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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Young Adult Teen Tuesday-iv

Thanks to Sheri Larson for the YATT
Here I am at Young Adult Teen Tuesday-iv! I have more to say about this thing called culture, and this time it's about including it in our stories.

When we're writing stories that include people of other cultures than our own we have so many  opportunities to explore differences. We also have a chance to increase the depth of our stories and add tension between our characters if we understand some cultural rules, then break them.

I love to put two characters together who know nothing about the other's culture and let them interact. Here's one example. Say we have Paulo from South America and Kevin from Wisconsin in a hallway. They like each other and even want to ramp up their friendship, but something about each of them bothers the other. Here's a possible scene:

"So, about that movie." Kevin stepped back and ran his fingers through his hair. He wished Paulo would stay back a little and stop breathing on him.
Paulo stepped forward, smiling. "I can go, but not early. After four is good."
"Sure. That works." Kevin took another step back and bumped into the wall. Paulo was in his face and Kevin had no way to put more distance between him and this guy. "Can you back off, man? You're crowding me here."
At first Paulo didn't seem to understand, then hurt flashed across his face. "What? I don't smell good or something?"

These two may not go to the movies after all; they may not get to know each other better, and that's only because of a little cultural issue called "personal space." Personal space is an invisible area that members of different cultures find comfortable. In north America we tend to need more of this space than other cultures, and if someone invades that space who is not an intimate (a mom, a husband, a child) we don't like it. Usually we back up until we're in our "comfortable" zone again.

Poor Kevin. He's only trying to put the right distance between himself and Paulo, but then so is Paulo. In South America being close is comfortable.

Using this kind of cultural insight allows you to create a lot of different outcomes:

Paulo and Kevin could have a fight, so you have a dramatic scene.

They could back themselves up and down a hall, so you have a comic scene.

Have you tried any cultural clashes in your stories? If not, next time you have a chance, add a bit of cultural misunderstanding between your characters and see what you come up with. Next Tuesday I'll see what little cultural tidbit I can find to blog about.

28 comments:

  1. Great example, Lee!
    Lots of things to think about to make your story more interesting!

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    1. I'm glad you found it interesting, Kelly.

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  2. Love this take on writing. I write all my books with a lot of diversity which is easy for me to express since I grew up around so many cultures. Not to mention it's so fun.

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    1. You are so fortunate, LM. Exposures to cultural diversity gives a writer so much to draw on for her stories.

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  3. This has given me something to think about when I next revise my latest book that is based on two different cultures at war with each other. Thanks, Lee :) This will add some more depth to my story.

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    1. Super. I'm going to be doing a few more posts like this, so hope they will be of interest.

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  4. Great example! Personal space really is different in so many cultures - eye contact and touching as well. These issues are fun to explore :)

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    1. I'll be writing about some gestures next week. Stop in and add what you know. I'd love that.

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  5. With Mr TR being from Egypt, I'm living in a culture clash! I have used an American and British culture clash in Build A Man. It's fun!

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    1. You are an expert, Talli! Jump in and share. I'd love to hear your personal experience.

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  6. I don't think I have tried using cultural clashes in my stories, but I can see how this would be fascinating. Also, a great source of tension.

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    1. Yes, I think it's a great tension builder. Let me know if you dabble in a bit of intercultural stuff in one of your stories.

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  7. Oh yeah. There are some serious culture clashes in my story. With lots and lots of history. :-)

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    1. I love it. I'd enjoy reading some of what you write.

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  8. I haven't used cultural clashes, but with an example like that, you make me want to try =)

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    1. Great! Let me know what you come up with!

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  9. I really enjoy your "personal space" example. Perfect!

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    1. Thanks, Marcia. I'll be doing a few more posts like this. Hope they are interesting.

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  10. That's one of the things i like best about sci-fi, exploring different cultures, getting a different perspective.

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    1. You're so right, M. I'm an old Star Trek fan because I fell in love with Spock's ears and even the Klingons (sp?) had a certain attraction because they were so different.

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  11. Lee, I tagged you on my blog. Stop by to see what to do now.
    http://kellyhashway.blogspot.com/2012/02/tag-im-it.html

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    1. Thanks, Kelly. Stay tuned next week for my tag!

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  12. I hate being on the underground when half the world is in my ‘personal space', but I would never have thought about including it in a story. That’s one of the things that makes you a writer and me a seller of books! Interesting post.

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  13. Nice to meet you. Good luck with A-Z. I look forward to your posts.

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  14. Cultural misunderstandings are great for conflict! And they can so resolve themselves in so many ways - the misunderstanding could "break the ice" and result in a great friendship or it could go the opposite and be a source of contention throughout the story! Yay!

    Take care
    x

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  15. Great example and fabulous post. I agree with Old Kitty about cultural misunderstanding!

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  16. I love the cultural mash up. I've worked with Afghan vs American in my novel, Refugees, and with haves and have nots in Fireseed One, my new YA. Good topic, Lee!

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  17. I started your book and can say you definitely do a good job getting into a teen head.

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