Author seeking help creating authentic Taiwanese character


I’m an author in the US writing my thirty-first novel, which features a Taiwanese hero who emigrated to the US with his parents when he was ten. I have done a great deal of research and have a native Taiwanese woman who will help me with questions and accuracy, but I’m always looking for more voices and input and am leery of relying on her voice alone to help correct me. I live in Iowa (the middle of the country) and I have never traveled to Taiwan.

What I’m hoping for is to be able to come to this thread and ask specific questions when I have them, but I’m also looking for anyone who might be willing to email/message with me offline for more in-depth questions, and my greatest hope is that I can find someone to read the full novel when the draft is finish to help me with a sensitivity read. That would be a paid position, and a priority would be given to someone who is LGBT, as this is a novel featuring a gay character.

Thank you in advance for any help you would be able to give me. I’ve enjoyed looking around this forum and hope to get to know you better. :smile:

If you’d like to learn more about me and my work before you reply, here is my Heidi Cullinan website.


Heidi Cullinan


Good luck :grinning:


A woman making a living writing about gay men. Is that not appropriation? And now moving into different ethnicities. I’m outraged.


I’m sorry I offend you. Please feel free to ignore my question. For further background on me for those interested, I am a queer woman active in LGBT rights in my area and have worked since 2003 to help achieve marriage equality for my state and then my country. My works feature love stories aimed at a commercial market, but activism is always part of my message and several of my books are overt about it. The reason I have focused on gay men in the past is complicated and not germane to this topic, but I am happy to discuss outside of this thread. I am finally going to be able to write my first lesbian stories this year, which I’m very excited about. However, I do wish to discuss Taiwan and this character’s culture and to learn, though I’m always happy to clarify misconceptions about who I am if it makes people more willing to talk to me. Thank you. :smile:


You should include a time setting. Is it set in 21st century?
Post-WW2 setting. Third Son is a good, short book to read.


See his name? Ignore him.


Yes, thank you. This is a modern story, set in present day. The characters are all in the US, and the character in question has lived the majority of his life here and is a naturalized US citizen. However, his family moved here with him, and his sister, whom he is closest to, spent even more time there. It’s the culture I most want to get right. I’ve learned a great deal from research but in my experience researching often the more I try to make an aspect of a story accurate the more questions I have, which is why I’m looking for resources and people to help correct me. Books and articles can’t talk back to me and tell me when I’m heading in the wrong direction.


I apologize. I was only kidding and you sound like you’re fun.

If your pay rate is good I’m willing to self-identify as a gay Taiwanese guy who moved to America. Into fetching if that helps.


And I’ll check out Third Son, thank you very much!


I think that is why Michener’s books were 1000+ pages. No question unanswered.
Good luck to you!


I immigrated to the US when I was around that age with my parents. Should base it on my life. I’ve seen some shit. I also have a sister, she spent more time there and lives there now.

Why does the guy have to be gay?

Honestly, I’m bored as fuck and many people know here I’m a total narcissist so I’d would like someone to write a character based on me. id probably give you some ideas and my own stories and experiences that are wayyyyy outside of the norm for most Taiwanese guys that immigrated to the Us.


Taiwanese-American culture is noticably different from that of Taiwanese in Taiwan. From what I understand, the gay culture is different too. (Whether there is any such thing as a distinct Taiwanese-American gay culture, is an interesting question.)

I’m not in the targeted category, but would be happy to help if I can. I collect English-language fiction about Taiwan, and know of several examples with gay authors.


There’s an LGBT forum here under the Life heading. That might be a better place to post your request than the Living in Taiwan forum.


That’s sort of my experience. If you have any questions I’d be glad to answer them.


Thank you for all the responses. I did hesitate over which category to put this under, but I ended up here because the LGBT aspect (because of when the character emigrated) would be more US than Taiwan-focused, except home life, and that is always subjective to the individual family anyway. I’m more interested in customs, even simple things like did I name everyone correctly, things that are difficult to research. But I have considered taking this thread there too, so thank you for that reinforcement. If it’s okay I might double it there at some point.

I’m really interested in everything and anything I can get thrown at me; in my experience writing a novel is a lot of collecting of information and then using strange bits of string to make things, as you never know what will spark stuff until it does. So anyone who is willing to let me ask questions, I’m very appreciative. Thank you.


Hi, Andrew, thank you very much for your reply. The character is gay because I’m an author of LGBT fiction, but it’s simply another detail about him. You could also ask “why does he have to be a surgeon?” or “why does he have to be Taiwanese-American?” Mostly because he does in this story.

You sound like you would make quite an intriguing character, so I hope someone does base a character on you. Would you prefer I ask you questions publicly, or privately? I’m fine either way. Thank you. :smile:


I would say if you want the full story, privately. Although I’m not sure if I can give you much about the experiences of a gay Taiwanese immigrant in the US.

I feel like sexuality is a big part of a character, and I don’t know if I can accurate depict how it’s like being a immigrant Taiwanese Asian male in the gay community in the US.


Jer-ming is built like a traditional three-sided courtyard house. He wears blue and white flip flops, drives a small blue truck, and likes his fish with the head on. The tree at the park loves it when Jer-ming pushes against it as he does his morning exercise. The bumpy rocks on the park trail prepare themselves for his glistening bare feet . . .
Fireworks and Tuina (medicinal massages) are his passions. But Jer-ming has been working out since he was teased in Guo-xiao san-nian-ji (3rd grade), and his body weight is now chiseled . . . 3% body fat.
Jer-ming still wears those third grade sports clothes from back in San Chung, but the seams are stretched like a bow strained.


Hi, Dawud, thank you for your reply. You made me curious about Taiwanese-American gay culture! Of course I Googled it and found nothing, but I had to try.

In my story, I had the grandparents, parents, and the main character and his sister move to the US when he was ten. His father had been here studying to be a doctor until that point, but when he took a residency, the family came over and moved to Texas. I wanted the character to be young enough to grow up feeling somewhat American but also remember clearly being Taiwanese. I’m not making ethnicity a major plot point of the story (as in, he is not having angst about it nor is he being grossly mistreated) but I did want to honor that sense of feeling somewhat split and out of place, that he has difficulty figuring out exactly where he belongs.

The parents are highly successful and motivated to succeed and to see their children succeed; I saw them as (but am happy to be corrected if this is inaccurate) people who would keep culture and traditions alive but mostly fixate on establishing their children in this new culture, wanting them to do well and prosper. To this end, they have pushed a little too hard at times, which has caused some conflict, especially with the main character. Especially since he was growing up in Texas–gay and an immigrant in Texas–his parents didn’t quite appreciate everything he was dealing with, and he didn’t tell them.

So some of what I’m looking for are questions about the grandparents, who would be most traditionalist: they’re the support team who raised the character and his sister. They made comfort food at home and drove the kids to school, comforted them when things were difficult, so they were imparting a lot of the values. The parents became big picture at major life points: what schools to attend, which lessons to take, how long to practice, whether or not to stop, why they had to do this thing even if they didn’t want to or understand.

Okay I feel like I’ve said plenty here, and so I’ll stop for now. Though my biggest question and the one I’m most nervous about is whether or not I named my character correctly. I tried to research Taiwanese names but also choose names with meanings that meant something to my story, though now the trouble is I really like the name he ended up with, so I hope it’s okay. His name is Hong-Wei. Really hoping that works.


Lol I grew up in Texas after moving there.