Tricks of the Writing Trades (1 of 5): Specific Ethnic Characters

From the concerted efforts of writers on major motion pictures to comics creators, novelists, travel bloggers, copywriters and others in between, writers are using an arsenal of techniques, methods and tricks in the shared pursuit of capturing the emotions of the audience. 

The creativity of it all is fascinating. So here are my thoughts on…

Writing Characters to Specific Ethnicity to Expand Your Audience

You may be noticing the expanding diversity of actors in movies. More African, Asian and Women actors are appearing on the silver screen every year. While a lot of this is in response to the cry for greater diversity in movies, which is great but a tad late, certain character diversity is governed by the Top Brass at the studios wanting to expand into burgeoning markets, such as China, now the world’s biggest film market.

To stay in focus, let’s concentrate on two bigger examples, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: Rogue One. In Episode 7, you may have noticed some Asian pirates after Han, Rey, Finn and Chewie in that scene on the Millennium Falcon, who didn’t do much other than posture a non-threat. ‘So what?’, you say. Well, these damn talented Filipino actors are actually the stars of two of the best Martial Arts action movies of the past decade – The Raid 1 and 2. Thus, some of the audience or market was expecting more from them.

Quite recently, Rogue One enlisted Chinese Martial Arts and Action movie legends Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang to play the roles of a Kung Fu monk and his big-ass gun carrying comrade-in-arms to, well, fight and die. Sounds… err… kinda cool, right? Well, no. Not really. See…

‘Die, You Imperial First Order Scum!’

…what I want you to take away from this is that these roles are developed and given to non-white actors in order to capture the attention of foreign audiences. Hell, it works to a certain extent, until it fails miserably because the characters don’t resonate, are hollow, don’t fulfil expectations, etcetera etcetera etcetera. In these two cases, the characters:

  • In Episode 7 – fail to serve the story (because the movie sucks)
  • In Rogue One – feel forced in (pun) to a hollow endeavour

For you screenwriters going for those big buck flicks, remember, if you’re writing in roles for foreign stars, make sure the actor gets to do what he or she is famous for – which is most likely kicking butt (especially nowadays). And the same goes for writers wanting to add some diversity to their own stories. Make sure the each character serves the story and not the backdrop or the needs of the powers that be.

‘I swear! Show the sub, get the hipsters!’

Hey, want more? Check out:


10 Sure-Win Methods to The Conjuring 2

This surprising little horror movie feels like one of the American classics – The Exorcist or The Omen – but set in North-West London. An American husband and wife team of paranormal investigators, haunted by a demon of their own, travel to London to help a mother and her four children plagued by a malicious spirit. It’s a fun flick.

Something almost integral to any modern horror doesn’t occur in this movie and that’s part of why it succeeds. What is that ‘something’ you ask? No spoilers.

What makes this movie so fresh? Countdown:

10. The Cinematography. James Wan uses clever shots inspired by horror films of the 70s and 80s to punctuate ordinary turning points with disorientating moments.

9. The Atmosphere. There’s a gloom that permeates the film’s atmosphere that’s layered upon themes of love between a mother and her children and the love between a married couple. This juxtaposition makes the film easier to swallow and more fun to watch.

8. The Scares. They won’t make the hardened horror-flick vet jump, but they will do their job with most folk. And that’s because the setups and payoffs as well as how lovely each of the characters are make you care for them while hoping that the creepiness they’re dealing with doesn’t give way to something much worse.

7. The Inventiveness. Some genuine creepy set pieces and characters mix with the shot choices to evoke surprise and genuine interest in scenes that would otherwise feel familiar. Seriously, colour me impressed with the ideas in this film and how they’re shot.

6. The Pacing. Shit just moves well in this movie. Soon as one thing finishes something else starts. I enjoyed every bit of it.

5. The Simple Story. It’s a credit to the writers and director with how well this movie comes together. A lot of things seeded earlier in the film become apparent as integral pieces of the story as the end illuminates the beginning. You can only do that when you have firm grip on every detail of the story.

4. The Actors. Man o man, do you feel something for the Warrens, the kids’ mother, and the kids themselves. These guys just kill it.

3. The Weirdness. Some actual weird shit in this film, like the husband’s portrait of the demon-spirit – which becomes part of the story, hehe – and the Crooked Man to name a couple.

2. The ‘Only Fools Rush In…’ scene. Yep, this got me. Tugged on the ol’ heart strings.

1. The Nods to Classics. If you like The Exorcist, The Omen or Poltergeist then you’ll enjoy how much love those movies are shown in The Conjuring 2.

Go. Watch.