Or….Gettin’ Jiggy Wit Dear Gentle Writer…
So you want to write black characters but you’re afraid of getting it wrong.
*Biting Lip to hold back from making inappropriate yet terribly funny side comments*
Never fear! Biraical Girl Is Here!
No seriously, I was watching Wanda Sykes on HBO the other night and I nearly peed my pants. She did this whole monologue on coming out. Wanda’s a lesbian and also black. And she turned the whole ‘telling your parents you’re gay’ thing into a ‘telling your parents you’re black’ thing. HYS-TERICAL!!! Then she started talking about what having a black president meant to her–namely that she could now go buy a whole watermelon and not feel ashamed or embarrassed. So even though it’s not Friday and this isn’t “technically” Dear Gentle Writer, I thought, after some stuff I had read recently that maybe I could help a white sista out…(yeah cuz I’m the internet’s foremost expert on all things black).
I’ve written one–count it people–ONE black character. Technically he was mixed (black and latino. It’s been so long I THINK he was black and Puerto Rican but I don’t remember). I also wrote a biracial (black/white) character.
Hey! Does writing two biracial characters = writing 1 black character? = TOTALLY QUALIFIED TO TALK ABOUT WRITING BLACK CHARACTERS?!
Anyway…I knew when I sent it to my CP that she would bust me on any, let’s call them, inconsistencies which brings us to….
RULE 1: Get a black critique partner or barring that, a black beta reader. Worst case scenario, invite your child’s ONE BLACK FRIEND over for dinner try to con them into introducing you to their mother.
RULE 2: EAT LOTS OF WATERMELON Google “HOT BLACK MEN”. Watch BOYZ IN THE HOOD over and over until you’re threatening to bust a cap in your kid’s ass and you own a wide assortment of bandannas…ORRRRRRRR watch NEW JACK CITY until you find yourself overcome with the need to buy a pimp hat and/or strip down and fill bags with yellowish-white rocks. Worst case scenario–like if you can’t find either on DVD–check out THE WIRE. Cuz nothing says “BLACK” like little kids slingin’ drugs in the ghetto–not even fried chicken and rap music. Be sure and take lots of notes, so that you GET IT RIGHT!!
What? You hesitate? Still afraid of getting it wrong? Come on people! How many of you have killed someone on paper? How many of you practiced on a REAL LIVE PERSON first? (or you know, had sex with a real live werewolf cuz, like that is so TOTALLY REALISTIC) … uh you in the back…that was a rhetorical question.
(Somebody call 911! We got us a live one here!)
RULE 3: Do your research. Read books by black authors. And uh Toni Morrison or any book by a black author that was also an Oprah selection don’t count. Go get yourself some good old fashioned Urban/Thug/Street lit or whatever the kids are calling it these days. That way you’ll get the slang right. Black folks and JR Ward fans will appreciate that cuz they hate it when you get the slang wrong. (Don’t’cha know!)
RULE 4: I know this one is kind of a given — but listen to black music–and none of that sappy-ass I’ll Be There Michael Jackson/Aaron Neville/Boys II Men acapella mashup crap either. Get yourself some Tupac, some Fitty Cent and Lord love ya chile while you’re at it, be sure and get you some Eazy-E or NWA cuz everything you really want to know about being black you can learn from rap music (ZOMG ICE CUBE WAS REALLY BLACK BACK IN THE DAY!! Who Knew?). If you’re too embarrassed to buy your “black” music at Target or Wal-Mart, you can try iTunes. If you’re afraid of making BAD CHOICES, just hit the club instead and discretely jot down the titles of any songs that catch your ear.
RULE 5: Hit your local neighborhood black club. If you’re not sure how to spot a black club, check the parking lot. Most of the cars will be sportin’ rims that cost 3X what the car is worth. A word of caution: If you are cursed with a less than endowed ass, stuff pillows in the back of your jeans to fill it out. If you are also cursed with a less than well-endowed topfront-side, I recommend stuffing your push-up bra too (cuz all black women have big breasteses). This way you can blend in better. Be sure to take your child’s black friend’s mother with you. She knows the secret handshake that will make the shorties teach you how to “get low.” Just don’t order a martini. Black folks don’t drink martinis. And when you leave the bar, do NOT roll down your car window and sing DEPECHE MODE or DEF LEPPARD at the top of your lungs.
(BTW If you listen to Akon, you have to listen to all of it–not just the really cool sorta white sounding songs that remind you of that HAWT black guy from when you waitress-ed in that strip club that you wished you’d let hit it–k?)
That’s all folks. You’ve reached the end of the lesson on how to write black if you ain’t. Please note: No fried chicken was harmed in the making of this blog post.
If you made it this far, please email me your snail mail address so I can send you my super-special “I’m qualified to write black folks” ribbon. You can stick it to your badge the next time you hit an RWA conference.
DISCLAIMER: If you suffer any physical harm/injury or death in the execution of these tips, I will not be held liable. I’m only half black, I was raised by whites and while I’ve never lived in the hood, I’ve driven through it a few times.
DISCLAIMER #2: This is all in good fun/tongue in cheek and should be taken as such. If you have no sense of humor, please hear me when I say that while I’ve never set a man’s car on fire or busted out his windows, I do a superb angry black woman. Peace OUT!