Writing Characters of Colour
Lots of white Bang2writers say they want to write characters of colour, but are afraid of ‘getting it wrong’. So I am delighted to welcome eight talented black screenwriters to the site today to share their top writing tips.
The writers below all appear in the curated list Highly Recommended Scripts by Black Screenwriters, curated by @avishaiw. If you are a producer or filmmaker, make sure you check the list out! If you are not, please pass it on by sharing it via your profiles and pages. Thanks!
1) ‘Be open to others’ thoughts’
‘My best tip: it isn’t enough to change a character’s race. Everyone’s lived experiences are vast and POC are no different. Research, ask questions, have writers of color read you and be open to their thoughts. If needed, admit you may not be the one to tell this story.’ – Danielle Nicki
MORE: Dorothy Koomson: ‘No One Is Being Censored Or Stopped From Writing’
2) ‘Listen to other perspectives’
‘Characters of colour or not, always embrace collaboration when given the chance. Telling a story with different perspectives is a lot easier if you’re listening to other perspectives and you’re not afraid to let them tell you where you might not be hitting the mark.’ – Jerome Keith
3) ‘Do the work to fix stereotypes’
‘Remember that diverse characters are fully fleshed-out people and not stereotypes. No group is a monolith. Actually listen to folks of those backgrounds if they say this or that doesn’t land or is stereotypical and do the work to fix it.’ – Sam Watson
4) ‘Remember people of colour are not monolithic’
‘POC characters should be fleshed out and feel lived in. I tend to write mine from a specific perspective while also being grounded in reality. We’re not monolithic, my idea of freedom may not be the same as my sister’s, but we both should be able to get it.‘ – Kenson
5) ‘Don’t make characters of colour guides for white ones’
‘Make sure the characters of colour you write can stand on their own two feet and not just be a guiding light to a white character. They should not exist to serve as anything but a person in the world you create. Write them for the right reasons, but remain open to learning.’ – Kelsea Mayfield
6) ‘Ask yourself WHY?’
‘Ask yourself WHY *you* are writing this character & this story. If you’re writing diverse characters because it reflects your world, great. Means you should have some sense of those different POVs/experiences. Ask them to read. If NOT, ask why your world *doesn’t* include those POVS.’ – James Alexander
‘Consume good literature, watch great films, and live an extraordinary life. You need constant inspiration to really pop on the page. Also don’t read bad samples. It dilutes your taste without you even realising it.’ – Camille Corbett
‘Showcase Your Voice’
‘Write what YOU want to see on television or the big screen. Don’t write what you think others want to see. Writing screenplays that excite you on a personal level will come off more genuine, showcase your voice, and resonate more strongly with your readers.’ – Ariel Relaford
About The List
The Highly Recommended Scripts by Black Screenwriters List is curated by Avishai Weinberger. Producers & Filmmakers – to view the list, the loglines and/or request a screenplay, CLICK HERE. Please pass it on!
No. 5 hits home with me. Too many times I’ve read stories with a token black character seemingly inserted to guide the actions of a more important white character. Thx for posting this, Lucy.
Agree, David. We must be uber alert to this as writers. Glad you like the article!