Re: Representation isn't as important as people think

#81

Half Wrote: When I see a 3rd-person that dives into the thoughts of the characters I see that as cheating and/or poor writing.

But... That's what we call a story being told by an omniscient narrator's point of perspective... You can't just go and say it's poor writing since it's literally an entire form of narration in itself.. Like... There's thousands of very well known books published using it.

Re: Representation isn't as important as people think

#82

TheHex Wrote:
Half Wrote: When I see a 3rd-person that dives into the thoughts of the characters I see that as cheating and/or poor writing.

But... That's what we call a story being told by an omniscient narrator's point of perspective... You can't just go and say it's poor writing since it's literally an entire form of narration in itself.. Like... There's thousands of very well known books published using it.

I also don't see how it is cheating when it works. 


That's like saying novels should not describe the visual details of a scene because books are not a visual media and it's cheating. It's possible and it's a useful tool, so it should be used. 

Re: Representation isn't as important as people think

#83
I said cheating and/or poor writing. Which is to say: there may be well-written stories using that approach. However, I still see it as cheating.

More importantly, I phrased that statement as an opinion. Opinions are just that. I'm not saying this is some sort of law of good writing. I just place a higher value on playing fair with the readers than ease of writing. Omniscience is a cheat if I ever heard one.

Re: Representation isn't as important as people think

#84

Half Wrote: I said cheating and/or poor writing. Which is to say: there may be well-written stories using that approach. However, I still see it as cheating.

More importantly, I phrased that statement as an opinion. Opinions are just that. I'm not saying this is some sort of law of good writing. I just place a higher value on playing fair with the readers than ease of writing. Omniscience is a cheat if I ever heard one.

Well sure, I'm not saying you can't think that, I just don't understand why you think that. To me it's pretty much the whole point of novels, nothing to do with playing fair because the other option isn't un-fair. I'm a little curious, could you elaborate?

Re: Representation isn't as important as people think

#85
To be clear, I have no problem with 3rd person that doesn't dive into the character's thoughts (Objective). I just think you cross a line if that is an important aspect of your story, and you'd be better off writing a 1st person instead. First-person exists for exactly that reason. To me, 3rd person Subjective usually just reads as 1st person with different pronouns.

My pet peeve is 3rd person stories that only dive into a character's thoughts very rarely (99% Objective, but then suddenly Subjective). It is clear to me at that point that the author is being too lazy to find a way to get the exposition out.

Re: Representation isn't as important as people think

#86

Half Wrote: To be clear, I have no problem with 3rd person that doesn't dive into the character's thoughts. I just think you cross a line if that is an important aspect of your story, and you'd be better off writing a 1st person instead. First-person exists for exactly that reason.

My pet peeve is 3rd person stories that only dive into a character's thoughts very rarely. It is clear to me at that point that the author is being too lazy to find a way to get the exposition out.

First person exists as a style of writing, not for “that reason”.

Re: Representation isn't as important as people think

#87
Creative writing is a form of communication designed to mimic the human experience and transmit stories derived thereof. In the human experience, the only person's thoughts you can possibly know are your own. Therefore it is true to the human experience that first person is the only style of creative writing where it makes intrinsic sense to know the thoughts of the character.

In all other styles, the writer must deviate from human experience to shoehorn in a way to know the character's thoughts. It is an intrinsically unnatural and false approach. For me it breaks immersion because of that unnaturalness.

Re: Representation isn't as important as people think

#91
I agree that there's no way any one story, movie, TV show, or any other narrative could ever capture the full diversity of humans and the human experience.  It's simply impossible.  There's seven billion people on the planet.  You're only ever going to get a slice of the different people who lived.  

It's more important when we look at things broadly.  For instance, there's been 23 MCU movies - 21 have a white male lead, almost every single one has included some flavor of romance, and every romance has been straight.  I wouldn't criticize any one movie for it, but looked on aggregate, a pattern emerges.  I will criticize that pattern.  And criticism of that pattern is important.  If someone says "superhero movies are a white male power fantasy" then consider that maybe there's some truth to that.  

I will criticize a story for lack of self awareness. If every single important character is male, every leader, every general, every important person we run into, then I think you need to explicitly address the fact your universe is a sexist place at some point, and how people in that universe feel about that.  

Re: Representation isn't as important as people think

#92

Lilith Wrote: I do love the claim that any time a story has characters whom you don't approve of, they clearly just exist to "check off a list" or "_____ empowerment".

When in reality, 99% of the time this is people making such claims ignoring the vast majority of a character's depth, reducing them to one-note characters just to whine and complain about them for things they'd never criticize straight white male characters for.

Also, this is a site highly-focused on isekais and LitRPGs. If the overwhelming abundance of male power fantasies here isn't something you blink twice at but a female hero will have you scrambling for excuses to bash them, then clearly the problem isn't the stories themselves.

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Re: Representation isn't as important as people think

#93
I want to quote something that's stuck in my mind since I first read it several years ago. It is taken from an essay written by Christopher Priest, a veteran comic book writer and editor (and a novelist, and a clergyman in real life, and so forth) who happens to be African-American. He's done a lot of work over the years for Marvel and DC, which is another way of saying that much of his published work is in the superhero genre.

Here's an excerpt from what he said in an essay posted on his own website:


Quote:The larger body of work in mainstream super-hero comics is written by whites, and the larger body of African or African-American characters bear not much resemblance to any real black culture. A great deal of it is an appropriation of black culture and voice; it seems to be what white people think black people are. It's more amusing than offensive, but, taken at face value, black society in comic books seems an almost invented culture, as made up as Smallville or the Legion of Super-Heroes' headquarters, sewn together by glimpses of television shows or movies. Black culture as represented by Sherman Helmsley or Jimmy Walker or Richard Roundtree. It's an RPG universe subset Black People, with a list of rules and hair styles and speech patterns, invented for the game, but bearing little resemblance to any actual culture.


I am perfectly willing to believe that this is a true statement of what "black characters written by white people" usually look like from the perspective of an African-American reader. I happen to have been born and raised as a white guy in the USA, so I can't claim any deep understanding of what it feels like to be part of an African-American culture. (Nor of any other "black culture" that exists in any other part of the world.) I can easily imagine myself coming across as amusingly and/or offensively clueless if I tried to write a long story in which the protagonist, who presumably would be the Main Viewpoint Character, was African-American. I can visualize black readers rolling their eyes at my feeble attempts to "get inside his head" and describe how he, as a fairly typical African-American, "really felt" about this, that, or the other thing. The result is that, rather than embarrass myself by trying and failing, I prefer not to open that can of worms. But if anyone else (of any ethnicity) wants to write such a story, I may end up reading it with interest. I'm certainly not trying to stop anyone from writing whatever type of story they feel excited about writing, and I don't filter my own reading to only focus on stories about protagonists who just happen to look a lot like me. 

I think a very common "compromise" among white writers of superhero comic books, at least for the team books, is to have, let's say, at least 6 or 7 regular members in the superhero team at any given time (sometimes more), and make at least one of them black. Storm has been a regular in the X-Men comic books ever since she debuted in the mid-1970s; Cyborg became a member of DC's "New Teen Titans" in 1980 and in recent years has sometimes been used as a member of the Justice League instead; Black Panther became the team leader of Marvel's Avengers as far back as the late 1960s; etc. After a while -- say, during the 1980s -- it seemed to be almost mandatory that if anyone at a major comic book publishing house in the USA was creating a brand new team of costumed characters to co-star in a new comic book series (instead of just taking over the writing duties for a well-established team concept, such as the X-Men or the Justice League), then they would include at least one black person as part of the line-up of newly introduced characters to be featured on the covers. They were also likely to include at least one person who appeared to be of East Asian heritage, and possibly even a Native American or Hispanic character. (That's in addition to often having one or two members of what I call "the imaginary minorities," such as steel-skinned robots or green-skinned aliens.) 

I can see the advantages, for a white writer, of using the approach that says "at least one of the several co-stars is black." Every once in a while, one writer or another can try to do a special story which focuses on the personal problems of that character -- which may or may not involve obvious racial issues. But the rest of the time, the black co-star is treated as just one more member of the team roster; that is to say, he spends most of his time onstage talking to his (non-black) friends on the team about the current crisis that needs to be confronted, and he does his part in the action scenes when they are smiting the forces of evil (or whatever is going on in that month's issue). The racial stuff, and questions such as "who are his favorite actors, musicians, athletes, politicians, et cetera?", all gets left on the back burner for lengthy periods of time, and any readers who care about that are free to largely "fill in the gaps" from their own imaginations regarding what they want to think this guy's home life looks like when he returns to his apartment after a hard day of catching superpowered serial killers and so forth. 

And eventually it may happen that an African-American writer is hired to write the adventures of that superhero team for a while, and he may end up giving some further character development to the preexisting black superhero, drawing upon the writer's own personal experiences of what it felt like to grow up in (let's say) a black neighborhood in Detroit back in the 1970s, or whatever. 

Re: Representation isn't as important as people think

#94
If you make the argument that white writers are not able to write true-to-life black characters, then logically, the opposite must also be true (EG: black writers are not able to write true-to-life white characters). If you follow that logic further down the line then the argument could be women writers also cannot write true-to-life male characters. Then so on, and so forth.

Obviously, that gets ridiculous pretty quickly. Nobody would be able to do any work with any characters that did not fall within the same intersectional slice of DNA as the writer's own. That doesn't even factor in the additional intersectional slicing and dicing represented by gender, sexuality, or disabilities. In the end, the only thing anybody would be qualified to write is autobiographies.

Furthermore, using Storm and X-men as an example is pretty messed up. During the time Storm was introduced, Chris Claremont was writing (his tenure covered over 20 years). For the entirety of that time, X-men was dedicated to the idea that all mutants were equally hated as "gene-jokes" and often subject to genocidal attacks. Mr. Claremont is also a British man. So you could just as easily say his depiction of a Southern belle (Rogue) or a Midwestern farm boy (Cannonball) were just as much caricatures of those types of people. Was he also not qualified to write them as well? Or is it OK to write using stereotypical caricatures as long as it doesn't cross the line of skin color?


A fiction writer's job is to use their imagination... end of story.

Re: Representation isn't as important as people think

#95

Half Wrote: If you make the argument that white writers are not able to write true-to-life black characters, then logically, the opposite must also be true (EG: black writers are not able to write true-to-life white characters). If you follow that logic further down the line then the argument could be women writers also cannot write true-to-life male characters. Then so on, and so forth.



No, that doesn't necessarily follow. If you take the time to follow the link I provided, you will see that in that same essay, Christopher Priest addresses that point by explaining why he feels it's a lot easier (in the USA, at least) for black writers to learn to write convincing white characters than it is for things to happen the other way around. I suggest you read the essay before you try to argue with the lines I quoted from it. 

I wasn't trying to summarize his entire essay in a quick post on this forum; I just wanted to quote one bit that had stuck in my mind, and then offer some personal observations about how some white comic book writers have handled such things over the years.

Re: Representation isn't as important as people think

#97

OrionTello Wrote: It's more important when we look at things broadly.  For instance, there's been 23 MCU movies - 21 have a white male lead, almost every single one has included some flavor of romance, and every romance has been straight.  I wouldn't criticize any one movie for it, but looked on aggregate, a pattern emerges.  I will criticize that pattern.  And criticism of that pattern is important.  If someone says "superhero movies are a white male power fantasy" then consider that maybe there's some truth to that.



This is such a good passage. I might even quote it at some point.

Re: Representation isn't as important as people think

#99
upon reading that essay written by Christopher Priest I think that he is a very good advocate for this problem. He says that one of the problems he encountered was that most of the white writers did not put in enough effort to understand the black community, which I can definitely see. If you are part of a large group it is harder to understand and associate with smaller groups, and in the same vein if you start from being in a small group it is easier to associate and understand larger groups. I would say then that the white writers should put in more work to understand the cultures they want to represent, if they want to do so properly.

If instead of simply skimming that essay you are to read it properly in full, you will not find an egomaniac flexing how much better he can write black characters than white people, you will find a man proud of the work he has done and in the choices he has made, while simultaneously being frustrated with many of the other writers for their lack of proper effort in their research. Not to say he is incredibly frustrated with them but rather a mild frustration that they should try more.

I think that if you truly want to write about a culture or a subculture of people, and you wish to do so properly, then a good effort to understand said culture or subculture should be made. Regardless of if you agree with some of their beliefs or not. However nobody should feel that they must have representation of other cultures or subcultures in their work, it needs to come about naturally to have the impact that is wanted, if it is forced onto a piece of literature then it can be found at best a humorous representation of them, at worst an outright attack on what they associate with.

P.S. I am a white male, and I do very much dislike when that is the only thing people see about me, I say "white writers" but this can apply to any dominant culture with smaller cultures inside it, it's just very prevalent in the US and with white males because of various reasons.

Re: Representation isn't as important as people think

#100

Nautilus Wrote: upon reading that essay written by Christopher Priest I think that he is a very good advocate for this problem. He says that one of the problems he encountered was that most of the white writers did not put in enough effort to understand the black community, which I can definitely see. If you are part of a large group it is harder to understand and associate with smaller groups, and in the same vein if you start from being in a small group it is easier to associate and understand larger groups. I would say then that the white writers should put in more work to understand the cultures they want to represent, if they want to do so properly.

If instead of simply skimming that essay you are to read it properly in full, you will not find an egomaniac flexing how much better he can write black characters than white people, you will find a man proud of the work he has done and in the choices he has made, while simultaneously being frustrated with many of the other writers for their lack of proper effort in their research. Not to say he is incredibly frustrated with them but rather a mild frustration that they should try more.

I think that if you truly want to write about a culture or a subculture of people, and you wish to do so properly, then a good effort to understand said culture or subculture should be made. Regardless of if you agree with some of their beliefs or not. However nobody should feel that they must have representation of other cultures or subcultures in their work, it needs to come about naturally to have the impact that is wanted, if it is forced onto a piece of literature then it can be found at best a humorous representation of them, at worst an outright attack on what they associate with.

P.S. I am a white male, and I do very much dislike when that is the only thing people see about me, I say "white writers" but this can apply to any dominant culture with smaller cultures inside it, it's just very prevalent in the US and with white males because of various reasons.

Let's see, he claims that "white" culture is much easier to learn than "black" culture for reasons that boil down to "trust me bro."
He claims that people should go speak to him when writing a black character or else they are doomed to fail.
He also, not-so-subtly, implies that your culture is wholly dependant on your skin color and not on other, more important, factors.

So not only he is an ego tripping old man, he is also rather racist and views skin color as the be-all and end-all of a person.