Author Topic: what about writing from the PoV of a totally different culture?  (Read 1016 times)

Offline threenorns

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what about writing from the PoV of a totally different culture?
« on: January 22, 2012, 03:48:02 PM »
i have another children's story in mind, about a young girl moving to canada from india.

i have no freakin' clue about india barring what i've learned from watching endless bollywood movies (or, should i say, "an endless parade of endless bollywood movies", lol) and i only have a general understanding of the cultural mindset (enough to know that the Shah Rukh Khan movie i just watched - while absolutely sweet and delightful - was completely unworkable; no possible to way to suspend disbelief, even had i used a derrick because no married punjabi woman would be cruising town on the back of a motorcycle and having dinner dates with a man not her husband!).

would it be all right to write the story and maybe pass along to some indian friends of mine for a go-over or should i just, you know.... not do it?

(people are so sensitive about culture these days)

Offline 510bhan

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Re: what about writing from the PoV of a totally different culture?
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2012, 03:53:40 PM »
Friends -- research . . . check anything you're not sure of. ;) ;) ;)
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Offline wanderer

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Re: what about writing from the PoV of a totally different culture?
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2012, 04:44:47 PM »
Personally, I would find it very difficult to do without an excellent understanding of their culture and a lot of research.
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Offline Don

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Re: what about writing from the PoV of a totally different culture?
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2012, 05:03:44 PM »
Not to dissuade you from expanding your horizons but in a limited set of circumstances, write what you know is good advice. This may well be one of those circumstances.

Why would you presume to write from the POV of a culture about which you, admittedly, know virtually nothing? If the story is worth telling, it can be told from a different perspective.
I have a motto: when in doubt, go for the cheap laugh.

Offline REShirley

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Re: what about writing from the PoV of a totally different culture?
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2012, 07:26:50 PM »
Don has it right, but if you must write from an Indian perspective then I would say there is only one way -research, research, research.  You might want to throw in a couple of interviews with experts on Indian culture (Any major metropolitan university can direct you to them if you don't know what to search for online)

It may be fiction, a children's story, but if you approach it like a journalism project you can find what you need.  The question becomes is the story worth the extra time and effort to you? If not, don't do it.
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Offline Annmarie

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Re: what about writing from the PoV of a totally different culture?
« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2012, 04:38:21 AM »
Hi, I wanted to jump in and say do the story how you want, as long as you're willing to do the research. I'm not a fan of "write what you know."  Write what you have a passion about. If it's Indian culture, do the research and write the story. Your experiences up to now should never limit your imagination. You have to be more careful with cultures you don't know, but of course you can do it if you prepare yourself well.

I'm working on a short story where all three main characters are Russians. I've known quite a few, but I wouldn't say it's a culture I know. I'm doing the story anyway because I'm burning to do it. It's a lot of research. I'd be easier on myself if I wrote something else. I like to push myself, and I'm doing the story.

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Offline 510bhan

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Re: what about writing from the PoV of a totally different culture?
« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2012, 04:50:10 AM »
I think it's a challenge, but one than can be overcome -- we all manage to write from different gender POVs and it's not easy trying to see things from another's perspective, especially once you throw in their personality and circumstances. Not everyone will behave or react the same way the role models you know well do [partners/siblings/colleagues].

You don't have to be a sociopath to be able to write about one, but you need to know a helluva lot about them for them to be plausible.

Finding about cultural values isn't that hard to do -- there are quite a few academic papers that deal with the subject. Anything by Geert Hofstede would probably lead to valuable links.
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Offline midnight candle

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Re: what about writing from the PoV of a totally different culture?
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2012, 05:04:11 AM »
Write about what you know is correct - but you can also write about what you find out. Research has never been easier with the internet. In the past year, I've written three successful stories based in Germany, Ireland and Argentina - never been to any of those countries. Make the story and characters believable.


Offline Vienna

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Re: what about writing from the PoV of a totally different culture?
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2012, 06:25:48 AM »
You can do it. But it has got to be spot on. A very well known and successful author was very proud to have visited all the countries that his thrillers were set in. He set one in the Austria/Slovakian area and it was bloody awful. Totally wrong geographically. I believe one can write about what you don't know but it has, as has been said, got to be very well researched.
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Offline threenorns

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Re: what about writing from the PoV of a totally different culture?
« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2012, 07:20:25 AM »
oh, it's worse than that - at this point, while i know the background in my head, it won't be in the story itself - the story starts when a very young Indian girl, coming from a small backward village (that's the term the Indian govt uses on its demographic site, not a value judgement) gets off the plane at Toronto airport and there is no one to greet her.

so the story will take place in Canada with occasional flashbacks that don't require a lot of geographic detail, but it needs a good understanding of the cultural mindset from *her* region of India (which is likely not the same as the one from any other region).

why do i do this to myself?

Offline mfarraday

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Re: what about writing from the PoV of a totally different culture?
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2012, 08:36:20 AM »
Bram Stoker never visited Romania, i've heard.

write what you have a passion about. i agree with Annmarie.

good luck!



Offline gautam

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Re: what about writing from the PoV of a totally different culture?
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2012, 09:43:34 AM »
Hi, I am from India and would love to read such a story.

Offline threenorns

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Re: what about writing from the PoV of a totally different culture?
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2012, 12:14:08 PM »
oh dear.  you may regret your very kind and generous offer,   :D