Basic Tips To Write Subcultures & Minority Religions Better

I could have just as easily titled this one "The Article That Every Writer Of CSI/Bones/Etc. Really Needs To Sit Down And Read," because every time writers of shows like that aim to explore some subculture, minority religion, movement, or any such similar thing, they get it hideously and/or hilariously wrong. So, here are a few tips and pointers to help you from making the same mistakes.

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Whatever you think you already know, it's probably inaccurate or incomplete.

Everybody knows that furries are all a bunch of perverts who want to have sex in animal costumes. Tabletop roleplayers and comic book fans are greasy-haired shut-ins with no social skills. Otherkin are all just a bunch of bored teenagers with special snowflake syndrome. Modern day witches worship an ancient goddess (or "nature") and follow some rule about harming none. Feminists all think men are brutish louts and need to be made subservient, if not extinct. People who vocalize dissent from modern feminism are all just brutish louts or brainwashed victims.

Except... not. Let's take feminists, for example. While there may be varying degrees of truth in any of these statements, they're all about as accurate as saying "white people like wearing shorts with Hawaiian flower shirts" or "men like playing sports." Yes, there are a lot of very nasty feminist types, but many simply simply want to have their ideas taken seriously without their gender being seen as a potentially mitigating factor in the value of what they say or have their perceived attractiveness used as indicators of their value as people, and many find people like Dworkins to be embarrassing and counterproductive. On the flip side, many who express negative sentiment over modern feminism actually have no beef with equal rights in the slightest - their problem is with the increasingly-visible extremists.

Basically, it's the loudest, strangest, and/or most obnoxious members of any group that tend to get the most attention, and thus, end up forming public perception - thus, the public picture tends to be somewhat skewed.

News and television shows ain't accurate or accurately representative, either.

Television shows such as CSI and its spinoffs rarely do any research beyond what's necessary to create drama for the week's episode, and as a result, pretty much everything you'll see therein was wrong. Charmed sort of... attempted to use Wicca as a basis for its premise, but the end product was nothing like the real deal at all. Meanwhile on the news front, reporters are usually more interested in selling a story than getting their facts straight - eg, if a wannabe amateur wrestler kills someone, the headline might read "MAN KILLED BY PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER."

Similarly, when reporters look for a member of a minority group to interview, it's always the oddballs who make the best television. The self-identified witch who dresses in jeans and a t-shirt doesn't make as good of television as the one who dresses in black robes and wears fifteen pounds of jewelry. The millions of monogamous Mormons just aren't going to be as interesting as the polygamist fringe groups. And so on and so forth.

Remember, other peoples' religious/spiritual worldviews make as much sense to them as yours do to you.

Looking at a belief system from an outside point of view, you may find yourself wondering how could anyone believe this nonsense?! It's just so... obviously baloney that there's no way anyone could genuinely believe it unless there was something seriously wrong with the wiring upstairs.

Except... nope. From their points of view, their worldviews typically make perfect sense. This is because while their worldviews may not be consistent with other worldviews (or even reality) all of the time, what mainly matters is that they're generally internally consistent most of the time and explain reality in a manner sufficient to the person who subscribes to that worldview. (All worldviews, no exceptions, have at least a few holes and/or inconsistencies and/or unknowns.)

Get ready to RESEARCH.

Get out there and find the kind of people you want to write about. Read their blogs, find discussion forums, etc. Don't stick with just one or even a few, because that's not enough to give you a very good image. Leave your preconceptions at the door and just listen, even if you don't agree with what you're hearing. An afternoon of research isn't going to do it, either - be prepared to spend days, weeks, or even months learning about the subject in question. Many writers don't actually do any real research, and the end result is that their character's subculture or religion is treated inaccurately, or like a sort of hat that only comes on when it's convenient to the writers - EG, a character is supposed to be Jewish, but this fact only comes up when the writers feel it's time to make some kind of socio-political statement or make a half-hearted attempt at diversity in the work.

See Also:
Basic Tips To Avoid Tokenism
How It Feels To Be A Bigot
Basic Tips To Create More Believable Sci-Fi & Fantasy Religions & Belief Systems
A Few Things Writers Need To Know About Sexuality & Gender Expression
Basic Tips For Writing Orthodox Jews
Simple Tips To Put Yourself In The Shoes Of Characters Who Aren't You

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