Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Writing a Character from Another Culture #writing

I tend to have main characters in my stories that are from a culture other than my own. 

I don't know why, but growing up I always was sensitive to other cultures and interested in how they lived. I think it came from living in a white community and only seeing the different cultures on television and in books that I read that piqued my curiosity.

Now as a writer, I can explore the different lives and cultures and then add that newly discovered information into my books.

In Miner in Petticoats, Ethan falls for a Scottish widow. Reading about the Scots and how she would have ended up in America in the 1800's was a fun walk into the Scot and Irish history. I listened to Scots people talking to get a flavor of the language and read a couple of Scottish tales to get a feel for their culture and how they interact. While writing this book I listened to Celtic music.

Tamkaliks Powwow
My spirit books allowed me to research and become more knowledgeable about the Nez Perce, specifically the band that wintered and summered in the county where I grew up. I was lucky enough to connect with a couple of Nez Perce members who guided me through my questions where I told the of the scene I wished to write and was it true to their heritage and not offensive. I've said several times that the spirit books are the books of my heart. I tend to have strong feelings about justice and most of books have that theme. I took that interest in the Nez Perce and made my amateur sleuth in the Shandra Higheagle Mysteries half Nez Perce. My guided tour of the Colville reservation in Washington opened my eyes to even more about the culture and how they perceive themselves and how others perceive them. This information will be helpful in the next mystery book I'm formulating. As a sensory person I listen to Native American music as I write books about that culture.
And then there is Tino Constantine from my Isabella Mumphrey action adventure series. He is a hot Venezuelan DEA agent. When I started the Isabella books I wanted a hero who was a complete opposite of my heroine. I’d been visiting with a woman who had married a Venezuelan and had lived there for several years. Hearing about her life as an outsider and the way the men of Venezuela treated a woman, I thought giving my hero that background would make for an interesting contrast to my genius, privately schooled heroine.

What I didn’t realize that while building Tino’s background I would throw in government turmoil(in Venezuela) his family fleeing that country and his teen and adult years being spent in the United States. With this as his background, I could give him the macho attitudes of the Latin men but also have him more tolerant of the heroine’s independence because he had lived in the states. His Latin machismo comes out when he is fighting his attraction to the skinny, brainy woman he wouldn't usually look twice at. While writing these books I listened to the music of the books' settings- Mayan, Aztec, and Native American.

The book I am currently writing is again one where I have to learn about another culture. Claiming a Heart the third book in the Halsey Homecoming trilogy begins in an underground Chinese community. I've been reading books written about the Chinese in America at that time and their underground and above ground communities. To write this book I downloaded traditional Chinese music.

By having the music of a specific culture playing in the background, I stay grounded in that culture while writing.

Do you like books that teach you about other cultures? Do you like to listen to music from other cultures?


Lynn Lovegreen said...

Very cool, Paty! Interesting how cultural music helps you in your writing.

Paty Jager said...

Hi Lynn! Thanks for stopping in and commenting! Yes, I'm like Pavlov's dogs. If I use a certain music for a book, my mind automatically goes to that story when I hear the music. And I think it helps me feel more of that culture when I write it.

Carmen Peone said...

Great post, Paty. I also listen to music, especially while editing. I listened to the sound track to Last of Mohicans when I edited my Heart Trilogy. I also listen to flute music when writing or editing. Great ideas. Thanks.