Friday, May 7, 2021

Embracing the Marginalized: Writing Characters Who Are Considered Different by guest T.I. Lowe

Let's give today's guest author T.I. Lowe a warm Seekerville welcome as she shares her heart for writing characters who are considered different by embracing the marginalized.

I was asked the following question in an interview for my book Under the Magnolias and thought I would elaborate on it for you in this post:

Why did you choose to represent characters who are “marginalized” or “misunderstood” in this book?

My answer: I am just so tired of the labels and the unrealistic boxes society creates and expects you to live up to. That’s hogwash. If God wanted us all to fit in the same box, he would have created us as carbon copies. He didn’t, so that means it’s a gift to be different and I think differences should be celebrated. I did a lot of celebrating this in Under the Magnolias.

That’s the blunt answer, and I feel like bluntness is needed for this question. No beating around the bush.

As a writer, I think it would be an injustice to write solely about cookie-cutter characters. I don’t know about you, but I’m a hot mess. I have issues. I’m pudgy. When I’m nervous, I cannot find eloquence to save my life. And those are just some of my issues. Other folks have other issues. Honestly, that’s what makes them interesting in my book.

My desire is to showcase differences, in all forms, and to have people realize how unnecessary labels and boxes are. The ones who are typically overlooked are the ones I always gravitate toward when investing in character studies.

Labels created by society come with scarlet letters of shame. Body-shaming. Race shaming. Gender shaming. Social views shaming. I could go on and on. If one person reads Under the Magnolias and can relate to one of the marginalized characters and realize they are perfectly acceptable as is, then I’ve done the job I wanted to achieve.

Here’s a sneak peek at the interesting mix of characters you will meet in Under the Magnolias.

As the piano came to life, I sat a little straighter and scanned the small pews and felt certain the ragtag congregation near about represented any walk of life you could think of.

A fortune-teller accused of being a witch doctor. Check.

An ex-con with a glass eye. Check.

An atheist believer with a Polish accent. Check.

The town’s undertaker whose sexual orientation was questionable. Check.

The town floozy with a penchant for neon-blue eye shadow. Check.

A poor farming family with way too many kids. Check.

A madman leading them. Check.

As you can see in this small excerpt, there is quite a colorful group of people just waiting to introduce themselves to you. Sadly, they carry labels and shame formed from falsities and gossip. Mostly because those characters didn’t look or act like the “normal” townsfolk. Surfaces can be deceiving, but with a closer look, my readers are going to meet a spectacular group of people.

It’s time to stop the shaming and start being encouragers. I know this sounds more like a soapbox speech, but I think it’s important to grasp, in real life and in fiction. And as a Christian author, I feel like it’s my duty to love as Jesus loved. That means encouraging and not shaming. I want people to read my stories and see themselves walking through the mistakes with my characters, and I want them to celebrate in the moments of redemption as well.

Sometimes our issues or the labels placed on us due to our issues hold us back from seeking help when we need it. Shame will send us into hiding. Readers will discover how detrimental this is in Under the Magnolias. My characters hide behind the labels, become prisoners to them actually, until it almost becomes their ruin.

As a writer I have the gift of giving the story a happy ending. Sadly, this isn’t always the case in real life. Please, if you are struggling with any form of mental illness or have been hiding some other issue, I want to encourage you to get help. As Austin Foster discovers in this book, you’d be surprised how supportive those around you can be if you just let them in.

Is there a marginalized character you’ve discovered in a book you related to? If so, what book and how did it affect you? 

Share your thoughts in the comments and one reader will win a print copy of Under the Magnolias courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers.

Under the Magnolias
Releasing May 4, 2021
This night not only marked the end to the drought, but also the end to the long-held secret we’d kept hidden under the magnolias.

Magnolia, South Carolina, 1980

Austin Foster is barely a teenager when her mama dies giving birth to twins, leaving her to pick up the pieces while holding her six siblings together and doing her best to stop her daddy from retreating into his personal darkness.

Scratching out a living on the family’s tobacco farm is as tough as it gets. When a few random acts of kindness help to ease the Fosters’ hardships, Austin finds herself relying upon some of Magnolia’s most colorful citizens for friendship and more. But it’s next to impossible to hide the truth about the goings-on at Nolia Farms, and Austin’s desperate attempts to save face all but break her.

Just when it seems she might have something more waiting for her—with the son of a wealthy local family who she’s crushed on for years—her father makes a choice that will crack wide-open the family’s secrets and lead to a public reckoning. There are consequences for loving a boy like Vance Cumberland, but there is also freedom in the truth.

T. I. Lowe’s gritty yet tender and uplifting tale reminds us that a great story can break your heart . . . then heal it in the best possible way.

T. I. Lowe
is an ordinary country girl who loves to tell extraordinary stories and is the author of nearly twenty published novels, including her debut, Lulu's Café, a number one bestseller. She lives with her husband and family in coastal South Carolina. Find her at or on Facebook (T.I.Lowe), Instagram (tilowe), and Twitter (@TiLowe).


  1. T.I., this sounds powerful and so right for this time in history.

  2. Welcome, TI!

    As I read your post, I was thinking about how all of us are far from perfect, but it's those imperfections that make us human. I love celebrating the differences between us! It reminds me of the verses in the Bible that list the different spiritual gifts - if we were all an eye, or all a hand, the Body wouldn't be able to function.

    Thanks for the great thoughts this morning!

  3. Under the Magnolia's sounds wonderful.
    Your post makes me consider my characters and just how well I mix them up (or not).
    I give them emotional and sometimes physical struggles but are they truly different? I'm not so sure. Your post will make me look deeper. Thank you.

  4. Love your books, T.I. and am anxious to read this one...thanks for the giveaway. As an avid reader, I DO often identify with characters in books.....too many times to

    1. that's what makes a book go from good to great, i think - don't you, Jackie? When we're able to identify with the characters we're reading :)

    2. Aww. Thank you Jackie! I do the same when I read books. 😊

  5. Such a great post, T.I. Thanks for being with us today on Seekerville.

    When I started writing, my characters were picture perfect. And oh so boring! Thank goodness I realized they needed to just as flawed as I am. :)

    My daughter teaches special needs children who are often considered marginalized. She sees their strengths and abilities and has passed on her love for "her kids" to me! All God's children are beautiful...warts and all!

    1. Thank you, Debby! I love visiting Seekerville!
      Ans your daughter is my hero! We all need her eyes. ❤️

  6. Hi T.J.

    When I saw the cover of your book, "Under the Magnolias", I had two immediate thoughts.

    Carson McCullers and the "Ballad of the Sad Café", and this question: "have you even been under a Magnolia tree?" Those big fallen flowers can get pretty rank. I've had southerners tell me they would not have a Magnolia tree in their yards for any amount of money.

    Do you consider the Magnolia a marginalized tree? Is that why you chose that title? Also would you consider yourself to be a Southern Gothic writer?

    There is one fictional character that really moved me, as a teenager, though she actually was a real person. When I was in Paris I went to visit her grave in Montmartre Cemetery. The caretaker there was kind enough to tell me her real name, Marie Duplessis, so I could locate the grave.

    The character is Marguerite Gautier in "La Dame Aux Cammile" who in time became a cookie-cutter character of sorts, (i.e. the courtesan with a heart of gold) when she was used by Vedri in "La Traviata" (Violetta) and to a degree by Puccini in "La Boheme",(Mimi) and probably Kitty in "Gunsmoke".

    I know that this was not the best character to impress a teenager but back then we were told not to trust anyone over 30! And fathers were usually over 30 by that time. :O)

    1. "I've had southerners tell me they would not have a Magnolia tree in their yards for any amount of money." and yet they're all over the place down here ;)

      Thanks for commenting on T.I.'s post, Vjnce (lol)

    2. Vince, I love the magnolia tree in our yard! Our church has several (and our previous church did, too), and they are gorgeous! Never had a problem with fallen blooms. :)

    3. Hi Vince! I just planted a Magnolia tree in our yard. They are all over the place in SC. I have been under a tree or two, the ones that have been pruned. I chose this tree because it’s a self-contained tree. One that hides its mess underneath. That is a reflection of the story.
      I think I’m just plain ole Southern. Thank you for your thoughts!

    4. The library I frequent in Iowa has the most beautiful Magnolia tree. It seems like the magnificent flowers bloom and then are gone so fast. I wonder if they last longer down south.
      I've always wanted one, but then I've killed a lot of plants. I've learned to curb the impulse to plant delicate things.

    5. My dad, who lives in Florida, says a magnolia tree is the perfect tree for your neighbor to have. :) You get to look at and admire it, but you don't have to clean up beneath it! :)

    6. I think that those most likely not to like the Magnolia tree are the ones who have to cut the grass. I agree with Erica. I do love looking at other people's Magnolia trees. It is a beautiful tree.

  7. I love this post so much, Tonya! Makes me even more excited to read Under the Magnolias!!!

  8. T.I. there are so many ways we (even unknowingly) shame each other today. This story sounds like a beautiful one. I love authentic characters. It sounds like you share some deep truths about accepting people, regardless of how "normal" they are. I don't know any truly "normal" person. We all have so much more to offer than "normal" permits.

    1. Amen, Jeanne! I agree that there is no such thing as normal and that’s perfectly ok! 😊❤️

  9. T.I., what a wonderful post! I love the idea of making readers feel accepted for who they are. That's been one of the themes in my stories. I look forward to reading your book!

  10. There is such beauty in what others consider our 'brokenness' and I love that you celebrate that beauty in this story. Perfect characters are so boring...and imperfect characters are so relatable!

  11. Thank you so much T.I. for sharing your post and for writing characters that are more true to life. We need more CF to reflect that!

  12. Thanks, Lee-Ann! I think so too!

  13. Thank you for inviting me to Seekerville today!

  14. I loved Under the Magnolias! A brilliant story, and a must-read if you’re interested in learning more about mental illness and mental health issues. Thank you T.I. Lowe for writing Under the Magnolias and bringing light to the stories of people who are marginalised in our society.

    1. Thank you, Narelle. I love your name, by the way. I wrote this book to understand mental illness and its effect on not just the person inflicted but those closest to them. I also wanted to show how wonderful "marginalized" characters truly are, they just need a closer look sometimes.

  15. Wonderful post, T.I. This story sounds so realistic and intriguing. I've put this book on my wish list. I've heard so many great things about it!

  16. Hi T.J.

    I just read the prologue to "Under the Magnolias" and I loved your marvelous description of what goes on under the Magnolias. Very fine writing. I just ordered a copy.

    1. Aww, Vince! Thanks!! I truly hope you enjoy it!


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