Saturday, June 30, 2012

Writing Multicultural...Part 5

Writing 'multicultural' sounds like a catchphrase, for which I HATE catchphrases... I feel as if we're dumbing human wisdom down to bite-size morsels.

To 'show' multiculturalism in fiction can be for a sub-culture or segment of a population not considered 'mainstream'.

Case in point:

I've attended my share of writing seminars, courses, and workshops.

One such was a woman's fiction workshop, with the acrimonious name "Chick Lit".
Yes, I felt offended, and it also reminded me of the candies I didn't really like when the family lived in New York.

Yet, in this week-long workshop, the two instructors were professional writers; co-authors to several series about the lives and dramas in Black families and among Black women friends.

Both women were witty, humorous, and gave fluid instruction.

In one exercise, everyone in the classroom had to construct a character sketch, a paragraph describing one's female protagonist. Her dominating feature, whether it be a habit, physical - too easy! - , or the sound/tone of her voice.
I had a character already, one from my many attempts over the years.
She lived in a post-modern, Gothic-theme society, the literary industry now calls it steampunk, but I think the genre wasn't known except among its enthusiasts, and besides, I just wanted to write about a Gothic character.

As a teen, I learned about gothic people and their lifestyle. I was fascinated by their refusal to dress as the mainstream, preferring to wear the fashions of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

(There is even a Japanese version of goths called Gothic Lolitas, girls and women, no matter their age, who dress as living French dolls of the 1900s! More about these endearing women and girls in another post)

My protagonist's world had horse carriages competing with automobiles, but people carried cellphones! There were also other 20th - 21th century conveniences, such as computers.

However, given the stereotypical views of mainstream society believing Goths were all death-obsessed, in this story, death by suicide and heavily-contracted murders were permissible, as long as done within the law!

The wealthier citizens could even pay to be elaborately murdered!

And for more tongue-in-cheek, I gave my characters grim names, such as Simon Ominnous and Harradine Darkchapel, Mortimer and Quillraven.

My protagonist became Emmaline Deathstone, and though she came from wealth, had joined the police force as a young woman, and was now, at the time of my story, a middle-age detective, or commissioner, as they call them in different ways in Europe.

After sketches were approved, we had to then write a single scene showcasing all that was on the character sketch, without seeming too obvious.

My scene took place during a next-day investigation. A murder may have taken place in a wealthy suburb, yet, none of the denizens heard anything beyond a scream.

I borrowed descriptive patterns from U.S. cop shows, and my characters' speech from London... during Sherlock Holmes' era.

Once finished, the instructors pointed to each of us to read aloud this scene.

As a class, we were pleased by each other's creations.
The few men had surprised themselves in formulating credible female characters!

A young woman, Latin teen, approached me, wore glasses as I, and mumbled how much she enjoyed hearing me read my story.

She then gave me the highest compliment: she asked if I had once been a goth!

I told her no, but that I had always admired the sub-culture, and for my story, had researched online resources pertaining to Goths and Gothic living: where they worked, what were their hobbies, what they did for fun, and how they raised their families - they are VERY family-oriented, and from personal observations, often more faithful to their partners and spouses than those of 'mainstream' society!

After the workshop week ended, I, and that younger classmate, kept in touch on and off, and I must admit, I still chat with this friend online!
She is raising a family, has moved to other interests, and no longer writes, but stated she was pleased I kept up writing.

To summarize, I wrote this character out of a genuine enthusiasm and deep interest for a people often maligned and misunderstood by the general populace.
Yet, in my few interactions with Goths, I found very warm, highly literate, and old-fashioned, family-oriented folks.

My challenge to you, fellow writers, and to anyone who reads this blog, that couple with their children? The father's hair may be blue, the mother may have dyed hers a deep purple and wears black lace, and the children happen to wear metal spikes, Go Talk To Them!

You may be surprised. I found more 'normal' there than around so-called 'regular' persons!
You may also happen to be a Goth reading this post!

**I will upload the class assignment I mentioned on another day. When I do, let me know what you think!


  1. Sounds like a great story! I'd be interested to read it.

    1. Sure, let me upload it while it is still fresh in my mind!