Hi, I was wondering what advice you had on writing other races in a fantasy setting? The country it's set in is loosely based on Slavic countries and the nation is xenophobic but I want to have a diverse cast. If it's an entirely fictional world, how do I navigate race?
Thank you for your question, love! That’s a challenging one, though. I think it’s something that varies between each different world — each story and its history. Some writers make the mistake of having their universe completely
mimic ours; some make the alternate mistake of making all racial and cultural relations completely, almost unrealistically smooth. So how do you decide what makes sense for your story?
• Get a basic idea of what you’re after. In general, you should know what kind of relations your different peoples have. If you’re looking at tension, prepare reasons for that tension. If there’s an allyship between two countries/races, trace that back to logic, too.
• Take examples from real history. Look at the famous alliances and hostilities between large and small countries — look at the primary causes of different wars. Don’t limit your references to what you’ve been taught about your own country. Especially try to find history about nations that are similar (environmentally, economically, and politically) to your fictional nations.
• Develop history for your world. Leave nothing inexplicable. Sure, you don’t have to share all this worldbuilding information with your readers — but having it and reasoning it out helps you remain consistent and realistic.
• Remember that everyone has friends and enemies. There is no “bad” country/race that is the enemy to every other country/race. There is no perfect one, either. Even if every ruler in every country were perfect, the different governmental and economic constructs of each nation will butt heads. Religion and science will challenge each other. Different catastrophes, illnesses, and enemies will challenge countries, and some allies will interfere, and some will stand aside. This determines whether or not your character will be a friend or an enemy, wherever they travel.
• Remember that not everyone is a strict patriot. Just because Country X hates Country Y does not mean Character X hates Character Y. Behind all national relationships, there are people and activist groups attempting to heal relations. There are people who don’t hold grudges — who advance past prejudice or traditional beliefs. Behind them are people who do hold onto those things, but aren’t aggressive toward others — they judge quietly but don’t act out. Don’t make your writing unrealistic by having everyone act violent and hateful. Those people exist, but they’re not the only ones.
• Every nation changes… constantly. Think of how different America is now, since the last election season. Politics shifted, and everyone reacted. People of certain beliefs were brought to the spotlight — the relationships between races and religions changed. Other nations watched and reacted. Their opinions of America changed one way or another. Some relations were damaged. Others (cough Russia cough) were improved. Every action has a reaction, and that reaction changes nations. Quickly.
• Racism and animosity creates an effect on those involved. If Race Z is put under constant discrimination and pressure, they will evolve as a culture. Self-defense structures will develop. Cultural and psychological walls will be put up — the same way that Races A, B, and C, who discriminate against Z, will put up walls to keep out Z’s requests, complains, and outreach — their culture, ideology, and anything that would make them sympathetic figures. Peoples will demonize their enemies; they will defend against their enemies. And this mindset changes the way children are raised — and deep-seated discrimination is born.
That’s all I can think of right now, but I hope this helps you in some way! If you have any more specific questions, be sure to send them in and I’ll answer within the week. Good luck :)
If you need advice on writing, fanfiction, or NaNoWriMo, you should maybe ask me!