Lack of Representation: My
Villain Writing Origin Story
Writing didn’t come to me as easily as reading did, it took me a while to accept that writing was what I wanted to do most of my life really. I dabbled in fashion designing the one dress I knew how to draw well, journalism until I realized I would have to stay awake at odd hours and have no social life (look at me doing those things now anyway) and finally decided to pursue something in publishing and social media because I spend all my time tweeting about books anyway.
When I wrote my first story at eleven, I named the twin protagonists after my brother and myself, and even wrote my parents into it. But with one major difference – they were all living in America and were white. I remember setting the whole story, my parents, brother, everyone else I knew in a small town in America from one of the other YA books I’d read. I’ve never even been to America, all I know about it is from TV shows and movies and books – so many books.
Even back then, I’d pinpointed an important trend in the books I was reading – the protagonists were white, they weren’t set anywhere in Asia and they definitely didn’t have any issues other than finding some mystical treasure to save the world or choosing between two lovers. So, wanting to be successful, I chose to write about something I had absolutely no idea about rather than write about my own life, what I knew best.
So, I went on, writing about twins who were twelve whose lives change when they’re sent to a boarding school and they’re separated for the first time and realize they have telepathic powers. Some other stuff happened, and then the pages of the notebook ran out and I got distracted with the professors introducing the alphabet into equations.
The next big thing I tried to write was when I was sixteen, when I was consuming dystopian and fantasy fiction in YA by the kilo every month. From the obscure to the popular, I’ve read pretty much everything that included some sort of love triangle in the wake of a crumbling society. College was the first time I was exposed to books that contained protagonists of colour, of books set across the world but it still wasn’t enough to change my primary influence of American and British novels with white protagonists.
That’s why, when I was sixteen, I wrote about a young girl in her early twenties going to France and meeting a guy and having a whirlwind adventure and falling in love and some drama while they explored France. Truth be told, it was just a way for me to incorporate and practice the French I was learning then, from unnecessary facts about Frances’s ports to them teaching each other how to speak basic French, my story was a tutorial in disguise. But that was important was that this time, I made the protagonist brown. I kept the guy white, thinking a hero like that would appeal more to the masses and maybe they would “forgive” me for having a brown protagonist. [Thankfully, in the past two years there has been an incredibly boosting surge of protagonists of colour, of settings that are not America and Europe, of protagonists who are broken and flawed and human, and I can finally see myself in the type of books I love to read and that has inspired me to write what I want to, and now what I should, in order to sell.]
I actually wrote the French love story for my first NaNoWriMo, the same year I started blogging. I wrote fifty thousand words of that novel and it’s still around somewhere, deep in the recesses of google drive. That was one of the last things I wrote for a long time. Then came a period of intense self-doubt and depreciation, which meant I wouldn’t write anything (except blog posts, though even those dwindled).
When I figured out that I wanted to get my Masters immediately after my BA, I knew I wouldn’t survive another year of reading literature I couldn’t bear and that meant I would take a huge chance and choose Creative Writing. I applied to a couple universities, writing for the first time in three years – writing something that wasn’t an essay for class or wasn’t half bullshit for an assignment, heck, I even wrote a bit of poetry that I’m sort of proud of but didn’t send it in. It was too precious to be used as a writing sample.
And now here we are, I’m almost done with my first term and I’m procrastinating writing my final pieces by writing this long and rambling blog post. But I know a few aspects of my final pieces – they’re going to be set in India, and they’re going to feature brown people. Now that I’m experiencing it, I finally truly understand diaspora, I have a new-found desperation to write about home, to connect in any way I can, to express my longing for the food and the people and to feel like I belong somewhere – even if it is only within my words.
I know I haven’t written in a while. It’s been a chaotic few months, filled with loads of changes – some of which were my choice, others, that weren’t. But there’s another post coming your way around the end of this month – my annual recap, which is easy to write so hopefully I don’t procrastinate writing it too much. It’ll include all the fun aspects of my life – depression, nihilism, and graduation from Xavier’s (which I miss incredibly).
Until next time,