In this episode of Doing Diversity in Writing, we—Bethany and Mariëlle—talk about marking the unmarked. It’s the first episode of three on the topic.
To listen to the episode, find us on Podbean or your favourite podcast app.
What we talked about
- what we mean by “marked” and “unmarked”
- how conscious marking and unmarking in our stories make us better writers
- the “Everyman” archetype in literature
- how the “unmarked” in Western society is slowly losing that privilege and how uncomfortable that is for them
Quotes from this week’s episode
“As writers, we mark all the time, we mark characters, we mark landscapes, items, ideas, pretty much anything that is in our stories gets either marked or is left unmarked, and both are significant and influence the reader’s experience.”
“Marking and unmarking happens all the time for our characters, they do it, and we do it for them above and beyond that. For example, how we describe our character marks or unmarks them, and how they describe or ‘see’ the world is also an act of marking or unmarking. Such actions can even drive a story.”
“When I’m writing a character, I’ll consider things like, ‘Do they wish they weren’t lost in the crowd, do they want to be marked and recognized or do they just want to finally be left alone and invisible? How do their desires show up in their language and how they mark others?”
“This Everyman character can be set into a world or extraordinary and act as the connection to the reader, much like the main character clutching his towel through The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He’s supposed to be the character readers identify with so they can access an alien landscape through him.”
(Re)sources mentioned on the show
- More information on the Russian linguist, Nikolai Trubetzkoy, can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolai_Trubetzkoy
- The encyclopedia.com entry “Marked and unmarked terms”: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/marked-and-unmarked-terms
- Deborah Tannen’s “There’s No Unmarked Woman”, printed in the New York Times as “Wears Jump Suit. Sensible Shoes. Uses Husband’s Last Name”: https://www.nytimes.com/1993/06/20/magazine/wears-jump-suit-sensible-shoes-uses-husbands-last-name.html
- Bethany’s book Edit Your Novel’s Structure: Tips, Tricks, and Checklists to Get You from Start to Finish: https://theartandscienceofwords.com/new-book-for-authors
- “The US will become ‘minority white’ in 2045, Census projects”: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2018/03/14/the-us-will-become-minority-white-in-2045-census-projects/
- “When Britain becomes ‘majority minority’”: https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/when-britain-becomes-majority-minority
- “Marking the unmarked category” by Paul Campos: https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2019/03/marking-unmarked-category
- For more information on Mariëlle intensive 3-Month 1:1 Coaching for Writers Programme and to enrol, please visit her website: https://mswordsmith.nl/coachingforwriters2022
To be the first to know when our next episode drops, subscribe to our newsletter here.
As always, we’d love for you to join the conversation by filling out our questionnaires:
Our Doing Diversity in Writing – Writer Questionnaire can be filled in here.
Our Doing Diversity in Writing – Reader Questionnaire can be filled in here.