Saturday 9 September 2017

Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, TV or Film by Lucy V Hay @LucyVHayAuthor #BlogTour

We're living in a time of unprecedented diversity in produced media content, with more characters appearing who are Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME), Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT), disabled, or from other religions or classes.
What's more, these characters are increasingly appearing in genre pieces, accessible to the mainstream, instead of being hidden away in so-called 'worthier' pieces, as in the past. 

How to Write Diverse Characters discusses issues of race, disability, sexuality and transgender people with specific reference to characterisation - not only in movies and TV, but also novel writing. 

Taking in blockbuster movies such as Mad Max Fury Road, Russell T Davies' ground-breaking TV series Cucumber and and the controversial novel Gone Girl, the book explores:

- How character role function really works

- What is the difference between stereotype and archetype?

- Why 'trope' does not mean what Twitter and Tumblr think it means

- How the burden of casting affects both box office and audience perception

- Why diversity is not about agendas, buzzwords or being 'politically correct'

- What authenticity truly means and why research is so important

- Why variety is key in ensuring true diversity in characterisation

Writers have to catch up. Knowing not only what makes a 'good' diverse character doesn't always cut it; they need to know what agents, publishers, producers, filmmakers and commissioners are looking for - and why. This book gives writers the tools to create three dimensional, authentic characters ... who just happen to be diverse.

Writing Diverse Characters for Fiction, TV or Film : An Essential Guide for Authors and Scriptwriters by Lucy V Hay was published by Kamera Books on 24 August 2017.

I'm delighted to welcome the author, Lucy V Hay here to Random Things today as part of the Blog Tour. She's talking about her top three favourite diverse characters of all time.

 My Top 3 Favourite Diverse Characters Of All Time
By LucyVHayAuthor

As a script editor for movies and short film, I noticed a long time ago there's a kind of homogenisation of characters in stories. 
Too often, stories are white, male, heterosexual and ability-centric, marginalising all others as being representative of 'issues'. 
It's for this reason I wrote my latest non-fiction book, Writing Diverse Characters In Fiction, TV and Film

As part of its current blog tour, the lovely Anne Cater challenged me to come up with my favourite diverse characters of all time in books.

Wow! There are so many ... Can I whittle it down to just 3?? YES is the answer ... Whilst my book doesn't just concentrate on race (it deals with LGBT, disabled and female characters too), I have decide to focus on BAME characters for the purpose of this blog post.

So, here are three diverse characters that have left a lasting impression on me, for various reasons. Do you know any of these?

1) Female Antagonist
Character: Amy Dunne
Appears in: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Reason: Brought bad girls back into the mainstream
It would be remiss of me to not mention Amy! Like it or loathe it, Flynn's modern classic left lasting ripples because Amy truly is the definition of 'unreliable narrator'. What's more, Flynn's character put female antagonists back on the map, especially in the so-called 'domestic noir' sub-genre that seems here to stay.

Antagonists too often have crazy plans, with female characters simple 'bunny boilers' against supposedly sane and 'good' men. In contrast, we may not condone Amy's actions, but they are complex, clever and 'understandable': Nick is a terrible husband, a weak man and a pathetic human being. Frankly, I think he deserves he all gets!
Interestingly, the VAST majority of female antagonists I've read since Gone Girl exploded into the marketplace have been white. Maybe that will change in the years to come? We'll have to see.

2) Male Anti-Hero
Character: Okonkwo, an Igbo Tribesman Leader
Appears in: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Reason: Made me realise masculinity & status can be a tyranny
Things Fall Apart is an absolute classic and for good reason. Detailing the rise and fall of Nigerian leader Okonkwo, his changing fates make for sobering reading. Presented in three parts, we join Okonkwo as a hero: a wrestling champion, he strives to show no weakness ever.

However it is Okonkwo's pride and desire to be seen as always strong that sows the seeds of his downfall. When the Gods decide Okonkwo's adopted son Ikemefuna must die, he is excused from having to do the deed himself. But Okonkwo insists on participating and it's then everything starts to go wrong for this once-great man. This part also has one of the most haunting passages in the entire book:
He heard Ikemefuna cry, “My father, they have killed me!” as he ran towards him. Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak.
It's been twenty years since I first read this book, yet this quote stays with me.

3) Mixed Race Ensemble Cast
Characters: The Lee Family (Lydia, Marilyn, James, Nath and Hannah)
Appears in: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Reason: Made me realise that different and/or opposed cultural expectations and values can create family friction and even tragedy
Ensemble casts are often tokenistic in their approach of both race and gender, but setting this hardgoing, but important book in a mixed race family home cuts through this issue with ease.

Focusing on the deeply troubled Lee family, the tragedy that occurs in the present was set in motion nearly two decades before when Lydia, Nath and Hannah's parents met.
Whilst Marilyn is white, but James is second generation Chinese American. Set in 1970s Ohio, The Lees are two decades too late for female emancipation and too early for any real attempt at racial equality. As a result, the family is a local oddity, with Marilyn dreaming of her own frustrated career aspirations and James dreaming of simply fitting in. Both are deeply unhappy, which leads to their three children inheriting their parents' issues, with terrible consequences.

I was particularly interested in this book because my own extended family is Chinese-British. I'd obviously thought about the issues my nephew and nieces may face in today's society, but this really brought it home to me how children can face issues like this starting in the home, too. Thankfully, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law are nothing like The Lees!
Last points

If you're wondering how you can read more diverse characters in the books you like, why not make a pledge to more intentionally inclusive? Enjoy! 

@LucyVHayAuthor is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers. 

She’s written three non-fiction books about writing, Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, Tv & Film; Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays and its follow up Writing & Selling Drama Screenplays. 

Her debut crime novel, The Other Twin, is out now with Orenda Books. 

Check out her website HERE and all her books, HERE.

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