Irresponsible blog author is irresponsible.
I had started this post nearly two months ag0 (holy cats, has it really been that long?!) but never finished because I kept forgetting to look up the descriptions in question. Even though the book I’m discussing isn’t new anymore, it’s still a point I think is worth pondering, so here ya go. *blows dust off “Drafts” shelf*
If we were having coffee, I would undoubtedly be chatting your ear off about writing race effectively. One of my favorite authors has a new book out, with some old characters that are near and dear to my heart. She’s grown a lot as a writer, and that’s lead to some interesting discoveries as she’s learned how to really finesse show vs tell. I, of course, am finding it utterly inspiring, and am therefor babbling.
My current terrier-target is describing skin tone. In an older book, we get one line about this character being dark skinned. That’s it. Granted, it’s not at all relevant to who he is or what he does, until you learn more about him. Then you discover part of what got him involved in Midnight at all are his looks, and suddenly you have a “Wait, Nathaniel is black?” moment and you feel like a douchebag.
At least I did.
Then this same wonderful author, ten years down the road (give or take), gives us these two women (more or less- my nook was dying, gimmie a break):
Her skin was a deep plum-black, and the “white curse” was visible as markings throughout her long, jet-dark hair.
Her skin was red-brown, except for the milk-white markings visible on the side of her face like tiger stripes.
While the “don’t make us into food” trope wasn’t completely avoided, the totally overused “coffee, chocolate, tea*” trio are nowhere to be seen. Nor would they convey the proper tones, in my opinion. There’s something to be said for just getting out your crayola box and having at it. This is all that’s ever said about their appearance, a simple one liner like in Nathaniel’s case, but the word choice made these lines infinity more powerful, more memorable, and yet stayed just as understated.
*This is doubly interesting when paired with the author writing about how much research she had to do for this book, given its historical setting. Would the character be familiar with the color of chocolate? Even if they are, will it throw off the more nit-picky readers? etc. Another good reason to just ditch the cliche trio and get out your crayon box.
I wish I could remember where I had been going with this. It was an excellent rant the day I had it, but alas, this is all that remains. Still, food for thought.