Writing People of (a) Color (Different from Your Own)

In a thoughtful (and visually appealing) post by MariNaomi of Midnight Breakfast, several cartoonists offered some practical advice on how to write credible characters of a racial or ethnic background different from one’s own.

I hope I do justice to my nonwhite characters. As much as possible, I strive to avoid stereotypes (naturally!) and work from a character-first approach. Whenever possible, I try to draw on my experiences (1) as the kid of two teachers at an inner-city high school whose students often dropped in at our home and (2) the lone white kid in a predominantly black church youth group growing up.

In The Devil’s Due (which is hurdling through beta editing! Yay!), Taylor’s friend Jill plays a pretty significant role. The template from which I built her character was actually my childhood memories of a colleague and best friend of my mom, a strong, intelligent, devout, and compassionate black woman who could stand toe-to-toe with my mother—who is kind of a force of nature, but I mean that in the best possible way!—because of the love and respect they had for each other.

Imagining what that lady, now long deceased, might have been like in her teenage years helped me put a “face” on Jill, at least tentatively.

Advertisements