Writing Race: A Checklist For Writers

We've been talking a lot about this on the Fire Escape, but I thought it might be helpful to sum up ten questions we writers can ask ourselves once we've completed a story (these were presented during my workshop at the NESCBWI conference last weekend):
  1. How and why did or didn't I define race? Did I use labels like "Black" or "white"? If so, which ones and why?

  2. Did my setting, plot, and characters determine the cultural casting?

  3. Am I aware and in charge of any non-verbals that are race-specific (i.e. "grew pale")?

  4. Who are my story's change agents culturally and why?

  5. Are my characters of other races more than just foils for my protagonist?

  6. Is my narrative voice specific when describing foreign places or people (i.e."Igbo" vs. "Africa")?

  7. Have I relied on a certain jargon, diction, or accent to characterize, and inadvertently tapped into cultural stereotypes?

  8. How did I define beauty ("big eyes" = "not Asian")?

  9. Could my characters be imagined as different ethnicities? Do I want that?

  10. Should I hand more casting power to my reader and cut back on some physical descriptions?

Photo Credit: Mahidoodi via Creative Commons