It’s Cultural Diversity Day!

It’s May 21, which means we are celebrating cultural diversity today, as set up by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). But what does the term culture mean? Well, that can depend on who is using the term, but one commonly-used definition is:

“[Culture] is that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, laws, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by [a human] as a member of society.”

In other words, culture is a people’s ‘way of life’ meaning HOW they do things in their group. This group may be as large as a continent, country or group of countries; a race, religion or creed; identity, gender or sexuality; or something else (ie. disability).

Some cultures are very large; others are niche; many are somewhere in the middle … And lots of them all intersect together somehow, since most of us are not just ‘one’ thing.

Diversity on B2W

A focus on diversity has long been part of the remit of this site. Though female characterisation is the primary focus (and the one most Bang2writers turn up for in terms of clicks!), you will also find articles here about other elements to do with this topic.

As mentioned in my book, Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, TV & Film, when we say ‘diversity’, the four topics people inevitably think of first are gender, race, LGBTQ and (sometimes) disability. But in real terms, if we look in the dictionary, ‘diversity’ simply means ‘variety’.

So if we’re talking about ‘cultural diversity’, then today we’re talking about all the different types of culture in the world, of every kind. With writing in mind then, writers have their own particular culture … AND represent many more within their writing!

So, I propose that today should be doubly meaningful for us.

Niche? No Thanks

In recent year, cultural diversity has taken centre-stage in storytelling. We not only see writers talking about it (as we had done for many years before now), we’ve actually seen stories make HUGE revenue and garner critical acclaim.

Even Hollywood has got in on the action: movies like Mad Max Fury Road and Black Panther have proved mass audiences are bored with the ‘same-old, same-old’. They want something more than the ‘usual’ – whatever that is. Diversity is no longer a niche interest.

Our choices and intentions

So, now is the time to keep that steamroller going. I still hear a lot of people talking about ‘diversity boxes’ being ticked, or disbelief that stories can even include diversity at all. When we’re literally making stuff up, this is very bizarre!

What’s more, marginalised creatives are still being sidelined in favour of the ‘same-old’ behind the scenes. Publishing is still mostly white; filmmaking is still mostly male – and that’s just for starters.

This is why we need to not only celebrate Cultural Diversity day today, we need to celebrate diversity – aka VARIETY! – every day, every time we consume something creative.

The B2W Diversity Pledge

We need to be intentionally inclusive in our choices and vote with our wallets … It’s the only way to get MORE VARIETY. So, do you pledge:

  • To watch films/TV and read books with female leads (protagonists and antagonists)?
  • To do the same for stories with female secondary characters?
  • Plus stories with female-dominated story worlds?
  • And to do the same as the above for stories featuring people of colour,  LGBTQ people, disabled people, working class people and more?
  • To look out for stories that are about ‘diversity issues’?
  • As well as stories that aren’t just about ‘diversity issues’?
  • To review and recommend diverse works to others?

BEHIND THE SCENES:

  • To watch films & TV by female screenwriters?
  • To watch films & TV by female directors?
  • Plus female directors of photography?
  • And credits for female editors?
  • To read books (fiction and non-fiction) by people of colour?
  • And do the same for books (fiction and non-fiction) by disabled authors?
  • Plus the same by LGBTQ authors?
  • And by working class authors?
  • To follow the careers of marginalised creatives?
  • To review and recommend work by marginalised creatives?

Make it count

There’s a lot here … and I get that people like to consume entertainment according to how they feel on any given day, too. It shouldn’t be a chore!

So, why not make a decision, such as:

  • ‘I will watch 5 movies by female directors in the next year’? or
  • ‘I will read 5 books by people of colour in the next year’ or
  • ‘I will watch/read 5 works by disabled creatives in the next year’

for your own pledge? You’ll be surprised by how easy this is … and how your viewing/reading habits change to become more inclusive organically.

Have fun with it … and enjoy!

More on this:

Stop saying ‘diversity’. Start writing VARIETY!

Top 7 Things Screenwriters Can Do To Improve Diversity

Top 5 Diversity Mistakes Writers Make

How To Write Better LGBT Characters

4 Easy Tips On Writing An Awesome Disabled Character

Infographic: Hollywood’s Diversity By The Numbers

9 Ways To Celebrate The Progress of Female Writers & Filmmakers

Gender Inequality And Film: 5 Key Findings

The 1 Gender Swap That Could Make All The Difference To Your Story

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Brain Boosters

Your brain can get tired easily when you are a writer. We all know that there are many ways to deal with writer burn out and lack of focus, but one of the most effective solutions is definitely brain food.

Here are the best foods that help writers increase both creativity and focus, while also making sure to maintain a healthy body in the process:

1) Chocolate

There is hardly a person in the world who doesn’t like chocolate. You may be avoiding your favorite chocolate for health and bodyline reasons, but this doesn’t mean that you cannot use the healthy alternative to boost your mood.

Dark chocolate is known to change the mood for better and improve the cognitive function, among other things. Since it is high in cacao and antioxidants, you will only need a couple squares in a tough day to get back to your happy moods.

2) Nuts

Nuts are not only tasty, but are actually an excellent brain food for you. If you are seeking new sources of inspiration, you may want to include this food in your new brain-boost diet. Nuts are filled with nutritional goods that include folate and magnesium, both of which are great for the brain.

Peanuts and almonds are most popular when it comes to fighting writer’s block, but so are walnuts. After all, they really resemble a brain, too – it is one of the foods that resemble the body parts they are good for! It is literally the sign you needed.

3) Edamame

With origins from East Asia, the edamame has a variety of benefits for the consumer, one of them being brain boost! The magnesium in this food is great for you, so keep this snack nearby in case you experience a writer’s block.

4) Kale

This might sound like a strange choice, but it is actually an excellent one! Kale has so many benefits for the health of a person, and boosting the mood is just one of them. The magnesium levels in kale are very high. Lucky for you, kale chips is an excellent snack you can easily prepare and consume with joy.

5) Avocados

Avocados are full of folate. Consuming folate helps the writer regulate the serotonin levels and fight off fatigue. Moreover, this food contains 20 vitamins and minerals!

6) Salmon

Fresh-caught salmon is rich with omega-3 fatty acids that boost the gray matter in the brain. You could look at this as building your brain’s muscle (not that this is an actual thing, but it is a great comparison). If you wish to do some creative thinking for your writing tasks, omega-3 fatty acids are a great way to achieve this.

7) Milk

At first I believed that milk soothes me and that’s why I find it great when I need to work. Then I read that it is rich in choline, which apparently helps increase the clarity. Ever since I learned this, I started pouring a glass of milk every morning before I sat down in front of my computer.

Last Points:

If someone gave you the impression that it is easy to become a pro-writer, they lied or you misunderstood. There are many things you need in addition to writing skills and talent, and all of these require your dedication and will. Healthy habits bring about a healthy body.

Since your brain is a highly important part of the body, healthy body means healthy brain, too! This boosts your focus and concentration, and makes you write better. What better way towards a healthy body than through healthy nutrition?

BIO: Mark Thomson is an editor and head writer at the popular essay writing service. He adores creating content related to self-development and writing stuff. Mark is eager to share his experience and thoughts with help of guest blogging.

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Good mental health is key in writing … not just for us as creatives, either! As writers we also need to represent mental health in authentic and meaningful ways in our writing too, as I described in my previous article on How To Challenge Stigma In Your Writing.

So I’m delighted to welcome junior psychiatrist and author Rosie Claverton with some big NO-NOs and pitfalls to avoid in your scripts and novels. Over to you, Rosie …

Mental Health Representations

As we talk more about mental health, depictions of people with mental health problems become increasingly common and more varied, including some great own voices narratives. However, the same tired tropes are also still doing the rounds, so let’s try to knock some on the head. Here’s my top 5 pet peeves:

1) Killers are “psychos” without a motive

The “psycho killer” is the worst mental health stereotype, infesting fiction, media and society with fear and loathing of mentally ill people. Psychopathic and psychotic are used interchangeably and any motivation for action is stripped back to a simple “he’s crazy”. Ugh.

Not only is this harmful to people with mental health problems – a group more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators – it is also lazy writing. A mental illness doesn’t remove agency or make a person a blank slate.

If you hit out because you think someone is trying to deliver you to the FBI? That’s a motive. The experience might not be shared by anyone else, but it’s real to you. It is your motive, even if it’s not obvious to outsiders.

TOP TIP: If your killer must have a mental illness, they are still human. They are not psycho monsters from the shadows whose only motive is “crazy”. Write smarter. MORE: Crime Writing For Beginners 

2) It’s all electric shocks and padded cells

If you ask someone about their impression of treatment for mental illness, the most common response involves One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. A seminal film of the 1970s, it features a scene where Jack Nicholson’s character receives electroconvulsive therapy without anaesthetic as a punishment for his behaviour.

My first recognisable encounter with mental health on TV was Stargate SG-1, where a main character is drugged and locked up in a padded white room. It stayed with me right until I saw my first mental health unit at medical school – and couldn’t find a padded cell anywhere.

TOP TIP: ECT is a seldom-used treatment for the most severe mental illnesses, particularly life-threatening depression. It is heavily regulated in the UK, requiring an independent second opinion if a person is unable to consent. And we don’t use padded cells to contain people, though we sometimes use squishy furniture for safety.

3) People popping pills are all addicts

If someone takes medication in fiction, it is Chekhov’s Tablet – a secret illness or a devastating addiction must be revealed.

Opening a bottle of pills is a shorthand for “this person is Not Coping”. It associates tablets and weakness in the mind of the viewer. It stigmatises mental health medication and painkillers in particular, though asthma inhalers also get a bad rep.

At some point, a well-meaning hero will take the pills and probably dramatically flush them down a toilet. Or they will be used in a suicide attempt, reinforcing their very-bad-no-good label.

TOP TIP: Taking medication is not a sign of weakness or a crutch for the feeble. It is a strength to recognise when support is necessary, and medication can make parts of life accessible where they otherwise wouldn’t be. As the phrase goes – “if you can’t make your own neurotransmitters, store-bought is fine.” MORE: 3 Stories picked around the theme ‘Mental Health Matters’

4) Psychologists sleep with their clients

You would think that this statement was so blindingly obvious that it wouldn’t need saying. Yet I’ve lost count of the number of cool, attractive female therapists who meet a troubled, emotionally-repressed bad boy and end up taking him to bed.

In some forms of therapy, a client unconsciously projects fantasies on the therapist and these are explored. These are not necessarily sexual – parental or mentor feelings can also be placed on the therapist. (Note: do not adopt clients either.)

TOP TIP: Suffice it to say, therapists sleeping with clients is unprofessional! These people should be reported and struck off, and it’s not okay even when you’re not therapist and client anymore. Ever.

5) Mental illness fits into a one-off episode

Sometimes, a TV show or book series is keen to emphasise exactly how much events have affected a character. They want their season finale or big budget spectacle to have further repercussions.

Enter the ‘Very Special Episode’.

The most common illness featured is post-traumatic stress disorder, but depression and addiction are also popular.

Then, next episode, it’s over! The character is probably told to get some help or led to a therapist (who they hopefully don’t sleep with). Then it’s all done and dusted. If you’re very lucky, it might last two episodes or have a couple of brief call-backs during the season.

While some mental illness is episodic, it rarely appears and disappears so quickly and without other consequences. What about the debts racked up during an episode of mania? Or the hours of therapy for PTSD and the lingering hypervigilance whenever a car backfires? How about the third, fourth, fifth relapse of depression?

TOP TIP: Why not think of a story that actually includes the chronic causes of mental illness, the slow recoveries, the altered patterns of life for once? MORE: 5 Ways To Stop Being A Tortured Artist

Concluding:

It is a writer’s role to entertain, but also to understand the impact of their words. Mental illness is a subject in which the impact can be positive and negative, and where the stories we tell can promote social acceptance or social stigma. Depicting a variety of people with mental health problems, not just insane killers or briefly traumatised heroes, and accurately portraying treatment is socially responsible writing that avoids clichés and promotes better storytelling.

BIO: Rosie Claverton is a novelist, screenwriter, and junior psychiatrist. She advocates for sensitive and accurate mental health portrayals, including blog series Freudian Script. She is co-founder of the Welsh crime writing collective Crime Cymru. Her Cardiff-based crime series The Amy Lane Mysteries debuted in 2014, with the latest novel Terror 404 out now. Rosie lives with her journalist husband and nearly new daughter.

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Stigma Subjects

Stigma is defined in the dictionary asa mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation’. Sadly, there are many subjects and things that have a stigma attached, even in today’s more enlightened times. 

Two such stigma subjects include suicide and rape, especially when it happens to young men. Did you know:

  • That 84 men under the age of forty five in the UK take their lives per week? (Stats HERE).
  • 75,000 men in the UK per year – yes, 75K! – were estimated to be sexual assault survivors, with 9K victims raped (or attempted raped) in 2013? (Stats HERE).

If you didn’t realise this, you would not be alone. Stigma means these subjects are not often talked about, because the men with suicidal thoughts or those who have been raped or assaulted (or both), are dealing with shame and fear of not being believed.

Coronation Street

This is why Aidan and David’s twin (but separate) journeys to the edge of their mental health have been depicted brilliantly in UK soap opera, Coronation Street.

For those who don’t know, Aidan’s journey has been one of a happy-go-lucky  ‘lad’ who has gone off the rails. He has made many bad (but nevertheless plausible) decisions, most notably with Eva, his ex-fiancee who jilted him any the altar after it was revealed he was having an affair with her friend, Maria. This lead to him losing his business and the respect of his family and many friends. Though he’s worked hard to get himself out of the mess he created, building bridges with his loved ones (and has had some good success doing so), his mental health has deteriorated rapidly.

In contrast, David was a teen delinquent and is still a deeply troubled young man, but he finally found happiness with wife Kylie … Only to see her stabbed and die in front of him. Even when he found love with Shona, in true soap-style it was revealed her own son Clayton was the one who’d murdered Kylie. But they got over this and committed to each other, only for David to be raped by his supposed friend Josh after a night out.

On Purpose

Telling David and Aidan’s storylines simultaneously was a considered choice by the Corrie Team, as its producer Kate Oates explains:

‘David Platt is having a breakdown. We can see that he’s having a breakdown.

“He’s very unstable because he’s keeping this bottled up and if you were a viewer, you’d think, ‘If anyone’s going to do something to themselves it will be David’. He’s so volatile, look at how angry he is at the world. And actually, it’s the guy over the road that nobody expects – Aidan.’

That’s the brilliance of Coronation Street … It’s authentic, plausible and only too relatable. It is important storytelling as it will reach many people who may not have heard this message by other means.

Diversity means VARIETY

Lots of writers think diversity automatically equals race, or gender, or LGBT. Of course stories may include these things (in front or behind the scenes, too), but in real terms, diversity simply means VARIETY.

True diversity means shining a light on those UNTOLD stories as well, such as challenging the stigma of male rape and suicide, as Coronation Street has done so well. Here’s my top 5 considerations when trying to challenge stigma in our writing after the jump. Ready? Let’s go …

1) Commit to authenticity

Creatives might need to ‘sacrifice facts for drama’, but this needn’t mean rewriting issues and events completely either. There’s ALWAYS  a happy medium to be had when it comes to writing, as long as you commit to portraying something in as authentic a way as possible.

This means never going for the sensational, gratuitous or even plain WRONG for the sake of keeping the viewer or reader’s interest. This also requires not getting preachy or having the subtlety of a brick. Instead, creatives must trust in their audience to recognise the ‘greater good’ here, without going overboard. It’s a fine balancing act, but authenticity is at the heart of it all.

2) Research, Research, Research

Drama might be conflict, plus but that doesn’t mean sticking two fingers up to those affected by issues that carry stigma. It goes without saying that you should always make sure you read about the issue you want to write about as much as possible. Going to talks, exhibitions, museums etc (as appropriate) should be on your hit list too.

In addition, think about approaching organisations who work with the issue you want to write about, because they are able to give advice and information. In the case of Coronation Street, drafts of Aidan’s suicide storyline were read by both The Samaritans and CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably).

Now, obviously big shows can afford this, but even individual writers can find experts online now. Creating relationships with people via social media means most of us can locate teachers, nurses, psychologists, counsellors and more as our online friends.

3) Challenge your own experience

When writers want to challenge stigma, it’s very often because they have experienced it themselves. I was the same approaching my YA book, Proof Positive, which is about teen pregnancy. Teen parents are so often painted as irresponsible, slutty, ill-educated and plain bad parents! Yet this has never been my experience of all the amazing teen parents I know, who are doing a GREAT job and have great kids.

However, it was important in Proof Positive I didn’t just write MY version of being a pregnant teenager, so I interviewed and talked to countless other teen parents and pregnant teens, too. It could only add to my POV for my character – what’s not to like?? It’s always a great idea to consult with people who have literally been through what you want to write about, whenever you can.

4) Be sensitive

… At least in your approach to research! As I mention in my book, Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, TV & Film, social media has made this easier than ever … But NEVER just fire questions off into cyber-space at strangers, especially if you’ve never talked to them before. Crowd-sourcing for opinions on difficult issues via your Facebook page, or via Q&A sites like Quora can really help, because then people can CHOOSE whether they want to share with you.

Also, a note on the tone of your project … Just because sensitive portrayals are desirable, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with them too. Sometimes the greatest taboo-busting writing can come from a genre like comedy, or horror too. Whatever works for your story and style, too.

5) Brace yourself

When you challenge a stigma in your writing, you need to brace yourself. Some people will be  disappointed, or angry about your narrative choices. This may because they feel you have ‘gone too far’ … Or even that you have ‘not gone far ENOUGH’!

Others will believe you have got things wrong, even if you haven’t. You may even come across something you hadn’t considered as a result of these thoughts … and feel you DID get something wrong, or left something out.You may change your mind entirely about an issue by the time you have finished and released the project, who knows?

Just remember – writing a particular project may finish, but writers are always a work in progress. As long as you commit to the things on this list and do your due diligence in your research, you have done everything you can.

Good Luck!

17761123_10154582559506139_691836916590645085_o Want more on this?

Then check out my book, Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, TV & Film, out now from Creative Essentials. Available in paperback and ebook, from Amazon and all good book stores. Click on the link or the pic for more details.

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Work Habits

Habits … what are YOURS like in getting your writing done?

People often say to me they wonder how I can get so much done, even asking if I can ‘bend time’! No I can’t … I owe my productivity to planning and goal setting. Boring but true I’m afraid!

But what of our writing heroes??

Weird Habits

Even if you’re a freelance writer like me, there’s NEVER enough time in the day … Add responsibilities like day jobs and families to the mix and we can soon understand why getting our writing done is a challenge.

But it’s surprising that SOME writers have thought strange superstitions and plain weird beliefs are the key in getting stuff done … Even if they’re super-famous!

So, thanks to Jack who sent this great infographic in … Check out what your favourite authors thought would help them with their writing.

I think I might start copying Victor Hugo’s idea – though I might scare my Skype clients! Which ones might you give a try??

More on This:

12 Unusual & Achievable Productivity Hacks For Writers

11 Habits That Can Transform Your Productivity

10 Tips on Being A Productive Writer

6 Tips For Boosting Writing Productivity

How To Set Meaningful Goals & Stick To Them

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Living Colour

NEWSFLASH: people of colour lived in Europe in medieval times and beyond. In some cases, they were born and died here, too. Who knew?

Well, people of colour living in Europe in medieval times of course, because they were VERY DEFINITELY here. Not to mention all my British and European Bang2writers here today who are descendants of said people.  Doh!

Where does this ridiculous assumption come from? Well, white people of course, some of whom appear to assume the first migrants who made it to Britain were The Windrush Generation (currently in the news, if you’ve noticed).

Not only is this not true (plenty of other countries are available!), BAME people have been here and on the continent throughout history. More on this, next.

Stories and ‘Reality’

Every single time I post about diversity and storytelling, someone (yes, usually a white guy) will bring up the notion of so-called ‘reality’ (which in itself is rather ironic, given we’re talking about fiction, but moving on). But said commentator will make the case:

YES, there *should* be diverse stories; YES there *should* be lead characters who are people of colour; but said characters should only be REALISTIC PORTRAYALS and not ‘forced’ into the story to fit some kind of ‘agenda’. 

If the above looks okay to you, then I agree that it’s on the right track. It IS a bad idea to force diversity into a story for the sake of it, to tick some kind of box, because the character becomes wooden and inauthentic. But then this is the case for anything in storytelling, diversity included, not as some random outlier.

The problem then is the word REALISTIC. To the commentator, the notion of so-called ‘realism’ becomes more important to the story than the actual character. This then means the commentator will make a list of WHEN people of colour apparently *shouldn’t* be included as characters for the sake of realism …

… Yes, you guessed it: this list nearly always includes historical fiction and period drama (TV and movies), especially those set in Britain or the Continent, where there were fewer slaves than the United States.

Yes, apparently only slaves are admissible as ‘realistic’ for some white writers to consider them for their historical pieces. Eeek! Not only is this literally offensive (‘Slavery is the most interesting thing about the history of black people‘), it also erases the many, many other ethnicities (whose depiction on screen is even rarer!).

Not Just Slaves and Servants

In recent years, there have been more and more BAME characters, in both lead and secondary role functions in historical stories. Consider:

  • In Victoria and Abdul (2016), Queen Victoria strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim.
  • Hidden Figures (2016), which told the true story of three mathematicians who made the calculations necessary for the NASA moon landings (and all three happened to be women of colour).
  • Set in 19th Century England, Lady Macbeth (2016), the aforementioned lady of the house takes a BAME lover and causes scandal.
  • Belle (2013) told the story of  the mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral, who is raised by her aristocratic great-uncle in 18th-century England.
  • The biopic Shirley (2011) tells the true story of singer Shirley Bassey, who being born mixed-race and in poverty in 1938 England is the start of an epic climb to stardom.
  • King Arthur: Legend of The Sword (2017) showed a different version of the legend that included black knights and BAME knights and an East Asian mentor for the boy Arthur. Because, why not? It’s a bloody legend!

Whether you liked these films or not, the point is there are plenty of ways to include people of colour your historical story. It’s already begun in earnest. I predict this will continue … and savvy writers will find out everything they can about the possibilities, because varied storytelling is great storytelling.

For Your Consideration

But of course the naysayers will say there ‘weren’t that many’ people of colour in Europe still, since they’re not keen on confronting on their white bias. So consider these FACTS:

i) Muslims in Spain. We all know the British basically invaded everywhere and ended up creating entire nations like The USA, New Zealand and Australia out of its colonies (that’s the short version). But did you know the Moors invaded Spain, waaaaay back in 711? This is why there are so many Muslims there.

ii) Romans were black, too. Similarly, TV dramas and movies may have us believe the Roman Centurions were all white dudes, but the reality is many were born in Africa and were black. The most famous recorded black Romans in the UK were those at Hadian’s Wall. Black Romans were not just foot soldiers either, they were rulers: Lucius Septimius Bassianus, commonly known as Caracalla, was a Black Roman Emperor who ruled from 211 to 217.

iii) Genghis Super-Stud. In addition, it’s believed a whopping 1 in 200 men all around the world are direct descendants of Genghis Khan. This is because in addition to being a war-lord of unbelievable success, Khan understood the importance of genes in conquering your enemies:

The greatest joy for a man is to defeat his enemies, to drive them before him, to take from them all they possess, to see those they love in tears, to ride their horses, and to hold their wives and daughters in his arms.

In other words, it’s more difficult for people to rise up against you when a good chunk of them are related to you. Wow. Can you imagine THAT version of Ghengis Khan in a movie?

iv) Black Britons. In his book, Black And British: A Forgotten History, historian David Olusoga shows that not only Black Britons fought at Trafalgar and in the trenches of the First World War, but that black history is interwoven into the culture and economic history of this island dating back centuries. In her own book, Black Tudors: The Untold Story, author Miranda Kaufmann traces the history of Africans living free in and around the courts of famous icons like Henry VIII.

v) Asian Britons.  Given Britain’s colonial history, especially it is unsurprising that British Asian makes up 6.9% of the UK population, according to Wikipedia. However, many people assume this was only the case after WW2, which is untrue – Asians’ presence in Britain dates back a good four hundred years at least. Here is a starting point as an outline of Asians in Britain, 1600-1947, courtesy of the British Library, plus you can also check out Asians In Britain: 400 Years of History, by Rozina Visram, which traces and investigates many primary accounts.

v) British Chinese. The first recorded Chinese person to visit Britain came in 1685; now there are roughly 400,00 British Chinese people here. You’ve probably been to Chinatown in Soho, London but what you may not know is that it’s no modern thing – it’s been there since the 17th century. Many Chinese people here were seamen, whose families later had to find work on land when merchant shipping declined after WW2. IN FACT you may not be aware there were six Chinese survivors of The Titanic … Yes, THE Titanic. Read about their story, HERE.

Or, y’know, why not talk to some actual historians? There’s plenty of them about on social media and guess what! They love talking about history! When I was researching my book, Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, TV & Film, I consulted with three of them in depth AND chatted informally to a bunch more, all found on social media. Easy peasy, baby!

All this is just for starters, people!!!

All of these facts above made their way to me, by (amongst other things) just five minutes of Googling … Not by this mythical ‘diversity force’ so many (white) people online seem to wail about. (Also ‘diversity force’ sounds awesome, do we get badges??).

I keep my ears and eyes open for things I don’t know. I accept my own white bias may get in the way of me discovering INTERESTING STUFF. As a writer, why would you want to close your mind to that???? We’re supposed to WANT to be interested in new ideas and POVs!!!

So, forget about politics and agendas, we’re writers, we should actively WANT to find stuff out we didn’t know as – surprise! – it makes us better writers. What’s not to like???

Concluding:

The fact that audiences have mostly seen and read black characters depicted as slaves and servants with walk on/walk off parts in historical stories doesn’t make it true. Yes, I am stating the obvious. We wouldn’t say BAME people don’t exist in the future (thank you Disney’s Star Wars!), so why on earth would (white) people say they didn’t exist in the past, except for subordinate roles???

But many white writers have an EPIC blind spot when it comes to historical tales and people of colour. Whether you think storytelling is political or not, you surely can see how BORING it is to see the same thing, over and over again?

With this in mind then, think about these facts and pointers:

  • People of colour existed all throughout history, including Europe
  • It’s actually historically INACCURATE to exclude people of colour from your historical story
  • BAME people are TOO OFTEN slaves and servants in historical stories
  • Think about having a BAME lead for your historical story
  • Forget about ‘realism’, consider AUTHENTICITY instead for your historical story by including people of colour in it
  • Forget about buzzwords and AGENDAS
  • DO YOUR RESEARCH!!

Have Fun and Good Luck!

For more on this subject, plus LOADS more info on writing characters from an array of communities and backgrounds, check out my book, Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, TV & Film. Here’s what people have said about it:

‘A timely guide to creating original characters and reinvigorating tired storylines’Debbie Moon, creator and showrunner, Wolfblood (BBC)

‘Lucy V. Hay nails it’Stephen Volk, BAFTA-winning screenwriter: Ghostwatch, Afterlife, The Awakening

‘Packed with practical and inspirational insights’Karol Griffiths, development consultant and script editor, clients include ITV, BBC, Warner Brothers

Available from Kamera Books’ Creative Essentials range in both paperback and ebook. BUY NOW.

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Editing is hard work

Editing your own writing is a huge undertaking. It’s difficult to edit your own work, so you need to be vigilant. You also have to take into consideration things such as when you edit and who you get to assist you. Identify crutch words, pay attention to technical aspects, and you’ll be left with a polished masterpiece. Well, a polished draft anyway! Check out these top tips: 

 1) Have your draft read to you

It’s much easier to detect errors when you hear your work read aloud. There are two options: have someone read it to you or have a computer program read it to you. Most people choose the latter, as it tends to be much less frustrating. Going the computer route will be different depending on if you use a Mac or a PC, instructions for both operating systems can be found here. MORE: 5 Questions To Help You Edit Your Own Work

2) Come back to it later

You might be tempted to get right down to editing soon after finishing your novel or screenplay. Don’t do it! You want to give the manuscript a rest before coming back to it; the longer, the better. Stephen King gives his draft six weeks in a drawer before he begins his editing process. The reason for this practice is that you want to be as objective and unemotional as possible when you edit. You want to forget a lot of what you wrote and feel as if you are editing someone else’s work. MORE: Top 10 Killer Words That Make Readers Switch Off 

3) Watch out for crutch words

You would be surprised at how dependant you are on certain words. It’s important that you identify the words that you use too frequently and change them or your work will suffer tremendously. You don’t want to flip through your draft counting words, so use a program such as Scrivener to do the job for you, it’s compatible with both Mac and PC. MORE: Top 10 Words That Will Kill Your Writing DEAD 

4) Get technical

Now it’s time for the oh so glamorous parts of the editing process. We’re talking about punctuation and formatting. While this part might be tedious and not so fun, it’s crucial that you clean this stuff up. Unless you want to look like a total amateur?

So, watch out for your commas, because most people tend to use them too often. Semicolons are another tricky one for many people, so watch how you use them. When it comes to formatting, keep in mind that you should format in a way that makes it easy for your editor to read it. Make it double-spaced, a Word document, and in black type on white, with 12-point Times New Roman font. MORE: 10 Common Errors You Need To Fix In Your Writing Right Now 

5) Content tips and tricks

Let’s get into some ways to improve the flow of your actual content. Eliminate needless words. You’d be amazed at how many times the word ‘that’ is used unnecessarily. Use the normal word rather than giving in to the temptation to show off your big vocabulary. Your point can easily get lost along the way when you’re too concerned about how many syllables are contained in your word. Don’t sacrifice clarity for anything. Never use the word literallywhen you mean figuratively; it just looks bad. Avoid cliches if at all possible. We really don’t need another literary scene in which two future lovers literally bump into each other. Most importantly, learn to accept constructive criticism. As a writer you need to be your toughest critic, so work on thickening that skin. MORE: What Script Editors Do (Case Study) 

6) Editing and proofreading resources

There are a lot of proofreading and editing resources available online, some much better than others. You’ve got enough on your mind when you’re trying to edit your own book, so we’ve compiled some really solid resources here to help you in your process:

1. State Of Writing and Grammar Checker are useful grammar guides that will make your editing process easier.

2. Via Writing and SimpleGrad are good writing resources for anyone writing and editing their own work.

3. Cite It Inand Easy Word Count are good tools to help you use citations properly and make sure your word count is correct.

4. My Writing Way and AcademAdvisor are useful writing blogs, where you can find advice from people undertaking similar projects.

 It’s finally done!

Editing your own writing involves a lot of different steps and considerations. Be sure that you are far enough removed from the writing process so that you can be objective as you edit. Don’t rush the technical parts, boring and tedious though they may be, or your work will suffer. Be sure to take into consideration our content tips and tricks, and take advantage of some great resources mentioned above. Follow all the steps in the self-editing process and your book will turn out a technical and literary masterpiece you can be proud of.

BIO: Grace Carter is a writer at Essayroo and UKWritings services. She helps students improve writing skills by providing private tutor lessons there. Also, Grace is a proofreader at PaperFellows service.

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Rejected Again?

Rejected Bang2writers seemed to be sharing their disappointment everywhere on social media last week, especially in the B2W Facebook group. This was because the results for the BBC Writersroom Spring Drama call were out and many of us (me included, by the way) did not advance, in either the first or second sifts.

Savvy Bang2writers know we will get rejected. It’s not possible to move forwards in our writing careers without this happening. We also appreciate it (usually) hurts less and less each time we get rejected. So, by this logic, we have to just keep going. Right?

But what next??

Every time there is a big script call like the BBC’s, my inbox gets flooded by rejected Bang2writers asking ‘what next??’ This can usually be broken down into two sections:

  1. What next for this particular script??
  2. What next for my career??

I get it. Sometimes disappointment breeds hopelessness, so when we are rejected we might feel like there’s no point in continuing, or we can’t see ‘the wood for the trees’ as the old saying goes.

But there IS a point in continuing and there IS a tree out there with our name on it … We just have to find the bugger, chop it down and build it into whatever the hell we want. Here’s how …

1) Revisit Your Rejected Script

First up, consider – is it any ‘good’, not only in terms of the actual writing, but its concept? How do you know this? Did you:

i) Do peer review? If you did, were those peers the same ‘level’ as you in terms of writing? Were any of them pro writers? Did any of them give you craft-based feedback, or did they give you notes that referred to their own preferences?

ii) Get professional notes? Was the script reader renowned? Or a professional writer’s service? Or was it a pro writer’s side hustle? Do you feel as if you got good, actionable feedback? Did they give you any insight to the marketability and/or concept of the script as well? Or was it all to do with craft?

iii) Have you sent it to other people and places? Have you got good feedback from agents, producers or other people? Has it placed in any other schemes or contests? Has it got you meetings or invites for anything else?

If the answer is YES to all the above, chalk up getting rejected **this time** and move on. If NO, think about doing the above steps, next.

2) Find Somewhere/ Someone Else To Submit Your Script

Loads of Bang2writers write to me every year saying they have ‘no idea’ where to send their screenplays … Why not try these sites and resources? I’ve either used or checked them all out and can confirm they have good stuff and ideas on what next for writers:

Ashley Scott Meyer’s Sell Your Screenplay site  – includes a useful download

Jane Friedmann’s Beginner’s Guide To Selling Your Screenplay

Raindance’s 9 Golden Rules For Selling Screenplay

Buy Adrian Mead’s ‘Making It As A Screenwriter’ (all proceeds to Childline)

Buy Screenwriting Goldmine’s ‘Fearless Pitcher’ book – useful listing of places that will read your script without an agent

Paid-for pitching services like Roadmap Writers

Script hosting sites like Inktip and The Black List (fee payable)

Screenplay competitions like THESE ONES (some are free)

Go to London Screenwriters’ Festival and pitch – still plenty of time yet to plan ahead and smash it out the park this September with those read requests!

And From B2W

PLUS:

Can’t Get Read? Yes You Can! 16 Top Tips

I’ve Written A Screenplay. Now What? 

‘It’s A Catch 22!’ How to Get Produced Without An Agent

How To Get Your Work Solicited Via Email (And Not Blow It in The Very Next Email)

How To Get Past ‘No Unsolicited Material’

3) Make The Damn Thing Yourself

Done ALL of the above and still got rejected everywhere? Damn!

But wait, it’s not the end of the road just yet … What about making it yourself? No, don’t just say ‘I can’t’. Where there is a will, there’s a way and all producers and directors started *somewhere*. Could your script be made into a:

  • short film?
  • web series?
  • play?
  • graphic novel?
  • feature?
  • novel?
  • something else??

Bang2writers have done ALL of these things and more. The key is to start researching NOW. It’s only over when the fat lady sings and she is GAGGED in my house.

4) Develop A Portfolio

You’re a writer. Using the same script, over and over and over for everything is madness. You need to be writing and polishing NEW stuff all the time. Here’s the type of scripts people actually WANT:

5) Develop A Strategy

Throwing spaghetti at the wall randomly may mean you succeed at one thing by accident, but it won’t help you build a sustainable writing career. You need a PLAN for that. So:

  • Decide what kind of screenwriter you want to be
  • Research the hell out of your chosen medium, style, genre, etc
  • Research WHO makes stuff like the type you want to be involved in
  • Research where opportunities are – not only for submissions, but in making contact with these people
  • Planning to attend events and for various submissions etc (no more last minute rewrites and sends!)
  • Write scripts that you KNOW will appeal to these people as well as just you (ie. by asking them at events; following theirs social media accounts)
  • Adding to your knowledge and feeding your passion constantly

Note how I am not advocating that you become a hack, writing solely FOR the marketplace here. You write what you are passionate about AND find out as much as you can about your chosen niche … What’s not like???

Concluding:

I know getting rejected stings. I stopped counting when I got to 100 rejections … And that was back in 2003!!! So, acknowledge the pain and get back on that horse. I believe in you. Here’s some more on dealing with rejection in video format.

Good Luck!

How To Build Your Online Empire

Come to my next talk, in conjunction with Funzingjust £12! Ever wondered what it takes to build a following online, or how to avoid making epic social media faux pas? Or how to better use your blog to sell your services, products and connect with like-minded people online? THIS IS FOR YOU!!!

My next talk is called How To Build An Online Empire and will be at Trapeze, London on May 21st between 19:00pm – 21:00pm and will cost just £12.00.

I’ve partnered with Funzing, a new organisation that hosts talks and lectures in bars in trendy venues all across the UK. You can get a drink in an informal environment and listen to a great talk about a subject you’re interested in. Result!

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Successful Writers

Everyone wants to be successful – that’s a no-brainer. But my first novel was a great idea, but it was badly written and it flopped. My second novel was a decent idea that was well-written, but still didn’t get published. C’est la vie.

But it appears to be third time lucky as the buzz on LinkedIn and Twitter on my book, Everybody Works in Sales, has been incredible. Here are the mistakes you must avoid if you want to succeed as an author, especially if you go indie:

Successful Secret # 1: Embrace Change

Too many writers don’t use technology. The internet is your friend: embrace it, don’t fight it! It’s not enough to just use Google or slap Amazon links around social media. You need to understand the power of Youtube, Instagram, Facebook author pages, Google ad words and having a good website so you can ENGAGE your readers. This 48 second Youtube video was so difficult to create and upload, yet has been more effective than anything I’ve done to promote my book. Well worth the effort of learning something new.

Successful Secret # 2: Don’t Make Excuses

“I’m tired. The kids drive me crazy. My partner doesn’t understand me. I’m too busy.”

All these excuses are genuine; I have experienced them as well.  But the difference between successful authors and unsuccessful authors is only that successful ones don’t make excuses. Turn off all distractions. Writing for 30 minutes in the morning while everyone is asleep and 30 minutes over lunch is how I write. I have a 9-5 job, a family and do charity work like sponsor kids through Action Aid.  If I can find 1 hour a day to write, so can you. Honest!

Successful Secret # 3: Get Help

Most writers try and do it alone. Nobody does it alone. Mark Zuckerberg had a mentor (Steve Jobs); Oprah had a mentor (Maya Angelou) too. So many writers on hit TV shows have people supporting them, plus they hang out with other writers who encourage them. My biggest regret in my 27 year career is that I didn’t invest early enough in a script editor to mentor me and form a writing support group. When I finally did, my writing became more successful. I had featurescreenplays optioned; I got sitcoms commissioned; plus my first movie, Naachle London, came out in 2012. All because I invested in a script editor with EVERY draft and formed a writers’ group where we can help each other through tough times.

Successful Secret # 4: Sell, Sell, Sell

We all have to sell. Most people don’t know how to sell, or don’t want to sell because they associate it with sleazy car salesmen or annoying cold callers. My book, Everybody Works in Sales is designed to help you learn the skills you need. Don’t have time for reading? No problem – unlike most non-fiction books which are 250-350 pages, Everybody Works In Sales is only 160 pages. People have read it in less than a week and have started implementing the rules and changing their lives. One of my readers is an estate agent who struggled to sell properties; he now has customers wanting to do business. Another was a shy writer who came out her shell; she can now holds a conversation with agents.  An introvert teacher was promoted to Vice Principal because I was able to coach her to sell herself better and gain more confidence. This book will help you do better in your career, too by helping you FIND the opportunities to sell yourself, your products, services and talents. Because Everyone Works In Sales!!!

Successful Secret # 5: Take Care of Your Health

Most writers I know are not in great shape. We’re hunched over a computer or laptop. We don’t exercise. Since turning 45, my health went downhill quickly. I’ve read so many diet books that tell you different things and had so many doctors gave me wrong advice. Finally, on the advice of a friend who turned her health around, I quit diary, cut back sugar by 50% and started walking 10,000 steps every day. I won’t quite sugar completely, because I’m a human being and life without cake or chocolate isn’t worth living. But now I’m taking better care of my heath, I focus more, achieve more and feel so much better! It’s the small things that help you feel better, so do whatever you can to take care of yourself.

BIO: Everybody Works in Sales by Niraj Kapur is designed to help you do better in your career because we all work in sales. Available now on Kindle and paperback. Get it HERE.

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Animated Inspiration

Animated properties like comic books, movies and TV shows are often popular with children – and more and more, we take these first loves into adulthood as well. It’s not hard to see why, either: our animated heroes – particularly superheroes – have many life lessons and morals to teach us.

Looking at icons such as Batman, Spider-Man and Wonder Woman can be particularly useful to writers, whether we personally like them or not. After all, these are some of the most enduring characters of the modern age, meaning there are certain questions we can consider for our own, such as:

… And plenty more, besides.

Superhero Quotes

So, here’s a list of things animated superheroes have said … We can take on board their words not only in considering our own writing journey, but our own characters’ as well, plus what they are up against in the story world. Don’t forget to scroll down for more on this, too. Enjoy!

Inspirational Quotes from Superheroes and Comic Books - PlaygroundEquipment.com - Infographic
PlaygroundEquipment.com

Princesses As Heroes

When it comes to animated content, I’ve never been much for comic books. Even though I have seen every superhero movie going thanks to my son and youngest daughter (who are HUGE Marvel and DC fans), I also have another daughter who was a passionate Disney Princess devotee when she was little.

Before I had her, I’d never really looked at or thought much about Disney Princesses. I was that bit too old to notice them when they first came out, plus I’d absorbed the stereotype that princesses automatically meant ‘damsel in distress’. No thanks!

However, unlike many of the commentators who persisted with saying Disney Princess movies are ‘bad for girls’, as I started watching them (and the entire back catalogue with my daughter), I began to notice something …

Like the superheroes, who are often lauded as having things to teach us, the princess narratives did too, based on the ‘hero’ mono myth:

  • Born into danger or royalty or both? CHECK! Disney Princesses are most often literal princesses and frequently in danger, often as a result of dead parents
  • Some kind of event (frequently traumatic) will act as a catalyst to set her on her quest – often those dead parents; or they are ostracised for some reason; or need to rescue someone/find answers; or they are curious
  • Leaves family or land and lives with others – CHECK!
  • Hero has a special weapon only she can wield? CHECK! (Very often this weapon will be figurative, as only Disney Princess characters know the truth or what’s ‘right’, in particular)
  • Hero may have supernatural help (maybe an outsider, maybe from within himself, or both) – SUPER-CHECK! Disney Princesses always have a side-kick and frequently use magic, or get others to use magic for them
  • She will go on a journey of some kind (often literal, as well as metaphorical) – again, CHECK.
  • The Hero must prove himself many times while on adventure – CHECK-CHECK-CHECKITY-CHECK!

Yet for SOME reason, superheroes are considered mostly GOOD, whilst Disney Princesses are considered mostly BAD by progressives, even those who say they would like more female leads on screen. Very strange.

Why the discrepancy?

Let’s be clear. Both superheroes and Disney Princesses have their ‘problematic’ elements. Superheroes, especially in movies, suffer from a lack of diversity in that they are mostly white, able-bodied, straight males. Whilst Disney Princesses have put WoCs front and centre as leads since the 90s, there’s never been a disabled princess … Plus the notion of being royalty and the way they are drawn, with tiny waists and European features is considered icky at best, for some.

But these things aside, there is still a major bias here, especially considering the journeys of both sets of characters are practically identical. After all, when was the last time you heard an adult say they liked Disney Princesses, like they do superheroes? If you’re friends with me,  you will have heard me say it … And you’ll have probably heard someone else say something along the lines of, ‘Really?? I thought you were a feminist!’

It’s almost as if superheroes get MORE of a free pass than Princesses … And superheroes are most often male, whereas Disney Princesses are ALWAYS female. Huh. What do you know!

Princess Wisdom

So, here’s some writing wisdom from *my* heroes the Disney Princesses … Many of these quotes resonate very strongly with me, especially Tiana’s which reminds me of Maya Angelou’s famous advice, ‘Nothing will work unless you do.’ I wouldn’t mind betting this was intended, either. Enjoy!

From She Knows

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