Are You Being Brave in Your Character Choice?

So, I am going to clumsily lay some thoughts down here – clumsy, because I am still learning myself and am always open to interpretation and education.

When I talk about brave character choices, I mean those who don’t fit into automatic assumptions by white readers. So those on the LGBTQIA spectrum, those who are not white, or those who are on the spectrum of Asperger’s/autism.

First of all, if you (the author of the work) are not LGBTQIA or are white, but want to write a character into your novel who is bisexual, say, or Asian, have enormous consideration and sympathy. Do your research. Talk to people. Hire one of the enormously talented sensitivity readers who are able to consider whether you have captured the true essence of those characters.

For the love of God, don’t follow horrible cliches – the gay best friend, the Tourette’s sufferer who merely shouts out swear words.¬†Use these characters as characters – they need to drive your plot forwards, not just be ‘oh woe is me’ about how gay they are. They need to be three dimensional, and representative of real people.

Understand that with this character, you are representing a vast amount of people who live that life ALL THE TIME. They want to feel that someone has ‘got’ them, has shown them well, not that the author has missed the point and hammered home the same old points they see all the time.

I have made this post because I am editing a novel with an autistic character, and the symptoms have been shown subtly as part of the plot itself, but are clear enough that anyone reading it who is autistic would be able to say, ‘this character is like me.’ Their autism isn’t the plot device, it is an incidental part of a well-rounded character who deals with social situations in a different manner to which others might do. It is not played for laughs, or to show how traumatic it must be to have to deal with life as an autistic person. It is to show that there are autistic people in all walks of life, and they should therefore be represented in fiction as well.

Don’t ever be so scared of misrepresenting an alternative character that you just don’t bother – these characters need voices in literature as well, they need to feature on the page. If you’re worried, then do the aforementioned – read and research, talk, use beta readers who are more than aware of what it means to be asexual, or live as a black woman in a CIS white male dominated environment.

Try to avoid having your black characters (for instance) being the evil people. Especially avoid having people being able to identify the place where people come from by the colour of their skin.

Use the correct pronouns in novels, if you are going to include trans characters.

If, after your beta readers have read it, they feed back negatively i.e. you haven’t achieved a sensitive portrayal, then be prepared to pull a project – or accept that it needs a great deal of work to make it acceptable. And be prepared for people to see points that you might not have intended but that inadvertently cause offence – sure, you managed to create a very acceptable polyamorous, feminist society in your novel, but you didn’t realise that your Asian characters were described as exotic, or with almond-shaped eyes. To you, that seemed acceptable, but your sensitivity reader informed you that it could be considered deeply offensive – pay attention! Don’t think to yourself that most readers won’t notice it, because enough will and they will call you out.

It is scary to try to represent characters in your novels that are not like you – the fear of getting it wrong can make anyone pause – but it is desperately important to challenge yourself to think sympathetically about how life might be like. It is even more important to show a full range of characters in your novels. We live in a world with gay men, with asexual women, with black people, with trans people – how can your fiction not represent the same?

Alright, I’m done. And I would love feedback here, concerning anything I have misrepresented or any edits I ought to make because I am also scared about putting a post out there of this nature.

 

Structural Editing, Copy Editing, Proofreading – the differences!

I have found that a large number of people looking for editorial services are actually not 100% clear about what type of editing they require, so I thought I would do a real quick breakdown concerning the differences.

Structural Editing

This is the big picture stuff! Your editor will read the novel, and make sweeping suggestions as to what you could change to improve the story.

This can involve: plot, pacing, characterisation, number of characters, scene placement and requirement, chapter development. You should receive an editorial report that works through areas of improvements. This is the type of edit where you’ll most benefit from a phone call (or Skype session) with your editor, so that you can explore exactly what the editor meant and offering possible new directions to gauge their reactions.Some editors will offer this as part of their services, so it’s definitely something you should check when approaching them.

 

Copy Editing

This type of editing is very specific, and requires a unique set of skills from your copy editor. In this case your editor is going to check things such as: continuity (do your characters have the same spelling for their name, the same hair colour, the same eye colour); address/phone number checking (to make sure you haven’t accidentally used an actual address or phone number in a fiction novel); grammar and sentence structure (looking for frequently used words, for example). One of the best copy editors I know has checked phases of the moon according to the dates that featured in a fiction novel, to make sure that the full moon mentioned was accurate; and has offered technical knowledge about whether that murder by strangulation was given the correct amount of time.

 

Proofreading

This is the last check before publication. This is the final opportunity to check for any errors, such as issues of homonyms, errant punctuation, and formatting problems. You need an eagle-eyed proofreader with access to a chosen house style/recognised manual of style (my preference is the New Oxford Style Manual). They won’t just make sure that your spelling is correct, but sort out your hyphenation and your number styling.

 

These days self-publishing is a valid and recognised option on the route to getting your novel in the public domain, but you need to invest to ensure it is as strong as possible. And this also means making sure that you are hiring the correct person to work on your novel.

What A R Editorial Solutions is about

You’ve done a lot of the hard work: you’ve finished a novel! Congratulations!

Before submitting your novel to agents or travelling the self-publishing route, you are best served by having a capable editor look over your work. She will advise on any structural concerns, if you wish, providing a full editorial letter and tracked changes. Or maybe you’ve already edited your novel, but you are looking for someone to catch those last errors before the book goes any further – you have come to the right place. Errors in a novel are an easy way for agents and editors to dismiss what might be a great book, so make sure that your novel doesn’t suffer from this.

A R Editorial Solutions is your first step for all your editing requirements.

Pick from:

a) a full structural edit, featuring an editorial letter and additional line edits

b) a copy edit, checking (for instance) that your character still has the same colour eyes all the way through the novel

c) a proofread, making sure typos are picked up and small mistakes are identified

Check the Rates page for prices and, when you’re ready, head on over to the About Me & Contact page to make sure A R Editorial Solutions is the right provider for you!