Once again, Flobo here.
Today, I want to talk to you about something that doesn’t matter but at the same time totally does. When you’re reading a book (or screenplay, or any non-visual medium) and come across a new character, do you automatically assign them an ethnicity if the author fails to do so?
Recently I completed a screenplay about a professional soccer player. After the subject of race came up when discussing the main character with a colleague, I asked everyone I sent the script to for their opinion. Though I had not confirmed (nor deny) and background, the majority of responses believed my main character was white. Not that it’s a bad thing per se, but it was interesting thing to witness. Is there a “default” race or ethnicity for characters unless otherwise specified? Or does an author subconsciously drop hints about a character’s race or ethnicity in his or her’s characterization?
The other day I was reading a superhero comic about an alien that crash landed to Earth. He grew up on our soil and learned our ways. Realizing he had superhuman powers, he rose above his modest upbringing to become champion of the world. The hero’s name? Icon:
Maybe that was an unfair example (Icon is a twist on the Superman conceit by design) but it does go to show what exactly we have in our mind’s eye at all times. What’s an author to do? Do we go out the way to state our main character’s background when describing them, or do we let the readers decide? This issue doesn’t seem to affect secondary and tertiary characters as much, as there is almost a natural instinct to characterize them as colorfully as possible (no pun intended).
Later on, I was thinking about reading about this British ruffian with a massive chip on his shoulder. He smacks women around, kills in cold blood, and destroys property at a drop of a hat. He does this so matter of factly, it’s surprising he’s celebrated as a hero rather than being tossed in jail for his crimes and collateral damage…
Just food for thought,