Characterization, Polyamory, and Race

Chapter 2 is “re”-written; whoo!

Honestly, there are no marked “chapters” in the NaNoWriMo rough draft. There are sections separated by a “—“, but those sections aren’t necessarily chapters. Realistically, each section should be a few chapters.

I’ve motivated myself to do this re-write by telling myself that each day, I am not allowed to post in this blog until I’ve done some rewriting. It’s working well so far, but I can see that the problem is going to come in with feeling that I’ve done enough rewriting for the day to reward myself with blogging. For example, I’ve re-written the first 1,000 words of the rough draft, and now have 1,700 words. It should be a LOT more, but I’ve decided to relocate some character descriptions and, well, should I have rewritten those character descriptions before coming here to blog today, or am I cool here?

Only I know, I guess, and therein lies the danger.

I choose "DANCE" every time.

I had polyamory and race on my mind last night, because of my character descriptions yesterday. While I was rewriting, I found myself feeling like I had to slap some appearances on my characters, and me, desiring a “diverse” cast, started describing the various skin tones, hair colors and types, eye shapes, etc. of Mikhail’s family. It felt very, very forced and ingenuine, and it bothered me, and I ended the chapter shortly after pecking the descriptions out.

Part of my discomfort, I believe, stems from my firm belief that appearances really shouldn’t matter. I understand in fiction that appearance is simply a part of characterization, and it helps readers “get to know” your characters. However, I’ve always been pretty uncomfortable with relying on readers’ stereotypes and prejudices to characterize my characters. I don’t like feeling like I’m validating or perpetuating those stereotypes and prejudices by allowing them to be a part of my characterization. As someone who constantly reminds others to “not judge a book by its cover,” I just can’t comfortably do it.

What? No goth friends? Psh, diversity my bum.

I had to shake my head at myself when I realized that, when I thought “diverse” cast, I had automatically assumed that I needed diverse appearances to get the idea across. There are many things besides race and appearances which make groups of people diverse, though, and I’ve finally come to a decision:

I’m not going to use any physical descriptions of characters in my book. There’s just no need for it. The story is about what these people think and feel, not what they look like. So, it doesn’t matter what they look like. They can be an alien race or talking penguins, for all I care. Forcing race into the story not only is, well, forced, but it also makes me uncomfortable because I’m asking my readers to visualize these people, and perhaps expecting some of my very own stereotypes and prejudices to be upheld as part of defining who these people are.

The Rare Polyamorous Penguin Breed

So, physical descriptions deleted, more personality traits and habits inserted. Much better.

Of course, me being the nerd that I am, I continued to think about and even research polyamory and race long after finding this solution to my personal problem. It’s been long noted that the polyamory movement has been one composed of mostly white, middle-class, educated Americans. I’ve written down (in my personal journal) my thoughts on that and possible reasons why, and my homework tonight is to read Progressive Polyamory: Considering Issues of Diversity in order to compare my thoughts to some research, before posting another entry here on what I’ve learned and discovered.

Whew! I think that’s about it, y’all. I’ll see you again soon after Chapter 3 and some research.