Indonesian language, and she felt that we spent too much on Dali’s cultural background. I responded to her with an email from another Indonesian fan who accused us of being too lazy to do our research because we didn’t feature enough Indonesian cuisine in the novel.
No matter what you write or how you write, someone somewhere will have a problem with it.
Let go of trying to match other people’s expectations. That’s not your job.
Your job is to write what you see. When you go outside, who do you see walking the street? What kind of people are they, what kind of friends and coworkers do you have, what sort of person is checking your groceries out at the store? What’s their story? How did they end up at this point? Did you meet any cool friends online? What are their backgrounds, what makes them tick, and could someone like that serve a purpose in your narrative?
For example, when I go out, I see a lot of people who are Caucasian, a lot of people of Latin American heritage, a lot of African-American people, a few people of Far Eastern heritage, and some people whose heritage isn’t readily apparent. Texas cities, in particular Austin and Houston, are melting pots. There are 90 languages spoken in Houston. It has the third largest Hispanic population in US and one out of five people is an African American.
Be aware of where you are setting your narrative. If I set my book in Houston, and every character in my story is white, I am not being true to life.
The idea of diversity isn’t to artificially stuff people of various shades, genders, and orientation into your narrative. The idea is to stop erasing people who don’t look like you from fiction.
We write from life. Robert and Thomas are a gay couple not because we wanted to make a statement, but because Gordon and I met a gay couple on the street, who asked us to take a picture of them. They were vacationing together. We thought they were really cool and we put them in a book. What we took from that encounter wasn’t their physical appearance but the emotional connection they had with each other. They seemed so devoted to and considerate of each other.
With that in mind, start thinking of your characters in terms of their life stories. Why did Dali learn so much about Indonesia? Because her magic is rooted in her cultural heritage.
If you are writing an American of European descent and he is clinging to his Irish heritage with all his teeth, why? What in his daily life is causing him to seek that additional connection to Ireland? Is he missing the sense of community or does he feel that being Irish gives him a cultural identity? Does he romanticize it and feel it might make him special? Is he trying to remain connected to his family’s roots?
If you are writing a character of Mexican heritage, who is second generation and who doesn’t speak Spanish because English is more important, how will she react when a truck pulls up next to her car and some racist prick yells at her to go back to where she was born? Is she going to ignore him or is she going to yell back, “That would be Williamson County, you stupid dickhead!” (True story.) Why?
The why is much more important than checking off some artificial research box. Remember, characters are people first.
PS. And by the way, America is not unique in presenting a difficulty with a multitude of people of different cultural heritage. In UK, you have English, Scottish, Irish, Cornish, Welsh, Indian, Pakistani, African, Caribbean, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Roma… Oh and just to finish it on a funny note, here is a Guinness commercial for you.
He is a champion in Gloucestershire, but we are in Yorkshire, so that count for nothing. If you setting your stuff in UK, Universe help you if you don’t get the shires right.
Being a writer is hard work.