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Diversity in books is a big deal these days. Especially in YA.
And understandably so. Everyone wants to be represented. And they want to relate to characters. I get that. I like characters better when I can relate to them or when they are like me in some way. We’re all like that.
And it is not good when the diverse characters are represented inaccurately. So writers should research about the kind of character they want to write.
But amid all the hype of diverse characters, I think a lot of people are forgetting a few things.
1. Diversity does not only mean different.
By this I mean that diverse people are still people and should be written as people before anything else. They should be given goals and life situations and hopes and fears before anything else. And yes, maybe their diverseness somehow affects these things. Take that into consideration, by all means.
A friend of mine has the opinion that girls and boys are no different except anatomically. That lives are shaped by past and culture. I’m still running the argument through my head and thinking about it (still not sure I agree 100%), but I do know that, with this opinion, my male friend has written a really good female POV.
The point? Don’t think of any character, main or otherwise, just as what diversity they represent. Give them lives.
2. Why are you writing a diverse character?
I’m serious. Why? Are you writing it so you can feel good for including a (insert three minorities here)? Are you doing it so you don’t get fussed about for being a person who only writes certain characters?
Those are good motives, but they aren’t very honest. And this seems to be more concerned with how other people think of you. The flip side of that coin is that if you write minority groups, you will still have someone somewhere upset with you. Allow me to burst your bubble.
YOU WILL NEVER PLEASE EVERYONE. SOMEONE WILL ALWAYS HAVE A PROBLEM WITH YOUR BOOK.
You can write diverse characters just because you want to try it or it sounds fun. You can write diverse characters because you are diverse in some way. But if you don’t want to write them and you’re writing them so people will like you…
You do not have to write minorities. You should probably at least try at some point (because writers should always try something new so that they can expand their skills) and you should always be considerate of minority groups, but you do not have to write anything you don’t want to.
PLEASE. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS SANE. WRITE WHAT YOU WANT.
This brings me to point three.
3. Write a good story.
There are things every reader prefers and doesn’t prefer. You can write a cast of characters as diverse as pizza flavors, but if your story is Contemporary YA, chances are good that I won’t read it. Just because I don’t usually read Contemporary. On that that thread, neither will I read a story solely about a LGBT character coming out or about a black character learning to accept or stand up against prejudice or a girl “being strong”, etc.. I personally need more than that to a story. (Oh. I’m also not going to read a romance between two kids with cancer. That’s just because I don’t like being sad.)
But if you write a good story and intrigue me with the synopsis and all my friends are saying “KATIE YOU HAVE TO READ THIS”, then I will probably will read it, YA Contemporary or not.
That being said…
Write a good story and I truly will not care what minorities you’ve represented if you did it well.
Welcome to Night Vale
It’s a podcast story told like a radio show. The main character, a radio show host, reports on the events of a small town called Night Vale, which is really rather creepy and morbid, but it’s all normal to the residents.
The main character is also openly gay. And I don’t care. The story is not solely about that. The fact that the male MC has a boyfriend only compliments the rest of the story.
I do not care about the male to female ratio in any given story. I do not care if the main character is a girl or a boy. I do not care if the main character is white, black, Asian, purple, or chartreuse! You can write a transparent, transgender extra-terrestrial and I will not care AS LONG AS THE STORY IS WELL WRITTEN.
So, to sum this all up…