This has been a topic i’ve seen come up a lot on some of the writing platforms I visit. Most notably the NaNoWriMo forums. Though, typical me I lose interest around the third or fourth page of comments. But the question has brought me to analyze my writing once more. How do I diversity my characters in my novels, and should I even try?
Media these days as well as the internet seems to make a big deal over casting decisions, about how minorities are being portrayed on the small and big screen. Is main stream novels getting the same feedback? I actually don’t know the answer to this question but it has made me want to branch out and experiment with new characters. Being a white, straight, female most of my main characters follow the same, almost stereotypical traits. Still, I worry that i’m falling into some sort of trap of using the same characters from the same european backgrounds, white, straight and so forth.
I want my writing to stand out, I think all writers, especially aspiring ones want to, but in today’s world, with the growth of visual representations how important is it for me to showcase minorities? I mean as long as I’ve managed to write a compelling novel, with in-depth and interesting characters, is it really important that I manage to cover all my bases?
I have actually tried this already. For my Paranormal novel that i’m still working on, I wanted to display a ‘scooby-gang’ group of Ghost Hunters, throwing together different backgrounds to make a more of unique and unusual click. It was a struggle, trying to find the common ground between my six characters so that they can eventually work together. Since i’ve placed the setting of this group in Northern Canada, I unwieldy narrowed my gap on expanding into diversity, though I really wanted to make sure one of my characters was a Native American. Though there is so much worry over how to create a proper representation of that group of people. I want to show my respect and make a character that is well rounded and balance, but at the same time grew up on a reservation. Having never experienced that, it was hard for me to try and grasp how this character’s life must have been like.
Thankfully I have an online friend who is from a native background, and I was able to have a very honest discussion about how I can describe my native character, what is considered insulting and slurs and how to avoid the stereotypes surrounding them. I was even able to send him my character sheet, including my background and received his blessing, which I very much appreciate!
I also wanted to create some inner conflict for this group to help add some depth to the characters, as I won’t be able to focus on all six equally in one novel. To do this i’ve added a French-Canadian Roman Catholic and pitted her against a Wiccan/Demonlogist who is also part of the group. The rest of the gang, yup, you guess it is… white.
I had been focused on creating characters who can cause some internal conflict to build upon to not realizes what I just did. Because of that, there is still time for me to make changes. I’ve already began to think about reworking my wiccan into someone with more of an Asian background, though part of my problem is that much of northern Canada is isolated with a few communities and from the last I knew still mostly european and native backgrounds. It’s unfortunate, but true.
Diversity also includes sexual orientation, and for the most part in my writings i’ve tried to avoid anything too romantic happening to my characters. Probably because i’ve never had much of a romantic life until recently. If i do include anything I keep it pretty pg13.
I have attempted to write a gay character for my past NaNoWriMo novel, though i’m really worried that I did step onto some stereotypical traits and would be looking for someone else to read it and make sure i haven’t made a fool of myself. Still, I’ve grown to love this character, and actually wrote more around him than I originally anticipated. Will this novel ever see the light of day? Who knows but i am attempting to break out of my shell and write different type of characters that I’m used to.
The main reason why i’m asking about this now is that i’ve got a new sic-fi novel in my head that I’ll be writing this november. A futuristic story set several hundred years into the future with colonizing other planets. I want to show that not only is the setting and those around my main characters are diverse, but that it’s common place. The last thing I want to do is try to put a spotlight on this, I don’t think that is the way. So my challenge before me is now is to figure out to add such diversity into my future works subtly and realistically. Would making a colleague of last names help? Do I need to describe every person my main character comes across to make my point?
I’m not sure how to do this and know I will need to start to expand my readings. So i’m asking if anyone knows of some good books that either deals with minorities such as I’ve described above me, I would also like to start reading books dealing with the LGBT communities. I’m interesting in knowing what has been written already and how others have managed to surpass this impasse.