Writing character stereotypes

tinkerdan

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Ah perhaps it's my American English that's a problem here.
How have you gone about portraying your character as Asian?
What I meant was--in what manner have you so far informed the reader that this person is Asian.
There in lies the problem--because that's where those stereotypes begin to leak into the pot.
You can outright just say it or you can start showing it and it is mostly when showing it that you either nail it or begin using tropes that may have been learned from your own reading experience.

Also I might agree about the term Asian because if you call it out directly I'm not sure Asian is a helpful term for what an individual might be. Those generality's for the term might all fall close to offensive in some way to various different groups that get lumped into that name..

Don't get me wrong--I'm all for having a diverse group of people in my writing and it would be a bland setting if everyone were the same ethnicity,
However if it's a main character or an important choice then you should do some research and it could, as has been mentioned, be important to specify an actual people and culture and even geographic location.

Minor characters might also invite the same respect; however my own thought is that once you become diverse to a specific point you may have to rely on some simplistic slight of hand that might end up offending someone if you are not careful. Otherwise you could be caught up doing so much research that it drives you mad and leaves no time for actual writing.
 

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deletes rant...

Was nothing arguing against anyone's comments. I just have issue with a lot of folks being excluded from society because they don't fit the norm.

Anywho, whatever your character's traits, someone is going to take issue with it. Just be honest and fair, and let the chips fall where they may.

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Toby Frost

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I'm fast coming to the conclusion that a good way of writing any kind of character is to know what is expected of the stereotype and do something else. The stereotypical function of an elderly mentor, for instance, is to die and be avenged by their protege. Similarly, a villain who has a conscience traditionally redeems himself through his sacrifice and death to help the heroes. If neither of these happens - if the characters don't follow the cliched path that they would be expected to take - the story becomes messier, but more interesting.

That doesn't mean going in absolutely the opposite way, but in knowing when you're moving in a cliched direction and going somewhere else. I recently wrote a fantasy story in which a comedy sidekick ended up carrying the main plot, and stopped being comical and took responsibility for it. I thought that was more interesting than letting the obvious Young Hero Guy do it.

(Also might be worth mentioning that "Asian" in this context means a different region in the UK than in the US.)
 

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(Also might be worth mentioning that "Asian" in this context means a different region in the UK than in the US.)
Well I can't comment as to the word meaning a different 'location,' but instead, a VERY broad and overly inclusive racial group as a whole. The word used is somewhat on par to saying, "Bob's a Caucasian," expecting that explains he's of Östersund, Swedish origins. Korean is not Thai, is not Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, etc.. As much as that sounds like I'm being nationalistic, I'm not. Individual nations/regions often have distinct cultures/traditions/customs, and to be frank, it diverges even further down to the smallest of village sometime.

Frankly, describing someone by their supposed broad racial group--which very broadly describes groups of racial features, most often skin tone specifically--is not the most advanced form of thinking.

So, it's best to refer to Bob as Bob, and as other pertinent points come up, like he follows X custom or his family is from Y region, then state that directly/exactly.

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Kerrybuchanan

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In the UK, "Asian" is generally used to refer to India, Pakistan, and the countries nearby, and not to China, Korea, Japan etc. That's all.
I'm glad you said that. I have argued with my children (who all grew up watching US TV) on so many occasions over the years about the term Asian that I'd begun to doubt myself. For me, South-East Asian is how I'd describe folks from China, Japan, Korea, etc.
 

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In the UK, "Asian" is generally used to refer to India, Pakistan, and the countries nearby, and not to China, Korea, Japan etc. That's all.
I'm glad you said that. I have argued with my children (who all grew up watching US TV) on so many occasions over the years about the term Asian that I'd begun to doubt myself. For me, South-East Asian is how I'd describe folks from China, Japan, Korea, etc.
NOT arguing Toby or Kerry's point...but the above I feel makes the point I tried to express. Indians and Pakistanis will tell you flat out they are not the other. Same-same for Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese...and so on. Personally, I never had the impression from people of those groups that their views were based on nationalism, but on cultural differences.

So, if we're really hoping to avoid conflicts, Bob is Bob until it progresses to cultural aspects/language/etc.. At that point, you have to get very specific, but not about how they 'look.'

Heck, Indigenous American means a significant number of different cultures. All Caucasian, Asian, Indigenous ___, etc. speaks to, are very general and broad physical descriptions. WHICH, lead to a rather narrow inference by readers, often wrong. Hence, their own personal stereotype ;)

Past that, it often doesn't matter to the story...or life now-a-days. How many races and cultures reside in your/all regions of the world? So, just because Bob was raised and lived in Japan, doesn't mean he 'looks' like everyone else applies to those who are Japanese. IOW, their look/race in the end means little.

Just my opinion...

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Jo Zebedee

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I'm currently writing a crime novel in which one of the main characters is a young female detective whose father is from the Indian subcontinent, and her mother is from Northern Ireland. I have tried to use a light touch to reveal her ancestry, but otherwise just tried to to depict her like any other Northern Irish female trying to make her way up the promotion ladder in a job where sectarianism, racism and sexism were once rife. It's her gender as much as her skin tone that is making her feel she has to work twice as hard as her male colleagues to get recognition, and any mistakes she makes (she gets knocked out by a burglar when she accesses a property without asking for back-up, because she thinks she'll be judged to be too cautious) are blamed on her gender rather than her inexperience and lack of support from senior officers.

I also have an elderly Afro-Carribean female sergeant in the same book, who has survived for decades in the force by growing a thick hide and making herself indispensable to those above her.

Both characters are based on real people I knew/know who have faced similar challenges, though not in the police, and not in Northern Ireland. I hope I've managed to write them as Northern Irish women with added targets painted on them rather than as racial/gender stereotypes, but I won't know how successful I've been until the first book is released later this year...

In general, my advice about writing characters who are different to you, the writer, is to research like mad, and when you've finished writing, then editing, get someone from that background to sensitivity-read where possible. The same advice goes for writing a character with a disability/chronic illness.
I really struggled with writing any ethnicity in the northern Irish context - I did it with one character only - because, frankly, we don’t have much multiculturalism** (unless you’re setting it in the Holy Land*). Later I decided since we did every other angst so very well, I’d stop worrying about that one :D

* an area in Belfast close to the uni and more diverse than most others
** that’s what trying to blow up each other, and most visitors, will do to your immigration figures***
*** black humour is our survival mechanism. I still find it hard to understand why people don’t find my books hilarious.
 

sknox

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I don't mean to be unkind here, but perhaps if one is that unsure about another race and its stereotypes, it's time to do more research than writing (and yes, I know that's what the OP is doing here, but opinions aren't quite the same as research).

Also, and in a more encouraging vein, to me it is more helpful to ask for feedback on actual writing than to ask for feedback on ideas. Yes, one risks going down a dead-end, but the more one does this, the more one improves. Any stereotype can be presented well or poorly, depending on how they are written. At the same time, any portrayal that clicks with one reader might not click with another.

Once you have an actual story for someone to read, then you can ask for feedback not on the idea but on the execution. If there's a universal reaction that this is a stereotype that ruins the story, then you can re-visit the very idea. In the meantime, you will have written a story and gained experience.
 
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