In the previous posts, we’ve covered all the issues pertaining to describing characters in your book, especially when it comes to diversifying your characters.
For a quick refresh, here are the links to the previous posts:
- What Defines Race
- Describing Skin Color
- Using Metaphorical Language
- Describing other Attributes
Before we get started, you will need to have read the above posts because it will better help you to understand this one. This post is dealing specifically with race in fantasy writing, especially for those who are world-building.
It’s mostly a struggle because people who write fantasy are often trying not to depend on modern languages that may date their work or even take away from the world they’re trying to create. But, they still want to be diverse.
This is a good thing. In most fantasy writing, the default ‘human’ seems to be a Caucasian male/female and often, this makes the world less diverse. By understanding race and knowing how to describe skin tones, authors of the fantasy genre can paint better images of their world and their characters, but often, this still isn’t enough.
So what can fantasy writers do?
For my series ‘The Kingdoms of Yah’, I created a world where Aingeals, Sanyas, and Ehols live together in two conjoined realms, with the lesser one known as Ịtoba and the greater one known as Ariwa-Ịte. Both realms have Kingdoms or Regencies within it, and both realms have their cultures, peoples, and classes.
In my book, I used context, emotions, and thoughts to describe each type of being living in my world. The Ehols are considered gods with the ability to become a Divine One, and the more Powerful an Ehol is, the more intriguing he/she looks to an average Aingeal or Sanya.
Depending on where my beings come from, they have their different attributes. Aingeals, Sanyas, and Ehols from Autumn Court tend to have darker skin and kinky (afro-textured) hair, whereas Aingeals and Ehols from Spring Court are lighter in complexion with blonde or red hair.
Aingeals and Ehols from the Empire of Chura have olive complexions, brown eyes, and straight or curly black hair. Aingeals from the Celipha Empire might be brown or light-skinned with dark hair.
The way I do this is by describing key characters of that area. I might say he was dark-skinned, reminiscent of Aingeals from Autumn Court.
Even within the beings there are different classes. For example, Ehols are classed by attributes, Age, and Power. Each of them have their own ‘look’. Most Principal Ehols are lighter in complexion, but one Principal Ehol is dark-skinned with golden eyes (due to his Age), and is often mistaken as a Titanic Ehol, most of whom are dark (although there are lighter skinned Titanic Ehols).
The contrast, oddity, or rarity of characters can be used to differentiate and create a structure within your fantasy world (like the examples above). But you should also remember not to spend too much time trying to create differences in your characters, especially in the space of one book.
Your first book often sets the world and introduces the main character and the problem at hand. Focus on this, while referring to things as it is important to the character and the problem. Info-dumping, especially when trying to create a world with unique characters, can be a terrible idea. In the real world, people only tend to consider the background of others if they’re meeting said person for the first time and that person is significantly different from them.
This should be the only time you may mention a character’s background. With that being said, carefully consider your characters while planning them. Is there a reason why you used a particular character rather than opting for one that may lend more diversity?
For my book, each of my characters play an important role. There are seven Ehols, and each of them run one of the seven Kingdoms within Ịtoba. Because of this, their stories and backgrounds become relevant because they’re running an entire nation.
However, in the same book, side characters that are mentioned don’t have a ‘background’ story per se. Race/description is rarely mentioned because it’s not necessary. Even though I have a vision of how that character looks, where they’re from, and who they are, none of this was relevant in the character’s immediate introduction because that character played a minor role.
With that being said, I may expand on writing fantasy in the near future. If you’re a fantasy author/writer and have any questions concerning how to go about it, or may want to know about other topics, place it in the comment below. I’ll be glad to write a post or do a series on fantasy.
If you have other questions concerning diversity, also don’t be afraid to drop a question. I’ll answer or write a post.