By: Jason Evans
This year I am kicking off a seven month series on the basics of writing diversity in your fiction. Whether you write dystopia or romance or science fiction. Right now, diversity in fiction is still a major issue. Over in Romance Writers of America, this very issue has led to a schism in that august organization. The question is why?
Like anything else, the question is never Why should we write diverse characters, but How do we go about it? How do I write diverse characters? How do I define the term? Where can I go for research? Once I’ve done the research and created an awesome character for my awesome story, how can I make sure I’m not offending anyone? Did I get it right?
These are all really great questions. They deserve sincere answers that can make navigating the waters of writing fiction at least clearer, if not easier. Well, fear not, gentle reader, I am here to help you. While I am no master at this craft, it seems to me that this is an obstacle that can be overcome with some patience, kindness, and honesty.
Topics in this Series
Here is how we will break down our topics over the next several months. Please be aware that this blog is only supposed to spark your curiosity and get you going in the right direction. It will not, nor can our conversation about diversity and representation be comprehensive. You have been forewarned.
For the next six months I will focus on different kinds of diversity, giving a snapshot on how to approach each subject as you write. Here’s the list:
May ~~ Ethnicity
June ~~ Sex
July ~~ Gender
August ~~ Sexual Orientation
September ~~ Physical Ability
October ~~ Neurodivergence/Neurotypical
The great thing about diversity and representation is that you don’t have to do it all. Choose one and dedicated yourself to doing it really well and you’ll be farther along the game than a lot of other people. It may seem daunting now, but you’ll be a better writer at the end of the process.
A Note on offense and Outrage.
I’m going to be blunt here. Somewhere down this road of diversity and inclusion and representation you are going to offend somebody. It is inevitable. You’re going to use the wrong tone or the wrong pronoun. You’re going to disappoint some people and flat out enrage others. You’re going to get bad book reviews. People are going to call you names.
So what do you do?
You stop and you listen.
See, many of the groups we’re talking about have been so misrepresented that these marginalized groups are hypervigilant against being misrepresented again.
I teach a class at writing conferences called How to write authentic African-American Characters. After spending about half the class time going over the history of African-Americans in the United States, I talk about the stereotypes you see routinely in literature and film. None of them are negative or outright hurtful. All of them are one dimensional and antiquated. The process of creating authentic African-American characters requires people outside the African-American community to sincerely listen to us in the community in order to get better. All I’m asking is that you do the same.
Listen. Find sensitivity readers and get honest feedback. If someone confronts you about your story, listen to their concerns and promise to do better. The fact that they want to talk to you at all means that they believed you wrote in good faith. That is a compliment.
Are you ready? Good. Next month we’ll answer why we should do this kind of work at all. See you then and happy writing.
Jason Evans always wanted to be a writer; he just didn’t know it. After attending college and working in education, Jason’s life changed when he fell in love with the Fetching Mrs. Evans. After over a decade as a teacher in public and private schools, he discovered the wonderful writing community in Colorado, where he still lives. Jason is an educator, and a historian (as well as a bon vivant,) who is active in the Colorado writing community as a teacher and speaker. Visit Jason’s website for more about Jason and his publication.