A Bit About Gay Men

His Reign Cover

A bit about Gay Men

Why the Homosexual lifestyle populates romance novels

More women today are writing m/m romances, commonly referred to as slash fiction. These women may or may not have grasped the concept of how to write any male, let alone the gay male. The popularity of this trend in erotica has to do with psychology of human sexuality.  Their popularity among the romance novel reading crowd continues to increase.

Gay men seem to be cleaner, know the best party places, best places to shop, how to dress better and attract attention of others without being overly loud and more.

Some speculate that because many gay men have no families to take care of, money is freer, therefore making having a life an actual reality compared to most people.

Reasons for demanding the finer things in life match that of the straight man on many levels. Chances of meeting someone like minded and of the same sexual orientation increase.

Without the demands of family, the gay male is free to live the life he chooses. His income is purely his own.

Gay men network with others.

Terms like top, bottom, versatile, bear, twink, daddy or bubble butt may appear in m/m erotic literature.  These terms are terms used to define them and what they’re looking for in personal ads or in group settings. Gay men as a general seem more open and comfortable labeling themselves in order to attract just what they want. Straight men have a more difficult time with this concept since being direct is a hard thing for many.

Cruising: This is the same thing straight people do, hitting the club/bar scene to find a date.
The top in this sense penetrates anally the bottom, who is the receiver.  Just like with BDSM, there are those who are versatile and love to give and receive anal sex.
Bear: Usually a larger hairy man.
Twink: a boyish looking young man with little body hair.
Bubble Butt: Picture a man with round ass
Pitcher and Catcher refer to positions during sex.
Daddy/son: Often considered a May/December romance but it’s usually an older man/younger man type relationship.

The draw for women towards homoerotic romance novels stems from the act of sex itself.  For women, even in the most romantic setting, sex is a crude invasion of her taking him into her body.  Anal sex simulates that psychology for many gay men.

 

To learn more about the Male POV, try – Male POV – Creating Better Heroes June 16-22nd at Savvy Authors.

 

Don’t forget – Jades Heroes: My Specialty in Romance, either!

 

Sascha Illyvich

Website:  Http://saschaillyvichauthor.com

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Say Hello To The Fab Five…

Let me introduce you to…And, It, Was, That, Then.

These can be nasty habits writers overuse in their stories. Some can come to rely on them without even realizing it.

After you’re done creating your work of art, take a few days away from it. Give yourself a break before going through your self-editing round. Then do a search and find for these repeat offenders. Doing this will not only save you and your editor valuable time later, but they will love and remember you for taking the initiative. The goal is to keep these words to a minimum. Shoot for a number as close to your page count as you can.

Now obviously, taking out ‘And’ is not an easy task, especially when nine times out of ten you’re using it in an action sentence. You need to ask yourself if showing this action is truly necessary, then ask yourself if there is another way to say what’s happening, if using the character’s deep point of view would sound better for what you’re trying to say to your reader. The same can be said for the rest of our little villains. See if you can replace the word with something from our helpful friend the Thesaurus, or even if said word is needed at all. 

A good way to remember our repeat offenders is to think of them as a sentence…And it was that then. Keeping them in mind this way, along with a little practice, will keep you from relying on them in the future.

Please don’t forget the occasionally repeated words during this process as well, those words that stick out at you as you’re reading through the self-editing stage. Examples of these words are things like gasped, and/or any item word like table or door in a paragraph, any action a character constantly repeats to the point it’s distracting, and the use of pronouns, etc. The point is to strive to not repeat words but to entertain and keep your reader’s attention. 

 

Happy writing!

Editorial Etiquette by JB: Pitching Your Book To Someone You’ve Never Met Before

The “Pitch Session” where writers submit their book ideas to editors is the original speed dating game. If you’re a writer or an editor, you know what an editorial pitch session is and what speed dating is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_dating. And you have surely noticed the similarities between the writer-author pitch session, typically held at writing conferences and the speed dating sessions typically held in bars and restaurants across the country.

Essentially, two virtual strangers sit down across from each other at a small table, a timer is set for the previously agreed upon amount of time, and one of the people starts talking about themselves (or their manuscript) as quickly as possible all the while hoping the person on the other side of the table will ask them out on a date (or request the full manuscript) after just about three minutes of hearing about them (the book.) Whew!

Apparently there is a formalized urban legend about the origins of the speed dating phenomenon. The practice supposedly has a known year of establishment of 1998. If you’ve been a writer or an editor for even a few years, you know that pitch sessions have been around far longer than that. They have been a staple in Hollywood for decades. But no matter who is involved, writer, editor, date seekers, or Hollywood producers, the process is incredibly nerve racking!

Almost everybody is uneasy meeting new people. It’s difficult to “read” someone quickly enough to feel comfortable around them in a short period of time. But large writing conferences will often schedule 100 or more writers in pitch sessions with about 20 or less editors, and time is a precious commodity. There isn’t time to get to know someone in the typical three to five minutes a writer is given to explain a novel that is 130,000 words long and took seven years to write. So how does a writer get over the many hurdles and feel comfortable in pitch sessions? The best plan is to be really comfortable with your pitch and yourself. Think SYSTEMATIC DESENSITIZATION.

Systematic desensitization technique is a practice described by Joseph Wolpe to help people overcome their fears. It essentially relies on breaking down a fear into small, manageable, and sequential steps thereby helping someone gradually reduce their anxieties. For instance, someone afraid of elevators would get on an elevator with someone they trust and go up one floor then get off the elevator and walk down the steps back to the first floor. They then would get back on the elevator and go up to the second floor, get out, and walk back down to the first floor. They would repeat these steps until they had reached the top floor of the building walking down the steps at each level. Lastly, the person will take the elevator all the way to the top in one session. At each level, the person with the fear of elevators tells themselves that nothing happened on the elevator. This way they build a new emotional relationship with the anxiety and can usually reduce or completely do away with their fear. Fear of the editorial pitch session can be handled the same way. Practice in baby steps in advance.

Step One: write a powerful sentence from your novel on an index card then write an explanation on the card about why this statement is meaningful to the story. It may not get used in your pitch, but this is the first step to knowing what the most important message is that you want to leave with the editor. Keep this index card with you at all times. Yes, sleep with it.

Step Two: Make a list of the ten to twelve steps involved in preparing for, presenting, and following up on the pitch session. Study the list twice a day or more visualizing each step. For instance:

                *Write a great book

                *Come up with the meaningful statement from the book

                *Write out an imaginary script for the pitch session

                *Study the books of this particular editor

                *Choose clothing, shoes, and make-up

                *Go to the conference

                *etc.

Step Three: Practice your pitch a) in the bathroom by yourself, b) in front of a trusted person, c) then with someone who is not a writer. Ask them if they would buy your book based on the three minutes you’ve had to describe it. Why or why not?

Step Four: Complete the pitch session at the conference. Do this as many times as you can at as many conferences as you can afford, but do not repeat the pitch to the same editor over and over at different conferences!

Step Five: Follow up with a thank-you note to the editor after the session EVEN IF SHE DID NOT REQUEST YOUR MANUSCRIPT. Every little bit of good manners counts. 

You can pitch your completed manuscript to me this spring at the following conferences:

April 28, Dogwood Writers Conference, Ashland, Kentucky

June 1, Lori Foster’s Reader and Author Get Together, Cincinnati, Ohio

June 9, West Virginia Writers, Inc., Ripley, West Virginia

Contact me for details. jbgeorge@ymail.com

Good luck.

Smooches,

JB George

Editor

“Nothing you write, if you hope to be any good, will ever come out as you first hoped.” ~Lillian Hellman, author

 

Editorial Etiquette: Email manners you prefer

Editorial Etiquette by JB

 

“Survey: Email Manners You Prefer

 

Internet etiquette is what we make of it, and so are manners for email. The rules are pretty fluid. It’s all about connecting to other people with communication of words, ideas, pictures, videos, chats, live face-to-face, and who knows what else is out there. The two most fascinating books I have read in the last twelve years are TRENDS, HOW TO PREPARE FOR AND PROFIT FROM THE CHANGES OF THE 21ST CENTURY, by Gerald Celente and THE SHALLOWS, WHAT THE INTERNET IS DOING TO OUR BRAINS, by Nicholas Carr. Celente hit several predictions on the nose with video phones on our computers (can you Skype?) and Carr presents startling evidence that computer/Internet time is radically changing our brains in a myriad of ways. Some of those ways are not pleasant to think about if you’re a reader or a writer.  Both men are well aware of the Internet’s consumption of our time and resources. Neither of them have, although I’m sure there are studies out there (enlighten me,) explored what this cyber relationship business is doing to common, everyday respect. You know, manners, politeness, and consideration.

 

In business writing we are taught to bookend correspondence with respectful remarks such as the salutation (Dear Ms. George,) and closing (sincerely.) Business letter style and format definitely apply in the world of writing because we are a professional field, and professionals have usually sacrificed a lot to get to where they are. It is common politeness to show them a little respect. More important, showing respect to anyone speaks volumes about your own level of professionalism and manners.

 

Of course, there are other places such as live chats, social media sites, and ongoing email conversations where a salutation-closing are set aside in the interest of….time? An acceptable notion, but doesn’t it feel better  if they start with at least a, “Hi, JB,”? They do for me. I teach online courses for colleges and online groups. Discussion threads don’t move quickly enough and help with the train of thought for students if every new comment includes a salutation/closing line. But emails, especially from me, always have a greeting line with the person’s name, and a closing remark such as “best” or “thanks” so the receiver and I have a bond, and the message content is given the meaning I intended it to have: respect.

 

Email queries are taking over our biz, but the politeness factor should still apply. Even with the automated TO/SUBJECT and date information provided in the email, it’s just plain nice and respectful to include the standards of a hard copy business letter: date, inside address of the receiver, respectful salutation, body of the letter, closing, and contact details. Take a look at the ideas in FORMATTING AND SUBMITTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT, 3RD EDITION, by Chuck Sambuchino and the Editors of Writer’s Digest Books for helpful ideas. And this:

 

“The digital age has brought an air of informality to communication between editors and writers, but manners have not been redefined. Communications with a new editor should still be formal and respectful whether you make contact by mail, fax, or email. Once you’ve developed a relationship, you can afford to become less formal. “

 

What do you think about formality in emails or what the Internet is doing to our brains??? Love to read your comments.

 

Smooches,

JB George

Editor

Dashes vs. Elipses

How Are Dashes and Elipses Related?

The second-worst offenders in the wonderful wide world of punctuation is dashes and ellipses.* I count these two together because the single biggest problem I see with them is that most people don’t know the difference between the two. Oh, we can all tell one from the other as printed. This is a dash:

And this is an elipsis:

. . .

The problem is that their usage looks similar unless you’ve actually studied them. Writers use them in a lot of the same locations in sentences, but for very different reasons.

If, like most people, you’re not entirely clear on those reasons, you will consistently be ever-so-slightly in error. If you are an as-yet unpublished author trying to sell a book or story, you’ll find it’s much easier to sell your manuscript if you appear to have a grasp on some of these fundamentals.

If you’re a published author or one currently contracted to be published, learning the difference will probably make your relationship with your editor smoother, because your editor won’t be left to clean it up. Speaking on behalf of editors everywhere (or at least the ones in the vent-session I was exposed to yesterday) . . . we are not the maid. Our job is to help you produce a stronger story that will sell more copies–not simply to clean up after you.

So let me try to break it down and make it understandable. Let’s start with dashes. There are two types of dashes, the en-dash (–) and the em-dash (—). The en-dash is short and most of us already know how to use it. When someone stutters in dialogue, this is the symbol we use to indicate that stutter at the beginning of the word (e.g. “Th-th-that’s all, folks!”).

 

Dashes

When I talk about dashes going forward, I’ll be talking talking about em-dashes. These are longer, which is easier to see in some fonts than others. To avoid confusion, I’m going to represent an em-dash as two hyphens (–) throughout the remainder of this post. This is old-style manuscript formatting, from before we all had word processors that were smart enough to put a real dash in for us.

And on that note, let me mention that most word processors will automatically do that dash wrong. You never want spaces around your dash. You may see that in blog articles or news articles and think it’s the right thing to do. Don’t give in to that temptation–journalism frequently has an entirely different standards for formatting than fiction does.

Right: No one would be listening–not the tourists, not the locals–because no one cared.

Wrong: No one would be listening — not the tourists, not the locals — because no one cared.

Even More Wrong: No one would be listening – not the tourists, not the locals – because no one cared.

A dash has two primary uses, depending on where it is in a sentence. In the middle of the sentence, it sets off additional information more strongly than a comma would.

No one would be listening–not the tourists, not the locals–because no one cared.

He’d taken her out to buy clothes–that was his angle.

At the end of a sentence, a dash indicates an interruption. You should almost never use this in narration, only in dialogue. Your character may interrupt her own train of thought, or she may be interrupted by someone else. It makes no difference to the punctuation.

“But I thought–“
“I don’t care what you thought!”

 

Elipses

Elipses are another thing your word processor will try to “help” you with and almost always do wrong. If you type […] into your word processor, it will probably change it into […], a single-character symbol which makes editors want to tear their hair out because it’s hard to read and turns into garbage when you try to convert a manuscript into an e-book.

Elipses are tricky, because different publishing houses want them represented in different ways. I’m not even going to go into them here. Read the house’s style guide ahead of time if it’s available. Never use more than three dots within a sentence or four dots at the end of a sentence. And most importantly, however you choose to write your elipses, do it consistently–global search-and-replace is an editor’s friend.

More important than any of that, be sure you understand how an elipsis is used. Within a sentence, an elipsis indicates a pause far more strongly than a comma, but does not typically set off additional information.

Sorry, Charlie, that’s . . . pushing it.

At the end of a sentence, an elipsis indicates that the sentence trails off. This usually occurs in either dialogue or character thoughts, rather than in narration.

But I can’t just . . .

How long . . . ?

As with all rules, there will always be exceptions. In particular, artistic license allows authors to justify doing non-standard things in their text. When you consider invoking artistic license, please remember that writing is about knowing the rules . . . and then deciding how to break them. You can absolutely choose non-standard usage: to make a point, for emphasis, or for clarity. But you have to know the rules before you make that decision. If you don’t take the trouble to know the rules first, your chosen violations won’t look like artistic license. They’ll just look like you don’t know what you’re doing.

 

* The worst offender I see go by in manuscripts I edit is the comma, but that’s such a minefield, it will take more than one post to cover it. *g*

Most examples shamelessly borrowed from the text of “Crash,” by April L’Orange, because I am rubbish at making up examples (and if I can’t steal for myself, who can I steal from?).

Previously posted at The Editor’s Pen

Editorial Etiquette by JB: Track Changes Etiquette

We are here to help, but editors are also on a deadline to get a manuscript as yummy as possible in the time allotted. The Microsoft Word program known as Track Changes is a dream come true for getting the work done in a timely manner on both sides of the writer/editor coin. Your publisher has probably helped introduce you to this built-in program and your editor should be helping you learn the ins and outs of using this feature to keep the progress of editing (by the editor) and revising (by the writer) running smoothly. It really is an ingenious tool for this business and using it is the best way to learn it. Here are a couple of tips for working with someone else on the same document which is all Track Changes amounts to. You may want to check with your publisher and ask if they have any particular guidelines you should follow when working with your editor and the Track Changes feature.

 

Begin with your own personal Track Changes playground. Create a new file in Word and type a paragraph into it. This is your testing area for learning the many advantages of the program. This shouldn’t be anything you intend to send to someone, it’s just the place you play around with settings, making changes, and generally trying out all the features of the program. Knowing what’s going on with Track Changes makes the work of revisions make more sense. Playing around with Track Changes in your manuscript is not advised. Things get lost forever that way.

 

1. Settings: The first basic step is to click on the Review tab at the top of the screen. About the center of the new tool bar at the top will be boxes Track Changes and Balloons with arrows pointing down that indicate drop-down menus available. Clicking Track Changes will bring up a drop-down menu of Track Changes, Change Tracking Options, and Change User Name. Play around with these options on your document. You may want to leave the default (automatic settings) or you may need to discuss option choices between you. Note, if you use a pen name for your fiction, you may want to address this and change the user name to your pen name instead of your real name which the program automatically sets.

 

2. Balloons: It’s clever that Microsoft called this option a balloon. It is where a new comment is created and stored so the other user can see what you thought. They start out small and skinny like a balloon without air in it and grow as words are added to the comment. There are three options in the Balloons drop-down menu and the default setting is usually “Show only comments and formatting in balloons”. Click on an option to activate it and then work in your test document to see what the balloons look like. To get a balloon, you have to first click New Comment and one will appear on the right hand side of the screen. Start typing your comments and they will appear in the balloon. Change your mind? Leave the cursor in the balloon and click Delete in the tool bar.

 

3. Brevity: This post is not specifically about the particulars of using Track Changes, but it had to start out that way to get us to the talking point about what should and should not go into a balloon. Both editor and author have the ability to click New Comment and write a new balloon. This is a fine place to leave small notes, ask brief questions, make a reminder, or give brief explanations. Balloons are not the place for lengthy dissertations on the difference between the use of commas in lists in MLA and Chicago style guides. Keep comments in balloons brief.

 

Play around with the feature, agree to settings with your document partner, and be brief when it comes to filling comment balloons. Long discussions can and should take place in the email that accompanies the document or in another style guide document.

 

Do you have any personal experiences you can share about comment balloons that would help us make better and better use of them?

 

Smooches,

JB George

Editor

THAT!


Deep into editing something of my own the last couple of days, I am astounded by my use of that. When editing for others, I pick the single word up when used as filler and stalling in a snap. In my own, phew. My editor highlights the word and my pages look like confetti. How can this be? I am certain that when I speak I don’t use that word that many times no matter how often that seems to fit in. Ummm, confetti time again. Not too sure highlights would show in a blog. In case it doesn’t, how about some samples of how not to use that too many times. We’ll start with the sentence I just used. I am certain when I speak I don’t use the same word so many times no matter how often the particular word seems to fit in. You will notice how often the particular word was simply deleted without hurting the sentence at all. Other times substitutes were used. Of course substitutes lead to other overused words such as it, that horrid undefined pronoun. The is another favorite. To avoid those, often times a complete rewording of the sentence is required.
Using what I’m working as examples:


1. Too much confetti.

 

The only thing that distracted him from those emotions was curiosity. That did indicate some level of intelligence. That was not, however, her first thought on waking. The sound was continual, and standing on the outside of the bathroom door, she was sure of what it was. Why would he be flushing the toilet time after time?

 

Much better.

 

The only thing to distract him from those emotions was curiosity to indicate some level of intelligence. His at least minimal degree of intelligence was not her first thought on waking. The sound was continual, and standing on the outside of the bathroom door, she was sure of what it was. Why would he be flushing the toilet time after time?

 

2. A couple more:

 

Following that, she mixed and matched, quizzing him. He didn’t have any problem picking that up and identifying each pair before he held up the pitiful bouquet.

She mixed and matched next, quizzing him. He didn’t have any problem picking either up and identifying each pair before he held up the pitiful bouquet.

 

    3. One more:

 

What progress in trust she had made the days before was gone. He was right back to his favorite phrase. That circumstance wasn’t going to make what she wanted to do that day easy. He’d have to trust her to get into the helicopter with her. She hoped that his curiosity would override any fear. She was disappointed.

 

What progress in trust she had made the days before was gone. He was right back to his favorite phrase, a circumstance to make what she wanted to do more difficult. He’d have to trust her to get into the helicopter with her. She hoped his curiosity would override any fear. She was disappointed.

 

While fixing the too many that’s keep this in mind also: who instead of that: who refers to a person. That refers to a thing.

 

Wrong: Judith was the only one that understood he didn’t know that he wasn’t simple. The men in town called him simple; the doctor called him simple. Judith was the only one that understood it was because he didn’t know, but Judith lied to him. There were Madelines, Madelines that hurt him without cause, Madelines that wanted him for milk, for mothers, for breeding.

 

Right: Judith was the only one who understood he didn’t know and wasn’t simple. The men in town called him simple; the doctor called him simple. Judith was the only one who understood it was because he didn’t know, but Judith lied to him. There were Madelines, Madelines to hurt him without cause, Madelines who wanted him for milk, for mothers, for breeding.

 

I have come to the conclusion, in the interest of saving time, I will highlight myself, looking for a single four letter word used repeatedly before I send in my manuscripts. I’m sure my editor will love me. A little trick for all of you to learn. Your editors will love you. 

 

Compromise When It Comes to Criticism

    AUTHOR: Edit. Revise. Edit. Revise. Edit. Revise. When is this person going to leave my book alone?

EDITOR: When it sings. When it literally sounds like a free flowing melody in my head.

After all the toil and trouble you’ve gone through to get the manuscript completed and accepted, there are some days the editing process is a downer. On the list of “things I like to do to myself”, receiving criticism is rarely in the top ten. We remember school days and big red letter grades at the top of papers flying from the teacher’s hands. A wrong answer is a wrong answer on a math test or a multiple choice exam. It’s in the classroom where I believe we learn to receive constructive criticism the wrong way. We take it personally, and we shouldn’t.

Overloaded classrooms, overworked teachers, and over bearing administrations do not make for a successful working atmosphere. Teachers are busy, busy, busy, but this isn’t about school. ( I love teachers, by the way.) It’s about editors who are busy, busy, busy and writers who sometimes need to relearn accepting comments on their manuscripts. Editors are always teachers. They have to be. Writing is a perpetual learning process. Editors and writers are always learning. But teachers are not always editors. It isn’t right to assume that your editor’s comments are the same as what you received in school. The whole process is totally about getting better by learning something new and learning requires CHANGE. Some writers and editors find it harder to change than to take the criticism.

Notice I’m not saying, “Take criticism of their writing.” I’m intentionally avoiding the possessive pronouns (our writing, your writing, my writing, their writing, her writing, etc.) because in order to learn, grow, and change as a better and better writer, we all have to learn to write it, get out of it, then let it go. Only then will the editing process be less personal and less stressful. Constructive criticism is for the good of everyone: author, editor, publisher, sellers, readers, relatives. Editing is the only way a book can be the best it can be because a group of grey matters has contributed to the final product. Several brains have come together and created a group project that started with the seed of your novel’s manuscript. That’s a wonderful thing to behold. But we know from experience it isn’t easy.

But how do we get comfortable with being told to change our baby (manuscript) when we don’t think it stinks? We are the proud parents of a perfect child. How could anything be wrong with something we’ve put our hearts, souls, and DNA into? That’s the point. Super-imposing a writer’s own persona into a novel will cause everybody problems. What’s the answer? Compromise.

The word compromise is descended from the glorious language of antiquity Latin. Compromise is derived from the Latin comprimittere which means “to bring together”. A compromise means pressing together for a mutual goal. The end result is not always completely fifty-fifty. A compromise is the result of whatever it takes from all parties involved to get the job done. And therein is the rub. If the job of editing and revising is a constant struggle, the job is never done and fewer books are written because some aspect of the editorial process is resistant to change.

It’s also interesting to note that one of the many other definitions of the Latin word comprimittere is “to embrace”. Barrel hugging the idea of criticism might be one way for editors and writers to arrive at the compromises needed to complete the project with as little stress, wine, and bandages as possible. The option is to struggle and stagnate or let go and write the next book! Of course, you can always visualize the royalty check and be done with resisting.

Do you have any constructive examples of compromise where writing is concerned? Any good advice on how to avoid the struggle and embrace the process?

Keep in mind that nobody is perfect.

Smooches,

JB George

Editor

The Challenge of Diversity, part 5 of 5

[ Part One: Race | Part Two: Sexual Orientation | Part Three: Women | Part Four: Religion ]

Other Countries

Your characters can be from more places than just the US, and each of them will bring their own cultural baggage with them.

  1. Do your research. This is rule number one (remember, we don’t know what we don’t know), which means there are more things to trip over than I can possibly imagine. The Internet is a fine place to start, but you may need to visit an old-fashioned library. University libraries are usually particularly good for this kind of thing. If you don’t know where to start, ask a librarian at the reference desk. All the librarians I know love questions.

  2. English is not English is not English. A river is not a creek is not a wash is not an arroyo. In the Midwest, you stand in line, in the Northeast you stand on line, and in the UK, you queue. In US English, underwear is worn next to the skin and pants are worn over it. In UK English, pants are worn next to the skin (but only if you’re male) and trousers are worn over them. And those are just some examples from the variants I’m most familiar with. Don’t let that stop you from writing characters from (or in) countries other than the US if you’re native to the US, but be aware that it’s not just accent that differs from the US to the UK, Canada to Australia, or Belize to Singapore. Do your research, and get somebody who’s familiar with the dialect to double check you.
  3. Look up names and naming conventions. Names, especially surnames, differ from country to country and from language to language. Traditionally, in native Hawaiian, you would never give anyone a name already given to someone else. In India, surnames may come with caste connotations. Arabic-speaking countries most often use patronymics rather than surnames in a English-derived sense, Russian surnames may vary by gender, and in some countries they don’t use surnames at all. Wikipedia is a great place to start.
  4. Characters who speak more than one language don’t just pepper their English with non-English words. There’s a very specific way in which the bilingual or polyglots switch between languages, and it boils down to whole constructions or phrases–and then, typically only with other people who understand all the languages involved. To be on the safe side, unless you know both languages your character is using, keep your sentences all in a single language. Loan words, from “rodeo” to “canoe,” don’t count.
  5. Go easy on the accents. US writers have had a tradition of writing accents phonetically since Mark Twain did it, or maybe before. In certain instances, this is useful and even expected (some of us use “doin'” and “gonna” fairly regularly in dialogue), but a lot of phonetic spellings in dialogue gets hard to read. Also, not everyone from a particular country “talks that way,” and writing characters who do perpetuates a stereotype of “foreigners who can’t speak properly.” Some of my friends from other countries speak English better than most native speakers I know.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are forums on the Internet which specifically exist for people to ask questions when they’re writing characters and cultures not their own. The Internet is a wonderfully diverse place, and if you really need to know how to say a particular sentence in Cantonese or have someone read over a manuscript draft to make sure that your foreign exchange student from Kenya really sounds like she’s from Kenya, there is someone out there who can answer that question. Subject-specific forums may be able to provide the best details, but if you don’t know where to start, I’ve listed a couple places on my personal webpage, E is for Edit.

    cross-posted at E is for Edit

The Challenge of Diversity, part 4 of 5

[ Part One: Race | Part Two: Sexual Orientation | Part Three: Women ]

Religion

This is one of the most difficult things for writers who are mainline Protestant Christians to work with, because most have been in the majority their entire lives. If you’ve lived in non-urban areas, you may not have had much exposure to anything else. But you have readers from other religions, as well as readers who don’t consider themselves a member of any religion at all, and a little caution with assumptions goes a long way toward drawing them into your story, rather than making them feel excluded.

  1. Religion is not a joke. There are more religions in the US than Protestant Christian, Catholic, and Jewish. Don’t assume that just because you’ve never met anyone who is Buddhist, Wiccan, or Hindu that they aren’t out there. Sometimes, they’re your next-door neighbors, and you don’t even know it. You don’t have to either include or avoid them in your writing, but don’t talk about them as if no real person (or no red-blooded American) could possibly belong to those faiths. Even worse, don’t use them strictly as a joke.

  2. Research unfamiliar religions if you’re going to use them. Most of the time, the Wikipedia article will be fairly helpful. We don’t know what we don’t know, and it’s easy to make assumptions and end up with modern-day Catholic priests who have a wife and children or Voodoo priests practicing human sacrifice.
  3. Watch your language. No, really. Once again, Google is your friend. “Voodoo” isn’t actually the name of the religion–it’s usually spelled Voudun or Vodun. Some Wiccans refer to themselves as witches, which makes substituting “witch” for “bitch” in narration in an effort to “soften” a curse a real no-no. Muslims don’t practice Muslimism, they practice Islam. There is no such thing as the Mormon Church, it’s the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and its members may prefer to refer to themselves as LDS, rather than Mormons. And that’s just off the top of my head.

    Nobody expects you to be perfect, and what your characters say in dialogue may be entirely different, because they come from their own cultural backgrounds and have their own ideas and may not be the least bit aware of this kind of thing. But if you try to get it right in narration, you’re appealing to a broader readership. And once again, your editor is here to help.🙂

    To be continued . . .