September162014
“We should see color. We should see religion. We should see homosexuality. We should see gender identity. We should see all the things that make people and the world different and not pretend that we are colorblind or that one story is enough to represent a whole group of people.

But we should also remember that most people have the same kinds of feelings and wants. Everyone wants to be the hero sometimes.” Author Sara Farizan, “Everyone Wants To Be the Hero Sometimes” (CBC Diversity)

(Source: diversityinya)

2PM

writingwithcolor:

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We discussed the issue of describing People of Color by means of food in Part I of this guide, which brought rise to even more questions, mostly along the lines of “So, if food’s not an option, what can I use?” Well, I was just getting to that!

This final portion focuses on describing skin tone, with photo and passage examples provided throughout. I hope to cover everything from the use of straight-forward description to the more creatively-inclined, keeping in mind the questions we’ve received on this topic.

So let’s get to it.

S T A N D A R D  D E S C R I P T I O N

B a s i c  C o l o r s

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Pictured above: Black, Brown, Beige, White, Pink.

"She had brown skin.”

  • This is a perfectly fine description that, while not providing the most detail, works well and will never become cliché.
  • Describing characters’ skin as simply brown or beige works on its own, though it’s not particularly telling just from the range in brown alone.

C o m p l e x  C o l o r s

These are more rarely used words that actually “mean” their color. Some of these have multiple meanings, so you’ll want to look into those to determine what other associations a word might have.

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Pictured above: Umber, Sepia, Ochre, Russet, Terra-cotta, Gold, Tawny, Taupe, Khaki, Fawn.

  • Complex colors work well alone, though often pair well with a basic color in regards to narrowing down shade/tone.

For example: Golden brown,russet browntawny beige

  • As some of these are on the “rare” side, sliding in a definition of the word within the sentence itself may help readers who are unfamiliar with the term visualize the color without seeking a dictionary.

"He was tall and slim, his skin a russet, reddish-brown.”

  • Comparisons to familiar colors or visuals are also helpful:

"His skin was an ochre color, much like the mellow-brown light that bathed the forest.”

M o d i f i e r s 

Modifiers, often adjectives, make partial changes to a word.The following words are descriptors in reference to skin tone.

D a r k - D e e p - R i c h - C o o l

W a r m - M e d i u m - T a n

F a i r - L i g h t - P a l e

Rich Black, Dark brown, Warm beige, Pale pink…

If you’re looking to get more specific than “brown,” modifiers narrow down shade further.

  • Keep in mind that these modifiers are not exactly colors.
  • As an already brown-skinned person, I get tan from a lot of sun and resultingly become a darker, deeper brown. I turn a pale, more yellow-brown in the winter.
  • While best used in combination with a color, I suppose words like "tan" "fair" and "light" do work alone; just note that tan is less likely to be taken for “naturally tan” and much more likely a tanned White person.
  • Also note that calling someone "dark" as description on its own is offensive to some.

U n d e r t o n e s

Undertones are the colors beneath the skin, seeing as skin isn’t just one even color but has more subdued tones within the dominating palette.

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  • Mentioning the undertones within a character’s skin is an even more precise way to denote skin tone.
  • As shown, there’s a difference between say, brown skin with warm orange-red undertones (Kelly Rowland) and brown skin with cool, jewel undertones (Rutina Wesley).

"A dazzling smile revealed the bronze glow at her cheeks.”

"He always looked as if he’d ran a mile, a constant tinge of pink under his tawny skin.”

Standard Description Passage

"Farah’s skin, always fawn, had burned and freckled under the summer’s sun. Even at the cusp of autumn, an uneven tan clung to her skin like burrs. So unlike the smooth, red-brown ochre of her mother, which the sun had richened to a blessing.”

  1. Here the state of skin also gives insight on character.
  2. Note my use of "fawn" in regards to multiple meaning and association. While fawn is a color, it’s also a small, timid deer, which describes this very traumatized character of mine perfectly.

Though I use standard descriptions of skin tone more in my writing, at the same time I’m no stranger to creative descriptions, and do enjoy the occasional artsy detail of a character.

C R E A T I V E  D E S C R I P T I O N

Whether compared to night-cast rivers or day’s first light…I actually enjoy seeing Characters of Colors dressed in artful detail.

I’ve read loads of descriptions in my day of White characters and their "smooth rose-tinged ivory skin", while the PoC, if there, are reduced to something from a candy bowl or a Starbucks drink, so to actually read of PoC described in lavish detail can be somewhat of a treat.

Still, be mindful when you get creative with your character descriptions. Too many frills can become purple-prose-like, so do what feels right for your writing when and where.

Not every character or scene warrants a creative description, either Especially they’re not even a secondary character.

Using a combination of color descriptions from standard to creative is probably a better method than straight creative. But again, do what’s good for your tale.

N A T U R AL  S E T T I N G S - S K Y

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Pictured above: Harvest Moon -Twilight, Fall/Autumn Leaves, Clay, Desert/Sahara, Sunlight - Sunrise - Sunset - Afterglow - Dawn- Day- Daybreak, Field - Prairie - Wheat, Mountain/Cliff, Beach/Sand/Straw/Hay.

  • Now before you run off to compare your heroine’s skin to the harvest moon or a cliff side, think about the associations to your words.
  • When I think cliff, I think of jagged, perilous, rough. I hear sand and picture grainy, yet smooth. Calm. mellow.
  • So consider your character and what you see fit to compare them too.
  • Also consider whose perspective you’re describing them from. Someone describing a person they revere or admire may have a more pleasant, loftier description than someone who can’t stand the person.

"Her face was like the fire-gold glow of dawn, lifting my gaze, drawing me in.”

"She had a sandy complexion, smooth and tawny.”

  • Even creative descriptions tend to draw help from your standard words.

F L O W E R S

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Pictured above: Calla lilies, Western Coneflower, Hazel Fay, Hibiscus, Freesia, Rose

  • It was a bit difficult to find flowers to my liking that didn’t have a 20 character name or wasn’t called something like “chocolate silk” so these are the finalists. 
  • You’ll definitely want to avoid purple-prose here.
  • Also be aware of flowers that most might’ve never heard of. Roses are easy, as most know the look and coloring(s) of this plant. But Western coneflowers? Calla lilies? Maybe not so much.

"He entered the cottage in a huff, cheeks a blushing brown like the flowers Nana planted right under my window. Hazel Fay she called them, was it?”

A S S O R T E D  P L A N T S &  N A T U R E

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Pictured above: Cattails, Seashell, Driftwood, Pinecone, Acorn, Amber

  • These ones are kinda odd. Perhaps because I’ve never seen these in comparison to skin tone, With the exception of amber.
  • At least they’re common enough that most may have an idea what you’re talking about at the mention of “pinecone.” 
  • I suggest reading out your sentences aloud to get a better feel of how it’ll sounds.

"Auburn hair swept past pointed ears, set around a face like an acorn both in shape and shade.”

  1. I pictured some tree-dwelling being or person from a fantasy world in this example, which makes the comparison more appropriate.
  2. I don’t suggest using a comparison just “cuz you can” but actually being thoughtful about what you’re comparing your character to and how it applies to your character and/or setting.

W O O D

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Pictured above: Mahogany, Walnut, Chestnut, Golden Oak, Ash

  • Wood is definitely an iffy description for skin tone. Not only due to several of them having “foody” terminology within their names, but again, associations.
  • Some people would prefer not to compare/be compared to wood at all, so get opinions, try it aloud, and make sure it’s appropriate to the character if you do use it.

"The old warlock’s skin was a deep shade of mahogany, their stare serious and firm as it held mine.”

M E T A L S

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Pictured above: Platinum, Copper, Brass, Gold, Bronze

  • Copper skin, brass-colored skin, golden skin…
  • I’ve even heard variations of these used before by comparison to an object of the same properties/coloring, such as penny for copper.
  • These also work well with modifiers.

"The dress of fine white silks popped against the deep bronze of her skin.”

G E M S T O N E S - M I N E R A LS

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Pictured above: Onyx, Obsidian, Sard, Topaz, Carnelian, Smoky Quartz, Rutile, Pyrite, Citrine, Gypsum

  • These are trickier to use. As with some complex colors, the writer will have to get us to understand what most of these look like.
  • If you use these, or any more rare description, consider if it actually “fits” the book or scene.
  • Even if you’re able to get us to picture what “rutile” looks like, why are you using this description as opposed to something else? Have that answer for yourself.

"His skin reminded her of the topaz ring her father wore at his finger, a gleaming stone of brown, mellow facades.” 

P H Y S I C A L  D E S C R I P T I ON

  1. Physical character description can be more than skin tone.
  2. Show us hair, eyes, nose, mouth, hands…body posture, body shape, skin texture… though not necessarily all of those nor at once.
  3. Describing features also helps indicate race, especially if your character has some traits common within the race they are, such as afro hair to a Black character.
  4. How comprehensive you decide to get is up to you. I wouldn’t overdo it and get specific to every mole and birthmark. Noting defining characteristics is good, though, like slightly spaced front teeth, curls that stay flopping in their face, hands freckled with sunspots…

G E N E R A L  T I P S

  • Indicate Race Early: I suggest indicators of race be made at the earliest convenience within the writing, with more hints threaded throughout here and there.

  • Get Creative all by yourself: Obviously, I couldn’t cover every proper color or comparison in which has been “approved” to use for your characters’ skin color, so it’s up to you to use discretion when seeking other ways and shades to describe skin tone.
  • Skin Color May Not Be Enough: Describing skin tone isn’t always enough to indicate someone’s ethnicity. As timeless cases with readers equating brown to “dark white” or something, more indicators of race may be needed.
  • Describe White characters and PoC Alike: You should describe the race and/or skin tone of your White characters just as you do your Characters of Color. If you don’t, you risk implying that White is the default human being and PoC are the “Other”).

  • PSA: Don’t use “Colored.” Based on some asks we’ve received using this word, I’d like to say that unless you or your character is a racist grandmama from the 1960s, do not call People of Color “colored” please. 
  • Not Sure Where to Start? You really can’t go wrong using basic colors for your skin descriptions. It’s actually what many people prefer and works best for most writing. Personally, I tend to describe my characters using a combo of basic colors + modifiers, with mentions of undertones at times. I do like to veer into more creative descriptions on occasion.
  • Want some alternatives to “skin” or “skin color”? Try: Appearance, blend, blush, cast, coloring, complexion, flush, glow, hue, overtone, palette, pigmentation, rinse, shade, sheen, spectrum, tinge, tint, tone, undertone, value, wash.

Skin Tone Resources

Writing & Description Guides

I tried to be as comprehensive as possible with this guide, but if you’ve asked a question regarding describing skin color that hasn’t been answered within part I or II of this guide, or have more questions after reading this post, feel free to ask!

~ Mod Colette

(via sourcedumal)

2PM

Science

the-right-writing:

Science has been severely misrepresented by authors. If you want to write about scientific worldviews accurately, here are some tips.

  • If a scientist saw something supernatural and could be assured it existed, they wouldn’t scream “that’s impossible!” or try to destroy it because it doesn’t fit their worldview. They would be more likely to say “How interesting. I wonder how this will change my theories. I’d better incorporate it into my worldview.”
  • Scientists have morals just like the rest of us. In fact, many people become scientists because they want to help humanity. How is that so hard to understand?
  • A whole lot of scientists love nature and want to preserve it.
  • Scientists who have helped to create deadly weapons almost always regret it. Politicians who order those weapons to be used don’t.
  • Science in general would be attracted to magic, not repulsed by it. A new thing to study with possible new applications to help mankind? How wonderful!
  • How well a scientist understands people and gets along socially is up to the individual. They’re not an entire profession of evil, cold robots.

(via yarriinwonderland)

2PM
“Look, don’t just stare at the pages. Become the characters. Live inside the book.” Wally Lamb, The Hour I First Believed (via maxkirin)
2PM

Writing Tips #73: Top Ten Tips to Create a Character Arc

bookgeekconfessions:

Tips by Samantha Stone

Originally posted on creativewritingsoftware101.com

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Just as in real life, characters on a page change and develop throughout your story. This is natural and should happen. You can write a story without any character development, but those types of stories are usually noted just for that reason – a character’s refusal or inability to learn or respond to the events around them.

Don’t let your character drift around in this developmental arc. Plan your character’s growth and reactions with events, interaction with other characters, and from inner turmoil or conflict. Often characters are at war with themselves or their beliefs, and this can affect their overall character change.

Use these 10 tips to keep your character arc on track for believable development.

1. Who Is the Character at the Beginning?

Decide who your character is and why they need to change. In the Christmas favorite A Christmas Carol, Scrooge changes from a cantankerous, heartless man into a caring and generous one. Think of Dr. Seuss’s Grinch.

2. Inner Demons

Secrets your character hides can be a driving force in who they are. Denial can keep your character falsely happy and guilt can haunt your character into madness. This was one of Shakespeare’s favorite devices.

3. Perception of Self

Your character’s self-image may be their worst enemy. Something your character sees as a fault may be exaggerated or may not exist at all. A character thinking they’re too fat, too ugly, stupid, or even superior to others are perceptions that can be changed or altered within the storyline. In the play and movie The Seven Year Itch, a pulp fiction editor sees himself as a skirt-chasing fiend trying to corner the blonde from upstairs – but he’s not. His fantasy life is exaggerated in his mind and has invaded when his wife and child are away for the summer.

4. Show the Character Changing

Give the reader the eyewitness view of the character changing. Show the obstacles overcome, the decisions made, the failures and wins. It doesn’t always have to be pretty.

Read More

(via writersyoga)

1PM
“Writing is really a way of thinking— not just feeling but thinking about things that are disparate, unresolved, mysterious, problematic or just sweet.” Toni Morrison (via maxkirin)
1PM
maxkirin:

+ DAILY WRITER POSITIVITY +

#130
It’s okay to be real.
Sometimes you will find yourself writing about the ugly things in our world, and that’s okay. If your story demands that you tackle these subjects, then do it. Talking about them will forever be greater than pretending they’re not there.

Want more writerly content? Follow maxkirin.tumblr.com!

maxkirin:

+ DAILY WRITER POSITIVITY +

#130

It’s okay to be real.

Sometimes you will find yourself writing about the ugly things in our world, and that’s okay. If your story demands that you tackle these subjects, then do it. Talking about them will forever be greater than pretending they’re not there.

Want more writerly content? Follow maxkirin.tumblr.com!

12PM

So your robot character has no emotions programmed

the-right-writing:

What does that mean?

  • Hatred is an emotion. No hatred allowed.
  • Same with anger. “No emotions” also means “no negative emotions.”
  • They need a goal programmed in so that they don’t just sit around doing nothing.
  • It’s possible to have “don’t kill people” programmed and also have no emotions programmed.
  • Longing is an emotion.
  • "Emotionally repressed" and "zero emotions" are very different things. The only way they could feel things would be if they got reprogrammed.
September82014
“I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.” James A. Michener (via maxkirin)
5PM

Pros of focusing a story around friendship instead of romance

the-right-writing:

  • Less danger of writing awful purple prose
  • Friends can survive without constantly being around each other
  • Friendships are really cute
  • It’s easier to write healthy friendships
  • Somebody can be friends with two people without it turning into an annoying “friendship triangle”
  • Positive female-female friendships are underrepresented
  • Female-male friendships without romantic undertones are underrepresented outside of children’s books
  • Most people don’t collapse into irrational heaps of strong emotions whenever they see their friends, which makes it way easier to fight off attacking ninjas
  • More stories about online friends would be nice
  • Friends don’t have to be conventionally attractive in order to sell books
  • Did I mention the cuteness factor?
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