Writing Someone I’m Not: A Filipino Character

By K. Trian

This post is continuance to my earlier post on writing an obese character. Say what you want, but to me writing someone who isn’t a first-world twenty-something skinny white female takes more than imagination. I have to do research. I have talked with writers who say imagination should be enough, because that makes a writer. Oh, and also people are not that different. Men and women are not different animals (duh), and gays and PoCs are just like you. Whatever you say guys, but that ain’t me. In the light of all the blunders I’ve made in the past (and will make in the future), I believe I have to do research. Period.

Which leads to my other new character to be written, a thirty-something Filipino called Dakila Sandoval. Yup, so it’s a man, older than me, and Asian.

Lucky me I know two people from the Philippines, male and female, who have been very helpful so far, aiding me in my attempts to grasp this character because I don’t want to write a stereotype, a math wiz who knows kung-fu. You know, boxing is a big sport in the Philippines. Just like in the US. Or in Europe (*cough* Manny Pacquiao *cough)*.

But it’s still quite unnerving to do this. Why wouldn’t I write a white young person I know I would get “right”?

For one, the setting of the story requires several nationalities. We’re talking about a post-Earth settlement. Wouldn’t it be weird if only white people survived? Secondly, I want to learn about other nationalities, cultures, and countries. I haven’t the money to travel a lot, but maybe this is my meager way of expanding my knowledge and understanding of the world? Besides, usually people like to see how others portray or see their culture and people.

But there are risks. What if I end up being horribly racist? What if this goes like with my LGBT attempts that I get a bunch of white female lesbians/bisexuals passive-aggressively telling me that 1) gay can’t be villainous 2) gay can’t die 3) a story without gays is ANNOYING. (for the record, a story without white young females is not annoying to me, but then again, yes, yes, it’s not the same and I have a tendency to ride on my high horse…) I digress. The point: what if my attempt to be respective leads to me being offensive? Kila has a drinking problem. There, I said it. He has it. And he’s a Filipino. I’m sorry, I know that’s probably disrespectful, but none of my characters are perfect because humans — are — imperfect. And I like realism. I like flawed people overcoming their weaknesses and making it to the other side with flying colors. I like writing that inspirational shit, but I’d also like to write something else than ten times me.

But I hope that if ask around enough, if I talk with these two wonderful people from the Philippines, if I google the hell out of the subject I’m interested in, and try to set aside my prejudices and preconceptions, maybe, just maybe I’ll manage to write something that would be interesting instead of infuriating to the possible future audience.

-K. Trian

P.S. Kila’s dad wanted him to have a white-collar job, but he became an asteroid miner. That’s a dangerous occupation. Kila’s got balls. You know, I already like the guy even if I say so myself. So I’m going to enjoy writing his adventures with a female hacker who’s not hot like Lisbeth Salander, a bisexual white male ex-soldier, two other females; one PoC and one obese, and a continuously sexually objectified man.


3 thoughts on “Writing Someone I’m Not: A Filipino Character

  1. Finally! We have one of our own in a book! I was so glad when Glen became a more constant character in the Walking Dead. But having a character from my own country in a series I’ve actually read a little bit of? BRILLIANT!

    Super ecstatic, as you guys know, about reading about this guy. Also glad you mentioned Manny Pacquiao. He’s like the pride and joy of my country. I think it’s cool that you guys do your research. It’s better than making a mistake and claiming ignorance.

    It would also be cool if you made him a kung fu master because we really don’t have too much of those in my country, and it would be great to read about one. xD

    Need any more tips, I’ll be happy to provide. It’s cool if he’s an alcoholic, though. Every culture has about a hundred of ’em, so it’s natural. Plus, if I was an asteroid miner, I probably would drink excessively…

    Thanks for taking a leap and writing about an Asian character that’s not a clone of Jackie Chan.


    • Oh don’t get too excited yet! We might still be able to write him out to be a boring, stereotypical character by accident xP maybe he DOES know kung-fu x) Thanks for commenting though, and any and all ideas+tips are welcome 🙂

  2. Research is always important, but yeah, the best thing you can do in writing a character who’s not like you is figuring out -who- they are in addition to -what- they are. How did they get to be the person you see now? Everyone is shaped by family, country, friends, circumstances, the vagaries of their own body. Everyone is different.

    Sorry to hear about your LGBT attempt/experience. I think there’s a lot of instinctual backlash against certain perceived tropes, whether they’re actually present in a work or not. I’m a little worried that I’ll get some of that because of the way my book starts, but heck with it — sometimes someone has to die, sometimes someone has to be the villain, and sometimes a person’s sexuality has nothing to do with what’s going on and so doesn’t come up in the story. If all your villains are flamboyant gay men, you might have a problem (hello lots of anime and serial-killer movies), but if being gay and being a villain are separate parts of the character…

    Just try to write your characters like people, with good points and bad, likes and dislikes, real motivations instead of cardboard cut-outs. That’s the best you can do.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s