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Old 22-02-2012, 02:04 PM   #81
Karasu no Kazu
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Out of interest, how did you go about researching Caipora and her magic? The problem I have with working with 'real' cultures (as opposed to the made up ones which I use ) is that there's so much depth in them that's easy to miss. I'd be afraid of missing something vitally obvious to everyone from that culture that I just didn't read about, or appreciate how important it was.
Hmm good question. I'd have to ask Anna about that. TBH I don't think she spent many hours researching the culture of Brazilian shamans in particular, but she is very interested in shamanism as a concept so I can't really speculate.

I think, when working with other cultures, sometimes you just have to remember Eric Van Lustbader. Have you read The Ninja? This was a bestselling book in the seventies and is one of the most awful representations of another culture I have ever seen. Whatever you do, you will NEVER be as bad as Eric Van Lustbader. NEVER.

I think having heart and enthusiasm to your story to back up your research is one of the most important things. Nobody will care if you get a few details wrong, as long as you treat that culture with respect and understanding.
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Old 22-02-2012, 03:59 PM   #82
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I think, when working with other cultures, sometimes you just have to remember Eric Van Lustbader. Have you read The Ninja? This was a bestselling book in the seventies and is one of the most awful representations of another culture I have ever seen. Whatever you do, you will NEVER be as bad as Eric Van Lustbader. NEVER.
Never read it, but since you're a librarian I'll trust in you that it's pretty trerrible. One wonders how it became such a best seller, so how did it get there?

I'm guessing the readers at the time didn't care that the cultural depictions within were innaccurate. Or perhaps didn't feel like asking too many questions?

I don't know because I'm not a book man. Well not of fiction books anyway. It's even worse when the so called factual books get it wrong.
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Old 22-02-2012, 05:33 PM   #83
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Something I meant to mention but forgot in my post was age amongst the study. Out of 72 protagonists, only 3 are children, and none of those are female. We are left to guess as to whether there are many older protagonists, but based on general experience I imagine the protagonists are mainly young to early middle age. (I know the focus of the study seems to be on gender and ability, but age related categories are present. Not a criticism, just observations and musings)

There is a definite bias in our culture (in my opinion) towards a narrow adult age range being the 'interesting' bit. Children and the elderly are marginalised from public life, from politics and from being taken seriously in general. I've always been a huge fan of Ghibli, (like a fair few people it seems :P) mostly because of their frequent use of both old and young characters in central roles in their storytelling. There are few other films that I can sit down with my gran and my 6 year old sister and know that we're all going to enjoy it.

This raises a question for me about target audience. If the small press scene is predominantly young adults and up to 30something folks reading and supporting each others projects, are we writing stories predominantly about ourselves? After Tokyopops implosion, there is a definite point to be made about not getting caught up in a specific narrow audience. But as has been stated in this thread, if we're making things for our own enjoyment we have no obligation to target an audience/turn a profit etc.

Like the example of Ghibli above, if our stories appeal to a diverse age range, then it gives us a way of connecting through stories, which is why I love them. Perhaps this is an ambitious aim for small press, but then again we do have no limitations on the stories we tell, so woohoo!!
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Old 22-02-2012, 07:03 PM   #84
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There is a definite bias in our culture (in my opinion) towards a narrow adult age range being the 'interesting' bit. Children and the elderly are marginalised from public life, from politics and from being taken seriously in general. I've always been a huge fan of Ghibli, (like a fair few people it seems :P) mostly because of their frequent use of both old and young characters in central roles in their storytelling. There are few other films that I can sit down with my gran and my 6 year old sister and know that we're all going to enjoy it.
Is this discrimination though, or just the practicalities of story writing? The problem with a child protagonist is that there is so much they can't do. They don't have professional training and are not as strong as adults, so a lot of stuff you might have an adult protagonist do would be unrealistic if the character was under 16. I started Karate aged 11, and one of the first things they taught us was 'no matter how good you are at this, you won't be able to fight a full-grown adult, even if they have no training. They're so much stronger than you'. There are also limits to what a child can be shown doing and having done to them before moral guardians start coming out of the woodwork. Any Homestuck fan will know that most of the cast are 13-15 years old, and people regularly complain about the language these characters use, their unrealistically high levels of knowledge in various academic fields, and the fact that lots of them get killed off or brutally injured. Of course, said comic is not aimed at kids at all, it just has child protagonists for a 'coming of age' theme.

What I find is more rare than child protagonists in small press comics are protagonists who are middle-aged or older. Admit it, how many of us have made comics that feature a main character over 25? Over 35? Older? Not actually all that many of us, and probably those who have are mostly older themselves. This is partially because it's hard to relate to somebody older than yourself. We've all been children. Everybody has experienced childhood, but it's harder to write about something you've yet to experience. Most creators naturally write protagonists either their own age or younger because they can use their own experiences. There's also the fact that readers like comics about people around their own age.
John Allison's readership dropped sharply when he finished Scary Go Round (about twenty-somethings) and started making Bad Machinery (about 11 year olds). A lot of the readers were older teens and twenty-somethings who liked reading about characters they could relate to directly. Many people will perceive a comic with a child protagonist as being 'for children', and so there's quite a big risk to try to make something with a child protagonist of being thrown into the 'for kids' section ghetto and losing potential audience.

I can't think of a Miyazaki film with a protagonist over 25. They're all 'coming of age' stories about young people or children. Even Howl's Moving Castle isn't really about an old lady; but a 19 year old girl who gets turned into one (well, in the book she was 19, but she looks and acts younger in the film, I think).
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Old 22-02-2012, 07:10 PM   #85
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Originally Posted by Palmer-san View Post
This raises a question for me about target audience. If the small press scene is predominantly young adults and up to 30something folks reading and supporting each others projects, are we writing stories predominantly about ourselves? After Tokyopops implosion, there is a definite point to be made about not getting caught up in a specific narrow audience. But as has been stated in this thread, if we're making things for our own enjoyment we have no obligation to target an audience/turn a profit etc.
That's a very good point. Yes, I think I certainly have a tendency to make characters the same age as I am (you can track my age through my comics, actually Reya is an exception). Funnily enough, the ides of a comic with a much younger or much older character as a protagonist doesn't faze me nearly as much as some of the other options that have been discussed on this thread. How odd ^^

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I think having heart and enthusiasm to your story to back up your research is one of the most important things. Nobody will care if you get a few details wrong, as long as you treat that culture with respect and understanding.
I think that's true in general, but it depends on the culture and on how wrong the thing is. Just as an example with which many of us will be familiar, I know now that it is wrong to stand your chopsticks up in a mound of rice and that yukatas should be folded over your body left over right, not right over left. But the only reason I know those things is because someone who knows more than I do told me when I got it wrong. Nobody can do that if they're reading a comic - and in those two cases, they will stick out like a sore thumb to anybody familiar with the culture in question. I don't actually know if seeing that in a comic would be offensive to a Japanese person, but it would probably be pretty disconcerting. Here's another example: if you ever give flowers to anyone in Russia, make sure there's an odd number of them. Even numbers of flowers are for funerals and sad occasions.

I've had something similar to this experience in Canada when I asked someone a numerical question and she responded by saying 'two' and holding up two fingers - and not in the V sign! It really took me aback for a couple of seconds, even though I knew she meant no offence. Easy to do, if you're not used to that peculiarly British way of swearing - and rude motions do vary widely between cultures.

I guess the best way to deal with that sort of niggling little error is to ask someone from that culture to check your story (preferably before the inking stage!) - if you have access to such a helpful person.

Anyway, that is why I tend to shy away from portraying different real cultures (cultures, not races) - I know there are far too many little things it's too easy to get wrong
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Old 02-04-2012, 07:37 PM   #86
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I happened across this blog post today, which focuses on an interview with a writer.
The writer has recently published a childrens book which focuses on some different cultures/subjects, and gives some interesting views and thoughts on her decision to write about cultures or view points which she is not (at first) familiar with.
It really reminded me of this discussion, and echoed some of the concerns artists here had about writing about unfamiliar cultures/settings, so I thought I'd post it up ^^

http://elloecho.blogspot.co.uk/2012/...featuring.html
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Old 03-04-2012, 12:10 AM   #87
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Really interesting blog post, thanks for posting the link. Really chimes with a lot of the points in the discussion as you said, I particularly liked her position and very sensible outlook on the inevitable criticism of the work.

Really good to know all of these discussions and writers and creators are all out there at the moment, really makes me hopeful about storytelling as an area with real potential to represent difference and diversity against the hegemonic whitewash...

Interesting times
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Old 18-06-2012, 07:26 PM   #88
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Here's a really thought-provoking and well-written post on what it means to have a character in a story who 'moves like you'. Really made me think. My favourite bits have to be:

Quote:
First, you must understand that, ever since she had been born and maybe even before, Julia had been autistic. And second, you must understand that, because of this, Julia had spent her whole life watching and learning stories where she had no part, no point of entry, and no value. Julia was trained to imagine herself in stories as someone she was not and could never be, and to define the story of her own life in terms of how it failed to be reflected back to her. And sometimes, most of the times, Julia forgot that she was a person. Stories are important, and she didnít have one. You are a mistake isnít a story. Itís barely even a sentence.
... and...

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...one story is infinitely bigger than zero, and it may still be very small and nowhere near enough, but itís something.
I have to say, posts like that make me want so much to make stories for people who don't have one.

But I'm still worried about getting it wrong
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Old 19-06-2012, 12:14 PM   #89
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Yep, that was great! ^_^ To a lesser extent (much lesser I would imagine) I felt the same way as a kid, reading stories where there were no female characters I identified with. Like a lot of young girls it made me identify more with the male characters. It wasn't until I got to probably my late twenties that I actually thought "holy crap, I'm a woman".

Well, I still don't identify with a lot of so-called feminine traits, but as an adult I have the experience of life (and stories) to understand that a lot of people don't. When you're a kid, you don't have that experience, you put things into boxes more. If you're told that girls all act in "x" way and you don't, then maybe you're not a girl after all...

I think that nowadays there are a lot more books (and other stuff) with good female role models for children. It seems a whole lot more balanced between the genders, girls aren't just there to be "the girl" any more. Some of the most popular kids books/IPs are starring female characters: Dora the Explorer, Peppa Pig, Maisy... in my day (lol) we had Thomas the Tank Engine (which was awesome and I loved it) where the only female character were the coaches, being pulled along by a solely male collection of engines, and if that isn't some kind of obvious society metaphor I don't know what is. XD

So, back to my point. Stories are important! It is amazing to finally find characters you can understand as being part of yourself.

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But I'm still worried about getting it wrong
Please have the courage of your convictions. You're a good writer, there's no reason you can't do it. So try.
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