Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Let's Talk Multi-Cultural Romance Today!


Now, before I go any further, this does not make it a multi-cultural blog simply because I threw in a Spanish word. Along the same lines, if my name was Jose, that doesn't fix it either. Unfortunately, I see a lot of projects that come across my desk that seem to think this is all that is required.

Multi-cultural romances really have a lot more depth to them. In many ways, the approach you take with this sub-genre is the same you would take with an inspirational romance. You have to have a theme you are working with and then build the story around it.

First of all, before we go any further, it is important that we define the concept of culture.

-Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving.
-Culture is the systems of knowledge shared by a relatively large group of people.
-Culture is communication, communication is culture.
-Culture in its broadest sense is cultivated behavior; that is the totality of a person's learned, accumulated experience which is socially transmitted, or more briefly, behavior through social learning.
-A culture is a way of life of a group of people--the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.
-Culture is symbolic communication. Some of its symbols include a group's skills, knowledge, attitudes, values, and motives. The meanings of the symbols are learned and deliberately perpetuated in a society through its institutions.
-Culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behavior acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievement of human groups, including their embodiments in artifacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas and especially their attached values; culture systems may, on the one hand, be considered as products of action, on the other hand, as conditioning influences upon further action.
-Culture is the sum of total of the learned behavior of a group of people that are generally considered to be the tradition of that people and are transmitted from generation to generation.
-Culture is a collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.

Now, with these broad (and I stress really broad) definitions of culture, we can start to examine the concept of multi-cultural romances. One common thing I see a lot of are inter-racial romances being marketed as multi-cultural romances. You will notice in the above definitions that race is not a factor. While many people from a given race may be part of a culture, it doesn't work in reverse. Along the same lines, someone who is Jewish building a romance wit the other person who is Catholic is not a multi-cultural romance. Sure there are conflicts but that falls outside of the definition.

What we want to see is a romance built around a clash of cultural beliefs and ideals. In other words, the external conflict in the relationship really is watching the hero and heroine attempt to work though these differences in beliefs and traditions. For example, you may have a hero that is coming from a mid-eastern country and views the world from an Islamic point of view. Now we insert the heroine with strong western ideologies. In this case, they have to work through not only language and religion, but also the perception of clothing, the female postion in the world and so forth. This is a multi-cultural romance.

So, if you are someone wishing to pitch a story like this, think what the theme is that you want to work through. Also, remember that we are not talking about simply race or religion.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post. The concept of worldview really is a critical understanding. Often when I'm working on a piece with translators in Iraq, there are head/desk moments when I just can't communicate what a piece is trying to say. There simply aren't words. I think I'll sit back for a moment and try to shape that experience for my characters. It'll be a great exercise at the least.