We use guidelines from “How to Tell the Difference” (Oyate, 2000) [PDF Version] to evaluate Native American and Indigenous characters/themes in submitted fanfictions.
Given the anonymous nature of fanfiction and Ghosts’ being an ensemble show, Section M is not required for a fanfiction to be added to the site.
We also highly consider storylines submitted fanfictions as outlined in “I’m Writing a Native Character…Now What?” (Native American and Indiginous Writers Committee, Writer’s Guild of America West, 2021).
- Writing About Native Americans: A Diversity Conversation with Kara Stewart—Kara Stewart is an enrolled member of the Sappony and has served a number of terms on the North Carolina State Advisory Council on Indian Education, as well as her Tribal council. The post contains many links and resources for writing indigenous characters and contemporary issues in indigenous writing.
- Indian 101 for Writers—Kara Stewart and Alison DeLuca co-wrote this five part traveling blog series. It can be used as a mini-course.
- “I’m Writing a Native Character…Now What?” (Native American and Indiginous Writers Committee, Writer’s Guild of America West, 2021)—This presentation also includes a dictionary of terms and background on indigenous populations of the US/Canada.
If you’re looking to write a character of color, (in our case most likely Alberta), here are some resources. One particularly great resource used to compile this abridged list is What White Writers Should Know About Telling Black Stories.
Guidelines for Writing Stories with Black Characters
We use these guidelines to evaluate Black characters/culture in submitted fanfictions.
- Don’t highlight or over-describe the race of Black characters. You don’t need to use food-related descriptors like “chocolate,” or “coffee,” to describe skin tone. Avoid describing a character of color as “the dark man” or “the brown woman,” unless you are doing the same thing with your white characters.
- If you’re not fluent in AAVE, don’t use it. AAVE stands for African American Vernacular English, and is considered a language of its own. If you’re white, you have no reason to use it to write your fic. Don’t try to emulate language from a culture you don’t know or understand. Oftentimes the overuse or improper use of AAVE, in addition to the use of poor grammar, can be seen as a caricature pertaining to characters of color. More on the history of AAVE can be found here.
- Avoid stereotypes. Don’t assume a Black character likes or dislikes a certain type of food, music, or pop culture. Avoid insinuating that Black characters are dirty, unkempt, angry, or illiterate. These and more are all stereotypes ascribed to characters of color in various forms of harmful media over the years. More information on the harmful history of stereotypes can be found here.
- Use proper language. One of the most important things to remember when writing Black characters is to choose the proper terminology. Do not use slurs in your writing. No one wants to read a story where characters are using the n-word. Avoid referring to Black people as ‘Negros’ or ‘colored people.’ Please, say “Black people” instead of “Blacks.” Additionally, when referring to the race of Black people, always capitalize the word ‘Black,’ like you would capitalize ‘American’ or ‘Jewish.’ These are simple terms to avoid not only in your writing, but also in your everyday life. More information on using proper terminology when writing about race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status can be found here.
These are not necessarily requirements, but they are recommendations for properly writing Black characters and stories.
- Write complex Black characters. The main purpose of a Black character’s story should not be to support the white characters. We recognize this is an ensemble show, and not every character can be the center of every story. Some questions to ask may be: Who else is in the background with your characters of color? Pay attention to what motivates your character to be supportive; what do they get out of it? How does this help further their personal journey?
Give them the same psychological and moral complexity as you would your white characters. Give them multifaceted identities that go beyond their race. Show that you understand Black characters don’t exist to be the caretakers of white characters.
- Do your research. As in any of your writing, doing your own research is imperative. Africa is the second largest continent on Earth, with 54 different countries and thousands of ethnic groups. Make sure you understand the culture and history of the character(s) you’re writing. When writing Alberta specifically, remember she lived in the Prohibition Era when slavery was technically abolished, but racism was still hugely prevalent in society. She talks in canon about her struggles as a Black woman trying to make a name for herself to make her immigrant father proud. Take this all into account when you are writing her character, or delving further into her backstory.
In general, queer characters are often treated terribly in a lot of media. They fall victim to harmful stereotypes, insensitive language, and troubling coming out storylines.
Ghosts has done a great job of not doing this, so let’s extend the wonderful treatment of the queer characters of the show by doing the same in our writing.
Guidelines for Writing Stories with Queer Characters
We use these guidelines to evaluate Queer characters/themes in submitted fanfictions.
- Avoid ascribing queer characters unnecessary suffering related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Of course (almost) all of the characters in the show are dead, and have their fair share of trauma, but needlessly putting them through more trauma because of their sexual orientation/gender is not recommended. If you’re writing a queer angst piece, perhaps a coming out gone wrong, think about why you’re writing a story solely about queer angst. Is this something personal for you? If it’s not, take a step back and evaluate the real purpose behind the story you’re trying to tell. Give us conflict in your story, but don’t make the queer characters the only ones suffering. Let your queer characters strive for the same levels of sadness and dysfunction as the rest of your straight characters.
- Watch your language. Writing diverse queer characters is a great thing! Just make sure you know what you’re talking about. Using proper terminology is very important, and can help prevent any unintentional homophobia. You can find an ongoing list of queer terminology here.
- Be mindful of stereotypes. Ghosts CBS uses its fair share of stereotypes, and while at times they can serve a comedic purpose, be mindful of how you use them. Lighthearted tropes about enjoying musical theater or discussing fashion are one thing, but there are also more seriously harmful stereotypes. Untrue ideas related to gender presentation and sexual promiscuity are often used to dehumanize queer people, and it’s always best to avoid promoting these ideas in your writing. When employing less serious stereotypes in your writing, make sure you separate them from the harmful ones. For example, in the show Isaac is a gay man who enjoys musical theater, it’s never even vaguely insinuated that he is sinful or dangerous because of his sexuality. This is a proper use of stereotypes that doesn’t allow for any further harm. You can find more information on queer stereotypes using this source.
These are not necessarily requirements, but they are recommendations for properly writing Queer characters and stories.
- Write in-depth queer characters. If you’re choosing to include queer characters in your story, make sure they aren’t one dimensional, or that their entire personality doesn’t revolve around their queerness. Ghosts CBS has their fair share of gay jokes with Isaac, but he isn’t just a gay man, he’s also a Captain, a friend, and a love interest. Give your queer characters dimension.
- Do your research. If you’re writing about attitudes towards queer people/topics in history, research is important! Do you know what the laws on sodomy actually were when Nigel and Isaac fought in the Revolutionary War? Find out before you write about possible persecution.
Gender/Sexuality Specific Tips
- Bisexual Characters. When writing bisexual characters, it’s important that you write them the same as you would the rest of your queer characters. They aren’t any less queer if they’re in a hetero-presenting relationship. They’re still part of the community even if they’re dating someone of the opposite gender. For more information on how to write bisexual characters you can use this source.
- Asexual Characters. When writing asexual characters, it’s important that you don’t confuse them with aromantic people (people who don’t experience romantic attraction.) It’s also important that you don’t portray asexuality as a choice or something that can be ‘fixed’ by finding the right person. For more information on how to write asexual characters, you can use this source.
- Transgender Characters. When writing transgender characters, be careful with your use of gendered language. It’s important that you know what your overall message is in your story. Is this a coming out journey for your transgender character? Is this an intimate moment with someone they love? Or are they already out and proud, just living their life? Research is imperative if you intend on writing about transitioning. For more information on how to write transgender characters, you can use this source.
- Nonbinary/Genderqueer Characters. When writing nonbinary or genderqueer characters, understand that most nonbinary people have different views about their gender identity and expression that are highly personal to them. Some nonbinary people feel as though they are both male and female, and some don’t feel associated with gender at all. Those are just two examples of a wide variety of people’s experiences with gender. Gender identity and gender expression don’t always match, keep this in mind when writing a nonbinary character. For more information on how to write nonbinary/genderqueer characters, you can use this source.
- Two-Spirit Characters. When writing two-spirit characters, understand that this term is not simply used to refer to someone who is Native American and gay. In most tribes, two-spirit people were not seen as men or women, rather they had their own distinct gender status. While two-spirit people commonly do form same-sex relationships, there is more to being two-spirit than just one’s attractions. For more information on how to write two-spirit characters, you can use this source.
We are currently in the process of making a ‘Contact Us’ page for all sections of our website. Until then, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns you may have pertaining to the fanfiction section of our site!