Wednesday, April 27, 2011

X is for... Xenophobia

I really struggled to come up with a topic for this X post. There just aren't a lot of good words starting with X. So we'll have to go with this one, something I hate. Xenophobes hate people who are different to themselves. That's the only reason. It's usually based on skin color or religion or some other little detail. Xenophobia is responsible for a huge amount of violence, even war. I mean, if Hitler hadn't been so xenophobic about Jews, World War Two would never have started.

It's not a new concept. Throughout history people have hated (or feared) those who are different to themselves. It's ill-educated, because if you take the time to get to know somebody, anybody, you'll find there are far more similarities than differences.

So how am I going to tie this into writing? Well, I'm thinking about how all good drama is based on conflict. Xenophobia can be the basis for multi-layered conflict. A character has all the external conflict of dealing with the object of his mistrust, possibly coping with people trying to convince him he's wrong, and the inner conflict of reconciling long-held beliefs with a changing reality. It doesn't even have to be a major prejudice, like hating black people, or Muslims. You can have your character hate cheerleaders in an irrational, xenophobic way. The conflict will still be there.

Do you have any xenophobic characters in your work? How do you utilize them?


  1. Is xenophilic a word? Love of diversity in writing, there's a fun topic!

    Not that this isn't. And actually, I do have well, not precisely a xenophobic character, but the MC of one of novels is racist, misogynistic and homophobic. I wanted him to be an unlikable narrator, but still compelling. He's SUPPOSED to piss people off, without me being preachy about it. But at the same time, I worry, being you know, being a white male, that I'm taking liberties I shouldn't, and poking at wounds I have no right too - even if I INTEND for his viewpoints to be so wrongheaded that its completely obvious, he still expresses certain ideas that are offensive, whether or not I actually agree with them, and I just don't know if I'm okay with people actually being offended by stuff I wrote knowing it'd have that effect.

    ....its a very complicated manuscript. LOL.


  2. My tie in with xenophobia is my own desire to use ethnic characters. How do I introduce their ethnicity? And to make matters worse, they are in an Edwardian setting. So, the phrase "African-American" just does not work. I usually try and sneak it in with skin / hair / eyes description, but I feel so chiché doing so.

    It's one of my constant searches as a writer.

  3. What a fun word. I definitely have xenophobic characters... since I'm working with vamps, witches and werewolves, they're all pretty xenophobic and really hate each other.

  4. Interesting topic. I'm not sure I have one in my WIP, but I know I SHOULD. The WIP is set up for many to exist, but I haven't written any yet. I have a problem with making characters bad...