February 11, 2008

The secret to writing Indians

Beverly Slapin's How To Write A Historical Young Adult Novel With An Indian Theme (For Fun And Profit)1. Name your characters in the traditional Indian way, using the formula that has been followed for decades: an adjective or participle followed by a noun. The adjective should be a color, the participle should imply animal or supernatural skills, and the noun should be an animal or natural occurrence or weapon. Young children are always named with a diminutive adjective followed by a predator (if a boy) or cute baby animal or form of flora (if a girl), and elders should always have the adjective “gray” in their names.

2. Take get extra points for using the terms “brave,” “maiden,” and “papoose,” instead of “man,” “woman,” and “baby.” Don’t bother with “squaw.” It’s controversial. Also take extra points for the number of times you refer to Indian eyes and hair as “dark” or “black.” And remember: Almost all of your male characters should be referred to as “warriors,” whether or not they have ever seen battle.

3. Never, ever have your Indian characters use contractions. Indians did not do that. And, whenever possible, make sure your Indians eschew articles, conjunctions, adverbs. The clunkier the dialogue, the more authentically Indian it will appear. And if you want to create really authentic Indian speech, think Tonto.
(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 2/7/08.)


Anonymous said...

This is a joke right?

Rob said...

Yes, you could call it a joke. It's a satire.

Anonymous said...

It's sorta hard to tell for me anymore sadly, having been through screenplay workshops that sometimes teach rules that sound as ridiculous as these.