Writing People of Colour & Irish Culture • Inspiration Wall 01

I’ve decided to do a weekly Inspiration Wall so that I can talk briefly about writing resources I’m using, pictures that inspire me, books I want to read, things I’m listening to etc. during the week, so read on if you want to know what I’m up to in between writing sessions!

Firstly, a few inspirational quotes for the week!

writing quote writing quote writing quote

Writing people of colour

In my novel for NaNoWriMo – which I’m currently still working on (note to self: must come up with title) – one of my main characters is a black girl with natural afro hair. One of the things that’s always made me a little nervous about writing is how to describe different ethnicities, particularly East Asian and black characters.

Obviously I don’t want to write characters in a way that’s offensive (not only is that insensitive, it takes away from who the character is rather than what they look like) so I decided to search online to see if there were specific words that were particularly frowned upon to be aware of when I’m writing.

I found a great site called Writing With Color, which discusses different suitable and unsuitable words used to describe people of colour. One of the words in particular that I had intended to use was “kinky” to describe my character’s hair. I thought it was a good descriptor but the people who run the site aren’t super fond of it, and I actually picked up much better suggestions while scrolling the site.

writing people of colour

Other words not recommended for usage included “nappy”, which is a derogatory word for natural afro hair, and “wooly” due to the animal connotations. Needless to say, I learnt a lot on the site and I’m glad I checked it out as I feel much more confident about writing people of colour now.

There are so few people of colour in fantasy books that I don’t want to create a black character and then describe her in a problematic way. Quick research like this is so easy to do and can make a big difference to readers who don’t often see themselves represented in fiction; there’s really no reason not to do it.

Main character inspirations 

I have certain ideas in my head of what my characters look like, but I love searching for models/pictures of people who resemble them so that I can properly visualise them as real people.

I’ve finally found three girls that look very similar to how Anika, Neave and Thea look in my head. Thea is the girl with long black hair, Anika is the red head and Neave is the girl with natural afro hair that I spoke of above.

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I’m currently about 60,000 words or so into my story and I know I’m nearly through the tunnel (and into the trenches for the many editing sessions that are coming my way!) Here’s to the next 60k for book 2!

As well as looking for character inspiration (I find that sitting in a café and people-watching is a fantastic way to round out existing characters – the mannerisms and habits and flaws of real people can help make your character seem more 3D) I love checking out aspects of different cultures that I could weave into my stories. I’m Irish myself and we have a very rich cultural tapestry spanning thousands of years, so I’ve been looking into Celtic myths and legends lately.

Irish myths and culture irish culture

One thing in particular I’d like to add to my current story is the style of Irish dancing dresses. If you’ve never seen one, they’re quite short and covered in triple spirals and Celtic-inspired designs. They’re also usually very colourful and bright (and topped with a curly wig). I wish I was any good at art as I’d love to draw out my idea for traditional dresses worn by the women of the country I’ve created in my novel. Basically the colours will be muted in comparison to the loud and proud hues of traditional Irish dancing dresses, but they’ll still feature the heavy spiral designs and they’ll be floor length.

Music to set the scene 

I’ve also been taking some inspiration from sean nós singing – which is a very old, traditional style of singing as gaeilge (in Irish) – as well as Enya (pretty much her entire body of work) and choir music. I don’t know if you write while listening to music, but I’ve recently gotten into it and find that it can really help set a scene in your mind.

Wish listbook wish list

I’ve heard so many good things about ‘Binti’ and ‘Akata Witch’, both written by acclaimed writer Nnedi Okorafor, but I’m not exactly flush with cash right now so I’ll have to wait to buy them.

What has inspired you this week? Let me know in the comments!

Slow and Steady Wins the Race • NANOWRIMO 2016

It’s day 4 of NaNoWriMo 2016 and I’m about to start writing my words for the day. I’m feeling confident about the scene I’m writing so I figured I’d take a few minutes to write an update on how the challenge is going!

My total so far is 5,300 words, which I’m delighted about. It’s taught me that even writing a little bit a day is so important and it’s something that I’m going to try and continue after I’ve finished my draft. That’s another thing as well; I’ve realised that I am capable of writing a novel despite all my crippling insecurities. Hard work and commitment will get me there.

I absolutely know that I will finish the challenge at the end of the month with 50,000 words under my belt, something I’ve never managed to do before. I’m already planning on how I’m going to celebrate and I’m feeling so happy with how my story is going that I genuinely think I’ll continue editing it and adding to it over the next few months. So all in all, NaNoWriMo couldn’t be going better!

write every day

One thing I worried about was reaching the 1,667 word goal every day but it hasn’t been a struggle so far. Yesterday while I was lurking on the NaNo sub on Reddit, I noticed that a lot of people were posting about their word counts (some of which were five figures already) and it made me a little nervous about my own figure, even though I’ve exceeded my goal every day.

This is one of the reasons past participants have warned about comparing yourself to other writers/checking their progress against yours and other detrimental things. You start to doubt whether you’re doing as well as you thought, and that only leads to demotivation and procrastination and, finally, giving up.

From my experience so far, I think the approach of ‘slow and steady wins the race’ is the best course of action. Obviously, everyone is different, but I think it would be easy to burnout if you went hell for leather in the first few days. On day one, for instance, I had a good idea of the first five or six scenes I’d write, but I’m glad I didn’t try and do it all at once. Not only does this give you a bit of breathing room (and time to think of other details for the scenes), it also gives you something to start with each day. There’s nothing worse than facing a blank page when you haven’t the faintest idea where to start.

writing nanowrimo

Now if you’ll excuse me, I should be writing!

Are you participating this year? What do you think so far? Best of luck to everyone!