08 February, 2010

Isms

I have a fairly minor character in the book - the MC's neighbor - who is a crankly old hag. She's also, to be blunt, racist and downright hateful.

How right, or wrong, is it to write her dialog accordingly? Are there any words off limits? Any sentiments? I like to explore what makes people how they are, and I love dichotomy. How can the lady one one side be so nice and helpful while the other so nasty? What makes them the same, and what makes them different, and how does all that play into my character's own struggles with her own identity as her life is completely shattered?

But I worry that my tendency to explore the dark side of humanity will once again go too far. Can an easy-going white gal from the midwest write about race and prejudice?

What to do, what to do?

5 comments:

Maripat said...

Hm...hard to say without too much detail. But I think a little hatfulness goes a long way to show a character's personality. I think. I also think this will vary.

Good luck!

Krista said...

Have you seen Gran Torino? I thought Clint Eastwood's character was a complete ass (can I say that here?). His racism and general orneriness made him a very difficult character to like, yet by the end of the movie there is enough slip in his prejudices (they are altered only marginally in my opinion) to allow him to become a more complex and compelling character.

And that's what I look for when reading: complex and compelling characters. If her racism and orneriness isn't balanced, she might come off a bit one dimensional.

But you already know this. And I doubt you'd make her so transparent a plot device.

Jean said...

I'm reading an ARC of THE LITTLE KNOWN by Janice Daugharty right now. Entertaining story of an extremely poor black child who finds a bag of money dropped by a bank robber and his attempt to raise his community from poverty by anonymous gifting (since he can't spend $100 bills openly). The dialog is written in a modified Gullah (so the rest of the world can understand it, I'm sure) and includes all the words spoken in that community (without specific cursing). I say entertaining, because it's in third person POV of the boy. The story is heartbreaking, but from his POV, it's also mildly amusing.

Knowing your writing style, I'd say you could pull it off very well. I recommend you follow your gut and heart. If it goes too far, you can revise later, but I highly encourage you to write it true to character the first time through.

Tammy Jones said...

Thanks, guys! I LOVED Gran Torino,Krista. I just don't know yet if this old bat will be as grand as Clint.

The book is giving me fits - like what else is new? ;) - but I'm plugging away. Thanks for listening. {{huggs}}

KHurley said...

Maybe write it all first and then make a judgment later? When it's all done, you can look at the character arc as a whole. Seems like at that point you should be better able to see the right balance point for the character, and if she's being a little too extreme on either side of the fence, that will stand out to you better than when you're smack dab in the middle of it. {{{Hugs!}}}