Tag Archives: Create Diversity

Were the World Mine

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Were the World Mine is a sweet indie movie, about a young gay boy living in a small town. He is picked on and shunned by most of the boys in his all-boys school. Then Shakespeare comes along. The senior play is A Midsummer’s Nights Dream and magic happens. *girly sigh*

I love the mom in this movie, she’s a normal, average woman who is trying to do right by her son, but is angry and resentful at all she’s had to give up.She’s human and hurting, and trying so hard.

Anyway, it’s a lovely movie, I’ve watched it twice.

Create Diversity Tip Eight: It’s okay to give your characters flaws

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Create Diversity Tip Eight: It’s okay to give your characters flaws

Sometimes to prove that we aren’t prejudices we will make perfect minority characters. Perfect characters are boring! It is our job as writers to torment our characters. I do not mean having your black female in a tizzy over going to Yale or Harvard and her loving supportive Leave it to Beaver parents smiling in the background.

I’m not saying your black woman can’t go to those schools, because of course they do, but give them some real issues to deal with. It’s even okay to give real life issues. As I’ve mentioned before Native American’s have a problem with diabetes. This is a fact. Not all NA have diabetes, but it is a concern among many. So add it to your story. It doesn’t have to be a big issue, maybe they are careful with what they eat, or maybe it is a huge issue for them and a driving plot in your book. It’s your choice.

We all have problems to deal with: money, health, education, drugs, alcohol, gangs, etc. We all worry. We all encounter different things in our lives. Your characters need to have some of these same experiences.

Jewish people are often encouraged/pressured to marry someone of their religion (as are many from devout religious families). Not all Jewish people face this issue, but it doesn’t mean you’re stereotyping to make it an issue your character has to deal with.

Let go of being PC and create well rounded, interesting character that you torture.

To mark the end of my tips for creating diversity I give you the Wicked Boy Ballet Company, they are dancing to Smells Like Teen Spirit preformed by Scala. I think it’s a great example of creating diversity.

Create Diversity Tip Seven: We are all people.

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Create Diversity Tip Seven: We are all people.

As you read books, watch movies, and research, you will realize we are all people. We want to be happy and safe. What creates happiness and safety is different for everyone. Some people want to travel, a family, riches, intelligence, to be left alone, or to be famous. Dreams differ from person to person, not culture to culture.

You don’t have to challenge social norms. Your character could simply be gay and a marine sniper, and that could be the end of it. Or you could use your book as a platform to discuss and challenge people’s beliefs.

As you write your characters, know what motivates them and why. This is what creates dynamic characters, not the adjectives you use to describe them.

We all have fears, hopes, dreams, and goals. We all feel pressured and inadequate. This is who your character is, not their skin color or the gender of the ass they’re checking out.

Create dynamic diverse people, not one-dimensional token minorities.

Today’s Music Monday is Loreena Mckennitt’s The Mummers dance. You’ve most likely heard at least one of her songs in a movie,but if not, here’s one of my favorites:

Create Diversity- Tip 6

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Create Diversity Tip Six: Not everyone has family history hanging on the wall.

I am German. It’s my German ancestry that gives me my red hair. I get it from thin Northern Germans and Vikings. Other than my hair color, which most people think is Irish, there is nothing German about me. I don’t have coo-coo clocks on the wall. I don’t eat Bratwurst or drink bear. I do like sauerkraut.

Your character does not have to be the poster child for a culturally rich PC person. Your hero might have grown up Jewish, but now cooks pork chops for dinner. Your black character can grow up in a loving home in the suburbs and never have to deal with gangs and can’t fire a gun. Not every gay person can decorate a room. Not every lesbian can change a tire.

You don’t have to give your character an ethnic name or dress them ethnically either. Your east Indian woman might have a sari for special family functions but her closet is filled with blue jeans and tee shirts.

People are rich and diverse. The color of their skin, whom they sleep with, and how they pray is only one small aspect of who they are. Mix it up. Stretch boundaries and challenge stereotypes.

How do you challenge stereotypes in your life or with your characters?

Music Monday-

Here’s a fun Arabic song- I actually think the group is from England but I can’t find it by itself so enjoy the belly dance and the chicky chicky song.

Music and Musings Monday

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Creating Diversity Tip Five: Don’t be afraid to offend people.
Redheads are often portrayed as sultry nymphomaniacs. No one minds writing us this way. Those of you who know me can just be quiet!

No one worries about offending redheads, and yet we bite our finger nails with fear about possibly offending someone of a different color, religion, or sexual orientation. Why? We are all people and while we should try not to stereotype people sometimes it just works.

Your bad guy could be any color, but when you close your eyes you see a skin head with a scar across his face. Your sexy black hero can dance if you want him too.

Whenever you say all X people are Y, you are stereotyping. When you say, Greg a Cree Indian raised by his grandfather in the mountains makes his living leading tours and tracking, you’re not stereotyping. Now if his cousin Paul who grew up in Cincinnati and is a lawyer can magically track, then we have a problem.

Some traits are true, and while not true of everyone can be true of some. Do all lesbians have short hair, bind their chests, and identify as male? No, but some do, and if your character does that doesn’t mean you’re stereotyping. Is your gay character flamboyant and a fabulous dresser? Maybe, why not. But his boyfriend could be a muscular cop whom no one would guess is gay and whose idea of dressing up is a button-down flannel shirt.

A good way to not offend people: be specific. Know your character, what drives them and where they are from. Is your Indian man third generation or eighth? What tribe is your Native American from? How accepting of gays is his family? These things make a difference, and the more specific, you are the fewer generalities you’ll use and the less chance of offending people.
Characters in stories are larger then life, and as long as you’re not saying this is how it is for all of “them,” then why not have your white southern belle scared when the guy in gang clothes comes into her shop. Then give him a teacup dog and polite manners to go with the tattoos covering his arms.

Remember you can’t make everyone happy, no matter what you do, so why try? Write your story, celebrate diversity, and be creative.

Tell me about a character you’ve thought of writing, but have been too afraid to because you don’t want to offend anyone.

Which stereotypes about you/people of your race, religion, or sexual orientation do you hate? Which ones do you encourage? Which ones are true about you or someone you know?

Drama Queen from Denmark, singer DQ

Music and Musings Monday

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Create Diversity Tip four: Take classes!
I’ve found several classes offered through writers groups on how to write realistic characters. They have offered, gay, Native American, victims, Latina, psychopaths, police officers, and others. I hope we will be seeing more of these classes. Join an RWA group and get on the class mailing list, this way you’ll always know what’s being offered.
You can also take classes from the local college; some libraries have lectures they offer; and community classes are also available.
Did I miss anything? What are your tips for researching other cultures?
Your Monday Music is from Finland with a trio Apocoliptica, Ville Valo lead singer for HIM, and Lauri Ylonen from Rasmus. It’s a beautiful song; it always gives me chills.

And just in case you didn’t see it before- here’s a class on diversity being offered.

The Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter of RWA Presents

Latina Heroines
Presented by Dr. Charley Ferrer
http://www.romance-ffp.com/event.cfm?EventID=423
WHEN: October 24, 2011 through October 26, 2011
WHAT: Not all Latinas are the same. Mexicans, Puerto Rican, Columbian, Dominicans, Spaniards–we’re all different. Like Brits and Americans. Add to that the cultural bias, religion, sexuality, regional quirks and the individual’s ability to straddle two cultures as she tries to assimilate to the American way of life and still respect the old world traditions of her parents, and you have the hilarious situations just waiting to happen.

WHERE: This workshop will be conducted via a Yahoo! email loop. Email invitations will be sent 48 hours prior to the beginning of the workshop.
HOW: Just register for the workshop and complete the payment process via PayPal. The cost is $5.00 for FFnP members and $7.00 for non-FFnP members. Payment is due at the time of registration.
Refunds /credits are determined on a case by case basis. If a class should be canceled, then participants have a choice of a credit to be applied to a future workshop or a refund.
REGISTRATION: http://www.romance-ffp.com/nonMemberWorkshopRegistration.cfm?EventID=423 {you might want to do a Tiny URL http://www.tinyurl.com here, so the link is small enough to be on one line}

WHO: Dr. Charley Ferrer is a clinical sexologist and psychotherapist with over 15 years experience. She produces and hosts a TV Talk Show called PLEASURE on relationships and sexuality. She’s an award-winning author with eight books on sexuality and self-empowerment. Her new books BDSM FOR WRITERS and BDSM THE NAKED TRUTH were released June 17, 2011.
Dr. Charley teaches psychology & human asexuality courses at Rutgers University and lectures throughout the US and Latin America on various topics dealing with sexuality. She’s the sex expert for various TV/Radio shows. She writes for newspapers & magazines, including Fox News Latino, where her first live interview was providing relationship advice to the royal couple. In her spare time, Dr. Charley enjoys traveling and exploring ancient ruins and conducting research. She has created a Yahoo Group for BDSM writers to share their knowledge and learn from each other.
For 2012, she’s hosting a BDSM FOR WRITERS Conference in New York City where authors will not only receive information but gain a little hands-on experience. Plus she’s hosting a BDSM Writers Contest for published and unpublished authors starting September.
Please feel free to visit her site http://www.bdsmforwriters.com or for general information about sexuality http://www.instituteofpleasure.org.

Monday Music and Musings

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Create Diversity Tip Three: basic research
I fear today’s tip isn’t very exciting, but basic research isn’t always very exciting. If you want to write about a place or people you don’t know, get yourself to the library and start researching. Now I will share a secret–get children’s books. While adult travel books do have some important information, children’s books have more sensory information: colors, sights, sounds, etc. This will help your book more than knowing the twenty top mid-range hotels in a city.

There is also a video series I like: ‘Families of the World.’ Each country has its own video, and there are two different families per country. You get to see a typical day in the household, including school, meals, and jobs.
My other tip for basic research: travel shows. You didn’t see that coming did you? I bet you’re shocked and amazed. But better then just any travel show, watch No Reservations and Bizarre Foods. Both of the hosts interact with the local people, go to local markets, and describe everything they are doing.


Don’t forget the food. I live in a college city, which means I’m lucky enough to have lots of different ethnic restaurants around. Check your local paper or phone book and see what options you have available to you. If they don’t have what you need, try cooking a dish from the culture you’re researching. Sunday’s at Moosewood is my favorite multi-cultural cook book, but head out to the library or search the internet for websites.

Find someone on the internet who knows the culture–either because they lived some place or have visited there. Reach out and ask, and those of you answering questions don’t get snippy, just smile and know that someone is trying to learn something new and answer the question.

For you Music Monday song I offer you a sweet sappy love song from Azerbaijan Running Scared by Eldar & Nigar

Create Diversity Tip Two

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I missed all of you, but I needed a week to get my blogs built back up and figure out what I was doing. I’m taking Krisitn Lamb’s blogging class so expect wonderful changes.
Monday Musings and Music.

Create Diversity Tip Two: books and movies.
I have heard many authors say they are afraid to write characters from backgrounds different from their own because they don’t feel they can portray them well. I understand this concern; however, like everything in life you can learn. A great way to do this is to read books and watch movies–not only about other cultures but by people from other cultures.
So there are two types of books and movies that help us learn about different cultures. Some are by people of one culture (I’m going to use white Americans because that’s what I am) going into another culture. These books typically highlight the differences between the two cultures, the things that stand out to a middle class American and might be overlooked by someone from that country because it’s normal for them. However, this perspective can cause issues because the writer might not understand everything that’s going on.
This can take the form of a travelogue such as Japan Ai: A Tall Girl’s Adventures in Japan.

Novels and autobiographies, including Pearl S. Bucks books. Her autobiography is amazing in its detailed account of her life in China as a missionary’s child and the American attitudes when she returns during the Great Depression. She also wrote novels about people living in China and India, and about Americans visiting those countries. If you haven’t read her work, read them now. Even books written in or about the past tell you a lot about a country and its people.
Other examples:
Eat, Pray, Love
Dances with Wolves
The Count of Monte Cristo
Tony Hillerman’s books
Mutant Message from Down Under
I can’t think of any religious or LGBT examples right now. If you have good ones to share, please leave them in the comments.
People writing about themselves in their own culture: this can be a country, religion, lifestyle, or sexual orientation.
Examples-
Kali’s Odiyya
The Rice Mother
L.A. Banks Vampire Hunter series
Josh Landon’s books

Children’s books can also be a great source of cultural information. They tend to have the details of daily life shown more in depth, especially picture books.
My Very Last First Time
Who Owns the Sun?
A Pair of Red Clogs
The Secret Garden

Movies are similar. We have movies about people from the outside going to new countries:
Thunder Heart
Outsourced
Enlightenment Guaranteed
Tarzan- the Legend of Graystoke
My Name is Khan

Alica Mckenna Johnson, Tarzan, diversity

photo by Hyju


I LOVE foreign films. Every time I watch a movie made in another country I learn something about their lifestyles and values–even the weird sci-fi movies.
Anything written by Russell T. Davies for England, and he wrote Queer as Folk, and Torchwood, giving us a window into the LGBT lifestyle 
Stage Beauty- for a look at the change when woman where allowed to act on stage.
Billy Elliot
Monsoon Wedding
To Sir With Love
Hana
Don’t forget kids movies:
Spirited Away
Kirikou and the Sorceress
The Secret of Roan Inish

Books and movies show us glimpses of other people’s lives. Don’t limit yourself to movies about people like you; expand your choices; pick something different about people you’ve never really learned about. In the process I think you’ll learn a lot about yourself.
So I know I’ve missed at least one person’s favorite book or movie, so please tell me what I’ve missed. I’m hoping to get a bunch of new entries for my “to be read” and “to be watched” lists.

Here’s your Monday morning music. I hope it brightens your day. It’s one of my son’s favorites, Alizee Moi Lolita

Also, for those of you wanting to branch out into other cultures, I just got this email for a class that I’m definitely going to take.

The Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter of RWA Presents

Latina Heroines
Presented by Dr. Charley Ferrer
http://www.romance-ffp.com/event.cfm?EventID=423
WHEN: October 24, 2011 through October 26, 2011
WHAT: Not all Latinas are the same. Mexicans, Puerto Rican, Columbian, Dominicans, Spaniards–we’re all different. Like Brits and Americans. Add to that the cultural bias, religion, sexuality, regional quirks and the individual’s ability to straddle two cultures as she tries to assimilate to the American way of life and still respect the old world traditions of her parents, and you have the hilarious situations just waiting to happen.

WHERE: This workshop will be conducted via a Yahoo! email loop. Email invitations will be sent 48 hours prior to the beginning of the workshop.
HOW: Just register for the workshop and complete the payment process via PayPal. The cost is $5.00 for FFnP members and $7.00 for non-FFnP members. Payment is due at the time of registration.
Refunds /credits are determined on a case by case basis. If a class should be canceled, then participants have a choice of a credit to be applied to a future workshop or a refund.
REGISTRATION: http://www.romance-ffp.com/nonMemberWorkshopRegistration.cfm?EventID=423 {you might want to do a Tiny URL http://www.tinyurl.com here, so the link is small enough to be on one line}

WHO: Dr. Charley Ferrer is a clinical sexologist and psychotherapist with over 15 years experience. She produces and hosts a TV Talk Show called PLEASURE on relationships and sexuality. She’s an award-winning author with eight books on sexuality and self-empowerment. Her new books BDSM FOR WRITERS and BDSM THE NAKED TRUTH were released June 17, 2011.
Dr. Charley teaches psychology & human asexuality courses at Rutgers University and lectures throughout the US and Latin America on various topics dealing with sexuality. She’s the sex expert for various TV/Radio shows. She writes for newspapers & magazines, including Fox News Latino, where her first live interview was providing relationship advice to the royal couple. In her spare time, Dr. Charley enjoys traveling and exploring ancient ruins and conducting research. She has created a Yahoo Group for BDSM writers to share their knowledge and learn from each other.
For 2012, she’s hosting a BDSM FOR WRITERS Conference in New York City where authors will not only receive information but gain a little hands-on experience. Plus she’s hosting a BDSM Writers Contest for published and unpublished authors starting September.
Please feel free to visit her site http://www.bdsmforwriters.com or for general information about sexuality http://www.instituteofpleasure.org.

Music and Musings Monday

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After several lovely comments and my own need to put something in my blog I am going to expand upon my eight steps towards adding more cultural diversity into your life and your writing.

Tip one is all about perspective and cheating. My YA series Phoenix Child has many characters from different cultural backgrounds and as the series continues they will be traveling all over the world. So how will I deal with all of these different POV’s, different cultural backgrounds, and how it affect the characters?
I won’t. I cheat. My book is written in first person which means I only need to write about the world and people from one perspective. My main character, Sara, is culturally bland and standard American. Sara, was raised in group homes in San Francisco, so she has been exposed to many different cultures but doesn’t have a specific one of her own.
For those writers concerned about offending people but who want to have diverse characters first person is a great compromise.
I hear the wailing in the back- but I hate first person I can’t write in first person!! Don’t worry, calm down, its okay this idea can also apply to third person. I am currently writing an adult romance, in third person. My hero is half Japanese and half Native American. He also grew up in a big city. While he grew up in a rich cultural household he also grew up in a large American city which lets me show that he has cultural knowledge and influence, over a basic ‘bland American base’.
Bland American base- this is the basic thought patterns, morals, goals and lifestyles shared by the majority of Americans. It is true everyone is different, and yes this can change significantly depending on where you grew up. I use San Francisco as a base because I spent my teen years there so I’m familiar with it. Think of a Bland American base as a 5×9 square canvas and lets say all Americans, raised in America, have this basic canvas. It’s what we use to paint and what we paint that shows the difference in us. Someone from another country might have a round canvas, or a huge canvas, or pottery- and these are much bigger differences in perspective and outlook on life. Okay so this analogy is really lame- but I hope you get the idea.
And yes even in America people can have different canvases. They can live in a place with a strong cultural influence, or with parents whose beliefs and morals are different and are passed down to their kids in way that creates something different. If you feel you know a different culture well enough then write them. This post is about cheating and one way I cheat is the Bland American Cultural Base.
Some stories take place over a short period of time. Sometimes we only get a small glimpse into the strong beautiful cultural background of a black woman raised in Harlem when our exposure to her is short. We don’t need to know her favorite jazz singer, the racism she suffered, or her family’s secret soul food recipes. If she’s on a one week cruise and falls in love then that is the base of the story. While her background may show in how she acts it isn’t who she is.
Another great cheat, “It’s not a real Universe”. Do you write fantasy, sci-fi, or steampunk? If yes, there is no reason you can’t have diversity of characters. It is simply a matter of having them, and showing their differences without it being an issue. But Alica, we can’t do that- um yes you can, go back and watch Star Trek. Roddenberry wrote characters, and they were different, unique, and equal all at the same time. You don’t have to bring our social issues into your fantasy world. Why the hell would you want to? Although you can in creative unique ways that won’t step on any toes, again watch star Trek.
These tips are not for someone wanting to show how prejudice still runs through our society or the difficulty of an immigrant in America. These tips are for adding diversity to your writing where the persons skin color, sexuality, religion, etc. isn’t the dominate force in the plot, but simply a part of who they are.
Here’s a funny video by Henry Cho as an example of what I’m talking about.

Now for the Music section of my Monday blog. I’m sticking with Korea as a theme- so today you get Rain- he’s the lead in Ninja Assasign’s 🙂 This is a love song from a boy band in Korean. It’s slow and I guess sweet- but I don’t know Korean. There are sequence and if you wait it out he takes his shirt of and does a very lovely body roll. 🙂