My journey through the world of writing and everything that lies in between…

If you’ve even followed this blog for a little bit, you probably know that I’m writing a novel set in Japan in 1890, with an MC that’s half Japanese and half American. I simply love writing about other cultures, but I know for a fact I am probably writing the culture wrong. I know there are aspects of my story that need changing because I put my Western viewpoint on Eastern characters–a big no-no if the book is going to get any respect.

 I am at a disadvantage because of it and it does get overwhelming a lot of the time. I’m often asking myself,”why couldn’t you have just set this in a place where you know the culture?” But then the other part chimes in, saying “Because you LOVE this. You love the culture, even if it’s not your own.”

So I press onward, marking the places I know I’ll have to go back and research, hoping that there’s not too many changes needed (I am trying my best the first time to get as many aspects about the culture correct as possible). I am certain though, that if this gets published, there will be those readers/reviewers that criticize me, asking why this thoroughly Caucasian girl wrote about a culture completely different from her own. Simple answer: Because I love it.

 I don’t think we should be narrowed by our heritage in what we write. Obviously, we’ll know most about our own culture and feel most comfortable writing about that. If we are writing about one that’s different from ours, we have to be careful not to put our own cultural views on it. I am assuming the reason this isn’t done very often is because it can be a difficult process and because of the amount of research needed to portray the story accurately. But it’s worth it.

I’m always finding something new about the Japanese culture that I find so fascinating–especially how it was back in the 1890s! I guess my point after this rambling post is this: don’t be afraid to branch out and write about another culture. It can be daunting but very rewarding too. And don’t let other’s comments dissuade you either–prove them wrong 🙂

Comments on: "Writing About a Different Culture" (8)

  1. beautifullyinsane said:

    It also helps if you simply have lived a bit in that other culture. Although that isn’t always possible (:.

    And many authors write about different cultures than their own! Anyone writing historical fiction is going to have the same nightmare your having :P. Except, at least, because it’s historical anyone who lived in that culture won’t really be around to judge.

  2. No worries! You sound like you’re doing your research and taking special care to be accurate. And that comes from the love of a culture!

    James Clavell was British and Shogun provided a look into a Japanese culture/history from the eyes of a Caucasian. You’re following in a great tradition.

    Even though I’m Asian, I’m American so I have many of the same challenges writing in my setting. Language being the big one! 🙂

  3. Very true, beautifullyinsane. Thanks for the input!

    Jeannie, I’ve never actually read Shogun, although I’ve certainly heard of it. I’ve heard mixed reviews on it though which is why I had been hesitant to read it. Perhaps I ought to check it out.

  4. Okay I admit it. I never read Shogun, but I did see the mini-series. I guess I really should read the book.

  5. Good for you! I don’t think we should be limited by our heritage either. I think it’s great you’re doing research, etc. You’ll come out with a wonderful book. 🙂

  6. not only cultures but ethnicities within one’s own culture…

    I write about British culture, feeling like 11 years there gave me some insight, but I’m sure there are things I miss…

    keep writing!! there are no boundaries… 🙂

  7. This is one of the big reasons why historical fiction is not something I could write. I love doing research, but this type of work would require so much, and I’d be afraid to get facts wrong. Write on. Since it’s your passion, I’m sure you’ll do well.

  8. It’s a lot of work to write historical fiction and more so with another culture. I tried once. You have to not only edit your sentences, work out grammar and punctuation but make sure every detail is historically accurate. Kudos to you for trying.

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