Characters of Color


A lot of people seem to have problems when it comes to describing a character’s race and how to approach it.

There are mutiple ways to drop hints about your charcters race/ethnicity/religion/etc.

1. Have them participate in a cultural holiday or tradition.
Example: Anita couldn’t go to the party, because she was going to celebrate Diwali this weekend. or “I’d love to go to your cookout, but I don’t eat pork, and my little brother’s bar mitzvah is at the same time.”

2. Have them wear traditional clothing.
Example: “I’m wearing this kimono, because I’m going to see my grandparents this afternoon to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary.” OR “You dashiki is the same color as my sari.”

3. Give your character a name from their cultural background. 
Example: Youssef, Fatima, Valentina, Santiago, Wei, Min Jun, Nor, Sakura, Carlos, Mustafa, etc.

4. Traditional hairstyles
Example: Ayanna’s newest dreadlocks were stylish and cute. Maybe I should ditch my cornrows and wear dreadlocks to switch up my look.

5. Mention extended family living in X country or other family history.
Example: Sarah’s cousin from Ghana was visiting. Sarah’s parents immigrated from Ghana twenty years ago, so Sarah never got to know her extended family until now. OR “From all the stories my grandmother sounds like a great woman. Too bad she’s all the way in Yemen.”

6. Language. Either the character or their relatives can speak the language.
Example: “I grew up speaking English and Thai, but my English is much better than my Thai. Trust me.” OR “I want my children to be immersed their culture. That’s why I’m teaching them Navajo.”

7. Have another character ask, mention it, etc.
Example: “Finally another black girl! I was starting to think I was all alone.” OR “I’m Ethiopian, but you probably guessed that from the Ethiopian flag on my t-shirt. Where are you from?”

8. You can always use other items apart from clothing and hair such as jewelry, pins, books, and etc.
Example: “I thought I’d get in touch with me heritage by reading more books by Paraguayan authors.” OR “I love your bindi and henna. Looks super cute.”

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