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Writing Indian Characters
So the first thing that pops into my head when I think about writing Indian characters (as a second gen immigrant who was born in India and moved to America) is the overwhelming diversity within just the blanket term “Indian character.”
Writing Indian Characters in India
North Indians and South Indians are very different from each other. Things change dramatically from state to state as well, whether you’re talking about the food or the language or the style of clothing. There’s also religious diversity in that while the dominant religion in India is Hinduism, there are also Muslim Indians and Sikh Indians and Buddhist Indians, all of which have different perspectives on what it means to be Indian. India right now also has a pretty large age span, where with the population boom, there are just as many old people with prejudices as there are young people with liberal mindsets. India’s also at a point now where it’s an up and coming country, with values and goals of young people changing rapidly. The information age hit India pretty hard, and there’s large discrepancies between the rural areas with few, if any, accesses to technology, and the urban settings where there’s large amounts of technology everywhere you look.
That’s the main thing I would try and keep in mind when writing characters IN India — just the ridiculous amount of diversity and change that’s happening now in India. Young people there also have this mindset there that the Western world is better and everyone seems to want to immigrate to American or Britain when they grow up.
If you’re talking about writing Indians in Western countries, like immigrant stories, that’s another story.
Writing the Indian Diaspora
There, it’s still important to keep in mind the diversity of India because that could change the perspective your character has on the Western world as well. Research is once again, your best friend. Research holidays that your character might celebrate like Rakhi and Holi and Diwali, research religions and the religious holidays (Hinduism has an enormous amount of gods and goddesses and holidays for them as well). Research where in India your character is from, because that colors things differently too. As I said, South Indians and North Indians especially have different views on a lot of different things.
The other thing about Indians living away from India is that they’ll find each other. Literally everywhere we’ve lived in my life we have had neighbors and communities of Indian people that we would collaborate on showing Indian movies in local movie theaters with, people we would send things to India for our family with and ask them to bring things back for us. We’d put on festivals and shows and dances and things with them.
Of course, you can’t forget the racism either. As a brown girl growing up, you get made fun of for how you smell, how you wear your hair, the clothes you wear, and then you also get to watch as everyone grows up and ~discovers~ these things and wears henna and bindis as if they’d never made fun of you for doing the same thing before.
That’s about all I have off the top of my head. If you have any other specific questions, feel free to send them in, and we’ll do our best to help!
If any other Indian followers have anything to add to this, please let us know as well!
I feel like I should add something…. Take what I say with a grain of salt.
1. It’s pretty simple to divide India into North and South… but there can be some more distinctions: Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, etc. I’m not actually part of those groups (so I can’t really say how different they are) but I’m pretty sure there are some pretty distinct traditions in those groups.
2. Feel like I should mention the existence of Northeastern Indians, at least. They aren’t usually what people think of when they think of India… but they exist.
3. Don’t assume that the Indian character knows another language other than English, if they grow up in India. (And don’t necessarily assume that the language is Hindi, especially if your character is from South India). At least in the Indian community where I grew up most of the 2nd gen immigrants could understand the language but had limited abilities in speaking or writing. But it depends.
4. And remember that people in India can speak English too? Their fluency probably depends on their education level (most schools teach it as a second language, if I remember correctly) and how often they use it.
5. Also a reminder that the holidays mentioned above are Hindu holidays so Indian people of other religions may not celebrate them if they’re not living in India. (I was raised Hindu sooooo I don’t know how true this statement is but I thought I might as well mention it?)
6. Oh, and a reminder that Indian movies != Bollywood. Bollywood is one of the film industries in India, producing Hindi language films. I believe there’s a pretty big Telugu film industry? But Bollywood movies are still the most popular. At least in the circles i run in.
Everything else sounds chill.
All very good adds! Thank you!
People always assume that playing someone British is just learning the slang and how to speak correctly with the accent. Well, that isn’t entirely true.
Tip No. 1: How to sound British.
Of course you have to perfect how to sound British. Use these links to use the…
i didn’t know this existed. its cool as hell
Why Did You Capitalize The Word ‘Cabbage’ But Not The Word ‘France’ : an adventure in reading fanfiction
coming soon, the thrilling sequel: ‘You’ve Gone Through Three Different Tenses In The Space Of One Paragraph And I Think You Just Invented A Whole New One All Of Your Own’
and the long anticipated conclusion to the trilogy: ‘I Have No Idea Who Is Supposed To Be Speaking Right Now’
Adequate foreshadowing is crucial in a successful novel as a tool both for building suspense and for adequately preparing the reader for future events. The eight tips below can help you to foreshadow effectively. • Make sure the incident needs foreshadowing. Not every event does, and overuse of foreshadowing can have an unintentionally comic effect because …
I know we have a nightmares tag, but there’s not much in it yet.
Dreams in fiction tend to be cut unless they have something to do with the plot. Hence, nightmare sequences that are left in the story frequently serve some sort of purpose. Nightmares themselves are not inherently cliched, but what can make them cliched is how they are used. Because stories more often than not gloss over unimportant dreams, the ones that are left can start to look familiar. Readers can usually tell that if a dream sequence of any kind is included, it’s bound to be important somehow. Dreams cannot be faked (in most universes, anyway), so dreams and nightmares are an easy way to show development, trauma, or humanity in characters.
Here are some dream and nightmare cliches and tropes:
- Talking or even shouting in one’s sleep. This is usually used to clue other characters in to the fact that this character isn’t sleeping well or is hiding some kind of trauma or emotional turbulence. Other times, the sleeping character gives away information this way—to friends or foes.
- Waking up by catapulting into a sitting position with eyes wide open while sweating and/or panting. More a visual cliche than a written one, but a very common visual shorthand way to say “this character just had a bad dream.” Of all the things on this list, this may be the only one to outright avoid: I am fairly confident that no one has ever woken up from a nightmare like this, and this cliche is getting pretty tired.
- The flashback nightmare. Dreaming of the past is an easy way to sneak in exposition without having to figure out how to fit it into the story. It might be the character remembering a dark and troubled past, or a way of showing that they are still obsessing over a past failure.
- The flashforward nightmare. Dreaming of things that have not happened yet, but that can or will. Sometimes, these dreams are subverted in that we expect them to come true, but turn out only to be an anxiety dream. Other times, characters have prophetic visions of the future that they proceed to either ignore as “just a dream,” or forget as soon as they wake up.
- Dream spying. Dreaming about something that is happening now. This is more common in less realistic settings (magical/supernatural/scifi/etc.), especially if the character can recognize the dream as a current event. Sometimes, this kind of dream is a two-way street that is caused or shared by another party.
- The anxiety nightmare. Perhaps most recognizable as the “forgot to wear clothes for my oral report” nightmare. This is a dream about something the character is afraid of, usually about a fear coming true/to life/finally happening and the character having to face it. These dreams/nightmares are usually fixed or stopped by the character facing their fears or dealing with the problem.
- The recurring dream. A dream or nightmare that just keeps popping up. Maybe it means something: a lot of recurring dreams utilize symbolism to relate to the current events of the story, show the character’s state of mind, or reveal bits about the character’s past/personality/thoughts/etc.
- The epiphany dream. A dream or nightmare that somehow helps the character come to a conclusion or solve a problem. These come in a lot of shapes and flavors, but the outcome is usually the same: the character wakes up with some sort of “Eureka!” exclamation and gathers the rest of the team to share what they have figured out.
There may not be a clear-cut way to do dreams and nightmares correctly, because dreams are such an impossibly nebulous concept to the extent that entire stories are written solely about dreams and the many worlds they open up to us. There are, however, plenty of ways to do them well.
My general advice for all dreams and nightmares is that if you are going to include them, make them count and make them pull their weight in the story. As before, unimportant dreams tend to end up on the cutting room floor, so any that you include ought to have something important to say. Use the “dreamspace” to say things you cannot say another way: dreams break the laws of reality by being a sort of un-reality. Take advantage of this! Whether this means symbolism, exposition, some sort of mind-linking, or something else entirely, make your story’s dreams do things that your story cannot do any other way.