Posted by: victanguera | January 18, 2011

Prejudging: Writing Prompt #291

On twitter a while ago, someone posted that they’ve never met a Scorpio that they’ve liked. My first response was that I’d love to meet her, just to prove her wrong. But I know I’d have a hard time being civil as I’d already feel like she’d made up her mind about me and that it wouldn’t matter. I also would want to slap her upside the head. It’s a small step from saying all Scorpios behave thus to saying all people of a certain ethnic group act a certain way.

So for today’s prompt, does one character prejudge people before they come in a room? Can you portray that in a way that it doesn’t come across negatively? How can you give them a wake up call if their assumptions about people are negative? Can it be a funny quirk? Could it be a positive assumption? Like believing that all tall people can play basketball or all Latins have great rhythm? To make it tricky, try writing a scene where all your character’s assumptions are shattered. How do they cope?

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Responses

  1. The other way to do this is to tweak the reader’s common assumptions about people. Introduce a character and don’t specify race or sexual preference, and then later casually mention that he is Black or that she is gay or whatever. You catch a fair number of readers who have been assuming that, unless specified, characters are white and straight.

    Samuel R. Delany (who is Black and gay) has said that one reason he became a writer (and specifically a science fiction writer) was that he read Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, where you learn way late in the book that the main character is Black, because in the future society depicted it really doesn’t matter. But I’m sure most readers assumed he was white, and if they missed one line they probably continued to assume it through to the end of the book.

    Robert Altman used to do this in his movies, too, as I talked about here:
    http://u-town.com/collins/?p=1095

    • That’s a very good point. Stereotypes go both ways and often we forget the reader makes assumptions, too. This would make another great prompt–or an addition to the prompt. Thanks!


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