I mentioned in my last post that I try and keep an open mind. I don’t live a typical life by many standards. It’s neither better nor worse than anyone else’s life so I’m very much a proponent of live and let live as long as no one is getting harmed.
One of the things I noticed a few years back was that my stories, like the vast majority out there, feature primarily Caucasian characters. I’m Caucasian so that seems a natural path to travel but diversity in fiction, as in life, is vital.
The heroine in my latest romance is of Korean ancestry. She’s always been of Korean ancestry, even from the earliest stages of her fictional development. I don’t know why. It wasn’t a conscious decision on my part to write a non-white character. It wasn’t a ploy to create diversity. She simply was Korean, but she’s being written by a Caucasian woman and in truth I wondered if that made a difference. I tend to think of people as people – it doesn’t matter the skin tone, we’re all pretty much alike. But is that true?
I started to think of it like I do when writing a male point of view. It’s not the same as a female POV. Would that be true for a person of non-European heritage? I think it’s true to some degree for all of us that nature vs nurture plays a role in our personality and perceptions. I wanted my character to reflect the beauty of the heritage and ancestry of their background – even though it’s created by me.
I love research. I even made it a job for a while, though it was the boring scientific kind that didn’t allow me to tweak it when I wanted. (Those scientists are so picky!) I talked to people I met while living in Korea, to friends I have here who are of Korean ancestry, to people online. I hope I do them justice when this book sees the light of day.
And I think at its heart is the hesitation I have about this character. I want the character to be who she is. I want readers to see a great character, full of dimension and personality, who just happens to be of Korean ancestry. I don’t want to try and write differently but I do want her background, even though it’s fictional, to reflect reality. I think that’s all we can do as writers.
If me, a Caucasian woman, writing a person of color, offends people, then my response will be that I write male characters, female characters, straight characters, gay characters. I write rich and middle class and poor characters. I write characters who are doctors and mechanics and teachers. And I’m not necessarily any or all of those things. I’m not making a statement. I’m writing a book.