Non-Western Romance

Authors in one of my list groups have been asking a common question: Will my book sell if I have non-White characters which are culturally authentic?

I’m rather new to the writing industry, so I don’t have an answer. However, I have to admit, I’m rather disappointed that ethnicity is still an issue as to whether a book is highly marketable or not in the romance genre, and likely other genres as well. With so much talk in the United States about the people seeing themselves represented in the media, we haven’t come far. I’m not sure what it’s like for other countries and minorities though. We watch a lot of British television in my house, and it always surprises me to see a black person in just about every program. If you live in the United States and watch TV, you know this is not the case. Other races face the same issues.

I, personally, would like to see more non-white people portrayed in romance novels, in novels in general. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan is still my favorite novel of all time. I’m not Chinese, but still I could relate to a lot of the issues in it. I love comparing and contrasting different cultures to my own. At times I wonder if I’m so different from most people, that my desire to see other cultures is an oddity.

Honestly, I am just so discouraged right now. The bottom line I keep seeing is that publishers and agents want Western Heroes/Heroines with Western cultures and at least one with European looks. But I wonder, is that what readers really want? If publishers and agents are only accepting one brand, I can’t imagine readers ever really get the opportunity to try out non-western ideas. The rare books that do have non-western characters are hidden in some dark corner away from the mainstream section. What chance do they really have? <sigh>

Readers: What are your thoughts?

Working in First Person

Last week, I read Catch Me If You Can by LB Gregg, written in first person. You can read my review of it here.I spent the entire day reading instead of writing. I felt a little guilty that I didn’t even type a single word. But I have to admit, reading it was extremely productive.

One of the pieces of advice new writers receive is to read, read, read. It’s absolutely true. I’ve been working on a novel in first person narrative lately, and honestly it’s fallen kind of flat. The storyline, I love. The direction it’s going is wonderful. But honestly, the reading isn’t as lively as I’d like. I even have parts in it that I know I need to cut (entire scenes). It just wasn’t doing it for me.

Then I picked up Catch Me If You Can and another novel Somebody Killed His Editor by Josh Lanyon, both written in first person. I immediately knew what my narrative missed…internal dialogue. Now I’m not an expert, so take this for what it is. I think internal dialogue is one of the benefits of writing in first person.

With third person it’s show, show, show. If your character feels a certain way, show it–let the dialogue and actions speak for themselves. With first person, I think it’s okay to tell a little. Now when I say tell, I don’t mean tell the whole story, I meant tell what your character is thinking, but in a showy type of way. I’d been so stuck on just showing, I missed the internal dialogue…how does my character feel about the situation regardless of the emotions she’s trying to portray.

To me, third person is transparent, or it should be. The characters wear their thoughts and emotions on their sleeves, even if the hints are just hints. First person is more personal. Sure you see the transparency of the minor characters, but you also get an internal perspective of the main character. I need to concentrate on writing again. But before I edit the novel, I’m certain to read another first person novel as a reminder.

Keep or Trash

If you’re like me, you can’t wait to receive the next critique of your chapter, story, novel, whatever.

“You’ve got mail.”

You click the flashing envelope one to many times and wait for the multiple windows to load. Then the critique…

Your critter has found so many things you’ve missed, and you’re so thankful s/he took the time to review your work. Then you come across something that just doesn’t jive with you. What is your critter talking about? Doesn’t s/he get it? Did s/he even read the chapter? Then the doubts kick in. Maybe you didn’t make it clear enough. Maybe you should just delete it all. STOP!

Be objective about the critiques; they’re meant to help you, not hinder you. If you take the advice of every single critter out there regardless of whether it goes against your instincts or not, your book will be TRASH. Not all advice is worthy of your book, as interesting as the opinion may be.

Read a critique with the the idea you’ll incorporate the sound advice and set the “other stuff” to the side. Writing is about artistic freedom, make it fun!

Everyone has their own particular opinions, likes and dislikes. Some people will enjoy your style, others will not. Accept that and move on.