Writing Diversity

Disclaimer and Warning: This post is entirely my opinions. You are entitled to yours and I am entitled to mine. If you disagree and want to say so, please do so politely in the comment section. If you agree and want to say so, please do so in the comment section and do so considerately. Any comments that do not conform to my commenting policy will be edited or deleted, depending on severity. Multiple comments of bad form will result in the commenter being marked as a spammer and, if applicable, I will remove myself from their following. Thank you and we now return to our regularly scheduled program. 

Hi, guys.

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.

Example?

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…

Write what you want.

Don’t write cardboard.

Write a good story.

Don’t forget to be awesome.

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13 thoughts on “Writing Diversity

  1. One of the best posts on diverse writing that I have ever seen. This is definitely a contrast to everything else about diverse YA that seems to be taking over the writing advice universe. I completely agree that you’ll never write something that will make everyone happy…you just need to write for you.

  2. “You will never please everyone. Someone will always have a problem with your book.” — This is so true. Why? Because everyone is different, with different opinions and experiences and likes and dislikes.

    Also, it’s a good point that bottom line the most important thing is to write a good story. People are going to know if you wrote something because you thought you “should.” It will feel silted and unnatural. It’s the same thing with trying to write a story “about” a theme, which I’d be the first to admit I’m guilty of. The theme has to come from the story, not the story from the theme.

    That being said, I do care what the character is like, and if they are completely different from me, I’m going to have a hard time relating to them. And depending on how they’re different from me, I may not be comfortable reading about them at all. Kind of how I wouldn’t be comfortable “hanging out with” some people for extended periods of time. And that is where I believe it comes down to the message the story is sending, and whether or not I consider the message worthy of my attention.

    Purposefully keeping this general, because that’s me, and in compliance with your disclaimer up there. 🙂 Which, by the way, made me giggle for some reason. Apologies.

  3. YES, YES, YES. Great post! 🙂 I couldn’t agree more. You put everything so eloquently and diplomatically. Allow me to give you all gold stars and applaud this post.

  4. YES YES YES YES. Everything about this. These are my feelings exactly and I’m so glad someone agrees. *shares everywhere*

    Also, kudos to you for writing this so respectfully and elegantly.

  5. *Applauds.*

    Fantastic post, Lady K. Ditto Cookie Monster about writing this so well. I’m going to share this all the places too.

    I agree with what you and Amanda said about there being certain things I would not read about, nor will I read about certain themes, but the same can be said of everyone. It’s a fact of life.

    *More applause.*

  6. Yes. Yes yes yes.

    Maybe I should say more than that. Hehe, I pretty much agree with all of it. For most of my stories, I try to let the characters each have their own voices and so they’ll be whoever they want to be, whether that ends up being something common or whether that fits into a minority. That’s probably why when I was planning my NaNo novel and I had five PoV characters—four of them ended up being female. It had nothing to do with minorities and this latest “strong heroines” craze, but simply because…the characters told me they were all girls. Except that one. (And I don’t think it had anything to do with me preferring to write one gender over the other, either. I used to only write females, but in the past couple years, almost every single one of my favorites of my own characters have been the guys, rather than the girls. *shrugs* I enjoy writing both genders.)

    Anyway. Yeah. Good post. Writing well’s the key.

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