curious books

plusshippingandhandling  asked:

i saw ur addition to a post about accidental genius in writing and i am really curious about your books. i would love to read them

They are available from major retailers everywhere, including local bookstores, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon!

I hope you will enjoy them!

Writing is Hard: Redemption Arcs for Racist Characters

I wasn’t going to write about the Black Witch. And I’m still not going to write about it (if you’re curious about the book you can check out Goodreads here:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25740412-the-black-witch).  But I do want to talk about two things that have been on my mind since reading reviews: racism in fantasy and redemptive arcs for actively racist characters.  Because I think it’s important for authors going forward to understand why and how an author ends up with books that attempt to deconstruct ideas of power but then fail miserably.

This is two blog posts because it is such a deep and thorny subject.  So let’s talk about redemptive arcs for racist point of view characters.

***

A lot of folks have become kind of enamored of the redemptive arc for problematic characters.  And while I do believe that a redemptive arc is compelling, it’s important to understand that redemptive arcs for certain folks are a hard sell.  Asking me to sign on for a racist’s redemptive arc is a no go.  Here’s why:

1.  Redemptive arcs for racists aren’t for readers of color.  They’re for white readers.  When writing a redemptive arc for a racist, authors are centering white feelings. In most Western societies, white people are the only people who have the power and luxury to be prejudiced and have the system support their bias (racism= prejudice + power). Centering white feelings and perspectives and experiences is an echo of the function of racism. So by writing a redemptive arc for a racist, even within a fantasy world, authors are catering to the feelings of people who can be racist. White people.

2. Prejudice is not the same as racism, and a redemptive arc for a racist is not the same as a redemptive arc for someone who is prejudiced.  Racism is active, prejudice is passive.  So if a redemptive arc is something you’re looking to write it’s going to be much easier, and much less shitty, to write a character who changes their arc by doing something active than by changing their actions.  Because the impact of their original actions will always exist.

3. Redemptive arcs rarely start early enough.  You cannot start a redemptive arc for a character in the last act or last half of the book.  It must be seeded early and with nuance.  Otherwise, the reversal will make zero sense to the reader.  If you’re writing a redemptive arc for any sort of character it must be the central arc, otherwise it just reads like bad characterization.

4. Your reformed racist cannot be the only “enlightened” character.  There’s a huge problem with the redeemed racist often being the only person who sees the light, with the help of a marginalized character.  This isn’t really how the world works.  White people who are prejudiced/racist rarely listen to minorities (because they see them as lesser. Hello, racism!).  They listen to other white people.  That means you’re going to have to include a voice of reason early on in your story.  This voice of reason rarely appears.

5. Redemptive arcs for racists require a heartfelt scene in which the oppressed person or people forgive the terrible racist for all of the harm they’ve caused.  These scenes are complete and utter bullshit. First off, they propagate the idea that marginalized groups should be willing to turn the other cheek, even when they’ve been grievously wronged.  Second, they make it seem like a heartfelt apology can undo years of hurt.  This literally isn’t how the world works.  There is no redemption for racists.  Not everyone gets or deserves a second chance.

So, if you’re planning on writing a redemptive arc for a racist or extremely prejudiced person, remember that by default you are writing for a white audience and centering white feelings.  And if that isn’t your goal, adjust accordingly.

Sometimes we get sad about things and we don’t like to tell other people that we are sad about them. We like to keep it a secret. Or sometimes, we are sad but we really don’t know why we are sad, so we say we aren’t sad but we really are.
—  Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
5

chumps: get rid of this book!
Broadway: I’ll take it

Writing is Hard: Racism in a Fantasy Landscape

I wasn’t going to write about the Black Witch. And I’m still not going to write about it (if you’re curious about the book you can check out Goodreads here:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25740412-the-black-witch).  But I do want to talk about two things that have been on my mind since reading reviews: racism in fantasy and redemptive arcs for actively racist characters.  Because I think it’s important for authors going forward to understand why and how an author ends up with books that attempt to deconstruct ideas of power but then fail miserably.

This post is about addressing racism within a fantasy storytelling structure.  I’m going to save my discussion about redemptive arcs for racists for another post.

I touched on the idea of dismantling racism within a fantasy setting on twitter earlier this week.  Authors, especially white authors, like to tackle ideas of racism within fantasy settings by creating fake races for the point of view characters to be racist against.  This seems like a good idea in theory, but it is actually harder than just writing fantasy cultures that have a correlation to real world cultures and deconstructing real world racism within a fantasy setting.

Here’s why:

1. You have to teach a reader about the power structures in your fantasy world. And then deconstruct them.  Part of writing fantasy is about teaching a reader how to read your book.  This involves setting up scenes that illustrate the possible outcomes that can exist in your fantasy world.  Can your characters use magic? Great, now you have to show the reader the price of that magic, or the societal ramifications of that magic.  But you also will have to do that for the racism against the made up races within your book.  So creating a made up race creates more work to be done on the page.

2.  You have to be especially careful about how you code your characters.  If you accidentally code a race as a real world race but neglect to deconstruct the power structures of the real world you’ve created a trap of your own making.  If you code a fantasy race as several different real world analogs then that means there are several different cultural expectations you must subvert on the page.  If you don’t address the stereotypes and cultural narratives surrounding the real world people, then you aren’t going to be successful at deconstructing the power structures of your fantasy world on the page. You have to always be actively deconstructing and subverting at least two power structures: the real world one that people understand and expect and the one you’ve built.  Oh, and also worldbuild and have a plot in there somewhere.  That’s a lot of spinning plates to manage.

3.  You can’t erase the real world people of color who actually suffer from racism.  This is a biggie, because one of the reasons authors resort to made up races is to not have to tackle real world racism and expectations of cultural out groups.  But erasing Black people in a book that dissects and deconstructs the ramifications of chattel slavery in a fantasy world where the legacy of chattel slavery is the driving force behind the world’s current power structures is itself kind of racist.  Erasure is it’s own kind of marginalization.  And let’s be honest: if you aren’t comfortable talking about how racism exists in the real world, your fake world racism discussion is going to be shit.

4. Fantasy races like elves and vampires are not human and by their definition are already the other.  So if the recipients of your fake racism are non-human races then as a writer you have to work even harder to show the dehumanization of the people who suffer from racism (or whatever you decide to call the prejudice that is tied to power that takes the place of racism).  And if those people are not human then you are going to have to first humanize those characters, and then show the complexities and nuance of them as a people.  As well as all of the stuff we talked about above.  That is a lot of work.

Bottom line:

Readers will bring real world expectations to your fantasy world.  That means they will also bring real world expectations of power structures to your fantasy world.  That means those expectations will have to be subverted and addressed on the page, along with all of the worldbuilding that is required from writing a fatnasy.   And if you can’t do that in a way that keeps your story moving, your story will fail.