In TOKoR, I try to build up from writing what I know. Every character usually starts as a nugget of my real self, then evolves into their own deal when they’re bulked up enough to fly. I’ll give you some examples:
With Alex, he’s practically my avatar in the behind-the-scenes details of his ethnicity, in that the ‘behind-the-scenes details’ of his ethnicity is the detail. For Beth? She’s a chirpy girl who talks too fast and says dumb things that she passes off as clever retroactively. Benoit is my feeling of being lazy for so long that shit’ll work itself out, and especially in a way where I can take credit for nudging the last bit of it home. Jason is my genuine love of spreadsheets. Xander’s the part where I think I’m funny. Real talk: Xander alone is my case for pulling a Pulitzer nom. The struggle and acceptance I had to dig through to finally tag this story as ‘action/comedy‘ is well worth getting tapped for an Exploration of Self-Identity, and damn near a Psych 201 essay-in-waiting given how often I’ve got Alex telling him to shut up. It’s really only Karla that’s brand new and unknown, because everyone else in the cast has become more than that one thing (largely thanks to my practice in the First Draft) and she’s still just the argumentative bitch.
Anyway, that’s how I start delving into nuances. I find the nuance in my experience in a specific area, give it to that character as their ‘thing’ to keep anchored to their origin, then build, build, build around it.
What I’m asking for today and always is for your nuances. I’m not that ‘broad’ in my worldview beyond having had one epiphany over culture shock – it exists outside of theory, guys! – which was enough to say, “Hey, I’m limited in what I can experience.” But you’ve experienced stuff, and probably stuff that I never can. So to put that into a clearer call to action:
Should you feel inclined, I would love to get your take on how you would’ve experienced something that happened in TOKoR, and what about it makes it unique (overtly but preferably subtly, ’cause that’ll be harder for me to catch on my own) from the character who was narrating that POV.
And we’re not even talking fancy: bullet points, throw it in a comment, quote a line and tweak the wording, email me at Tartra@theotherkindofroommate.com with the difference in the subject line and a full rewrite in the body. This is a request to get a glimpse into your world that I can use as a springboard to learn more about, so that when I want another element or character thrown in, I’m not always fishing from the same hole. I love that hole, but there’s gotta me more out there I’d love, too.
What do I mean by unique? Honestly, anything that’s different from the current character’s state in that moment. If someone’s feeling flush with cash and you’ve grown up counting pennies, how would you have taken it? If someone’s couponing and you’ve been switching Beamers every time the new car smell wears off, how would you have gone about it? If it’s Beth, where are you different? If it’s Alex, what about now? What thoughts would’ve popped up in your mind that you don’t see in their posts, and where did those come from? Are you taller, weaker, more confident, less religious, older, differently abled, a first/second/third-generation, or more involved with friends and family than the character you’re reading right now?
Again, this is meant to be a learning thing, not to stress anyone out. If you want to shoot me a novel of history, that’s okay, I’m down for that, but the best eye-openers I’ve had were from very offhand observations people made while they were reading. P2 once had Beth calling herself ‘light-skinned’ and someone idly noted that they never knew white people also referred to themselves as ‘light’. It took like thirty minutes for me to think about it and look up what I’d been trying to say: fair-skinned! And like – I knew that, I’ve grown up exclusively around white people, but when I only pull from my personal experience, white = light on the one scale I’ve used/have had used to describe me to people, and therefore how to describe my guys. It’s also why I first called Alex ‘olive’ when I still don’t understand what goddamn colour that is, ’cause that’s just what people called me even when Google would very much beg to differ. Just goes to show you how easy it is to still be in your own world when you’ve got one special element in your life.
Don’t worry: it’s not like I’m expecting a free sensitivity read – although I did remove a rape joke once after someone idly mentioned that it might make some people uncomfortable. Sat on that for a day wondering if it was worth changing because I didn’t want to leave a gap but I couldn’t think of a good replacement (and absolutely, I did my ‘am I wrong or are they sensitive’ dance). Turns out I was right: my replacement joke sucks to this day and it sticks out like a sore thumb, but the rape joke’s gone because I ‘knew’ it was inappropriate and that was the whole point, but I didn’t ‘consider‘ it was inappropriate. And then I was like, “Why am I fighting to keep this? I might be trying to intentionally shoo the sensitive people away, but that one’s not a conscious filter I meant to have that furthers the story, and I don’t want to lose someone on something I wasn’t trying to lose them on.” And because of course I needed my pat on the head and also more because I feel like people who point out things like that never know if they were heard or if they were shouting into a void, I shot her a message to say yeah, I thought about it and agreed, so I changed it, and thanks for braving the odds to let me know. I’d had that joke read a hundred times and that was the only comment. (I’d also misspelled Adolph and only had it mentioned once after a dozen critiques, and even that guy wasn’t sure if it was worth mentioning. Yeeeeeessss. Mention it!)
Basically, I just want to get your ‘little’ thoughts. Y’know – the ones you brush off because you’re sure you misunderstood, or because it’s fine and you can ignore any confusion, or because you get that it’s a character so you won’t bother comparing your experience to theirs? Those ones. Send ’em! Write them down! I’ll do the research, but share those thoughts so I can use TOKoR as a mini-baseline. My goal’s to learn enougw to try stepping fully out of my comfort zone and weave in a POV I’ve never experienced, even if the rest of the character is ‘par for my course’ otherwise.
Hopefully it’s fun for you, because I’m hoping it’s fun for me. So far, it was been! Well, the part where I look back and cringe sucks, but actually making a change or successfully coming at it from a brand-new angle? Hell yeah!
Let’s do this! 😀