Oct. 8th, 2009 03:30 pm
ilthit: (writing)
[personal profile] ilthit posting in [community profile] writers
Stories need to be to the point and include nothing extra, say the experts.

I agree in most cases, though I'll also not budge in my opinion that every arguably boring scenery/walking passage in Lord of the Ring was pure gold, but then I'm a nerd. This is a very specific question though.

Mentioning a character's race: necessarily significant and generally insignificant, or not?

The argument being that if race is mentioned, it must be relevant later on, and that unless it has an effect on the plot you do not need to know the race of any particular character.

My counter-argument being that the race of the main characters are significant in the same way their gender or age or ability status are important, because it colours their experiences of the world and change the way the people in their world view them. Even if it doesn't change anything in the story, it adds its own nuance. I think it IS significant, for that reason and also because the assumed default race is so often white; leaving out the characters' race works out a lot of the time as if you're writing all-white casts, even when you're not.

This was probably covered somewhere during RaceFail '09, but I'd like to know what you think.

Edit: This post on The Magic District is relevant to this conversation!

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-08 02:36 pm (UTC)
paganpaul: (Default)
From: [personal profile] paganpaul
For me, the extras make the story. They are the paint, the taste and the smell. The experts will be right, otherwise they were not the experts, but that does not mean we have to agree with them. Overdoing it is one thing, but leaving things out... no. Not with me.

I will always mention a character's race if that is different from the main cast, so to speak. After all, you probably have a frame of characters that are of the same race, so any deviation to that should be noticeable to the reader. Otherwise the story becomes an black and white affair.

Well, those are my 3 cents. Change in the tip-jar please.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-09 03:26 am (UTC)
dorkpie: ([titanic] cap'n smith: where was gondor?)
From: [personal profile] dorkpie
Mentioning a character's race: necessarily significant and generally insignificant, or not?

I tend to go with usual argument in most cases, and not because of the "unless it has an effect on the plot you don't need to know it" aspect, but because race shouldn't have to be so important in the first place. But that's me being a hippie, and I also agree with your counter-argument, because while race shouldn't be important, it is, and to not mention it when it adds to the character is just dumb.

As a writer though, and not a reader, I like to mention it. Mostly because I can't help it, but also because it gives readers a better idea of what the character is like physically. People in general are self-aware, and as I strive to be as realistic as I can, my characters are self-aware. And I've never met anyone who wasn't aware of their race. (Also, I knew someone once who read Harry Potter and had a shock when he saw the movies and realized that Harry was, in fact, white.)

As for the Lord of the Rings, I could spend forever reading it, just because the descriptions are so... pretty rich.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-11 02:49 pm (UTC)
shalyn: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shalyn
For me - I could care less what color a character's hair/eyes/skin/weight/fashion sense are - for the most part. Glossing over/mentioning it - yeah. Like, if it makes an impact on another character: "Raymond was struck by the contrast between Rhonda's dark hair and pale skin." "Rhonda wasn't sure if she was attracted to Raymond because of his dark complexion, or his athletic physique."

But to describe them for the sake of describing them, "Rhonda combed her long black hair until it shone. She applied green eyeshadow, to bring out the green in her eyes, then eyed her closet. What to wear? The tight-fitting jeans, forest green blouse and black stilettos would certainly make an impact." Is that really necessary? I guess it depends on the rest of the story!

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-19 05:15 am (UTC)
anthimeria: Mask of feathers (Feather Face)
From: [personal profile] anthimeria
Race is always relevant because, as you say, our race (consciously or unconsciously) shapes how we view the world and how the world views us. The caveat for white writers (myself included) is to mention everyone's race, including the whites.

On a less strong note, there are ways to indicate a character's race without specifically saying "X is black/white/etc" and without enforcing racism/stereotypes.

Context also matters--the concept of race might have no meaning in a closed society, or be fraught with meaning in 1920s southern U.S. Its intersection with gender, social strata, and sexuality also matters.


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