I went and changed the skin color of Alene – the character I’m working on developing. At first I thought this would be a difficult change for me as a writer, but pretty soon I realized it wasn’t. Since Alene lives in a fantasy world I’ve made up myself there’s no reason people from her part of the world can’t have brown skin by default. So, technically, I didn’t change the color of just her skin, but the color of most everyone else in that part of the world as well. There are other regions where other skin colors are more common.
The reason the idea of changing her skin color came up is that I wanted to use her in a short story challenge I’m thinking of entering. The topic of the challenge is Diversity in Science Fiction and Fantasy and it’s something I think is both important and interesting. I’ve taken part in my fair share of discussions on the topic, and it’s time I put my money where my mouth is and actually try my hand at it.
Part of Alene’s back story (which I’m currently working on), is that she’s left her homeland to see the world. Her travels will eventually bring her to the lands of the far north, where people by default won’t have brown skin (they’ll be some kind of pale white-ish pink). Having Alene stand out visually by changing the color of her skin will add some additional complications to her already difficult situation (she’s a shape shifter – and she’s not happy about it).
The change will also present me, her writer, with some new and interesting challenges. Sure, there are elves and dwarves and anfylk in the world already, but intra-species racism among humans may very well be an issue anyway. If she looks different, she must be different, right? Maybe she’s a half-elf, or maybe she eats little babies for breakfast, or something equally outrageous.
There will be prejudices that she’ll have to deal with. On top of that, her traveling companion will have to deal with her dealing with the prejudices, and that in turn may affect how he feels about the world and his place in it. In short, it will get complicated and almost certainly messy.
I think this change will be a good one, both for the story and for me as a writer. I’m not sure how Alene will feel about it, but that’s something I will find out along the way.