Diversity is Beautiful … Isn't It?
Diversity is a beautiful thing. It makes the world a more interesting place, and when writers add diversity into their stories, it only enhances the story in which they are telling.
Romances become more complicated, making the end even more satisfying or tragic.
Adventures becomes more grand, more epic.
Mysteries leave the reader guessing with every page, unable to spot the plot twist that is coming, leaving them in awe and wonder when the truth is revealed.
At least, that's the way I see it.
Stories where the characters all look the same, dress the same, behave the same, believe the same … well, they're usually boring. At least, I lose interest in them quickly unless there's a good reason why they're all the same.
Like in the 1960 movie version of The Time Machine where all the characters in the future were white, with blonde hair, and wearing togas. Sometimes it can work out depending on the story you are trying to tell.
It also depends on the time and region where your story takes place. Some books will have all black characters, some will have all yellow, some will have all red, some will have all white, and some will have all brown, but there is still plenty of room for diversity even when that happens.
The wonderful thing about writing Fantasy is, not only do I have a variety of humans, but I also have an overflowing melting pot of Dwarves, Elves, Centaurs, Mermaids, Satyrs, Dryads, and so much more! Sometimes, I sit and imagine the characters, watching as they interact with one another, and I chuckle at some of the antics they come up with.
I've always told myself I would stay within my comfort zone while writing, but my characters had something else in mind.
One character was not cooperating with me at all, until one day I realized ... he's gay! I did not choose to make him gay, and, in fact, I was scared of adding a gay character because I did not want to get something wrong and offend anyone. However, when I made that change, everything about that character began to fall into place, and, where I once considered cutting him out of the story because he was being so difficult, I now consider him one of my favorites.
The thing about diversity - in my opinion - is to avoid stereotypes, unless the stereotype actually goes with the story. It most cases, it won't, so it's best to do research, find beta readers, or even hire sensitivity readers if you're that worried about offending someone.
However, lately, I've been seeing a lot of disturbing posts where people are telling writers they can't write a gay character because they're not gay, or they can't write about a black character because they're not black, et cetera.
Well, I'm not an Elf, so should I not write about Elves? I'm not a man, so should I have no male characters?
Am I only allowed to write about married middle-aged white women, with kids, who are straight, religious, moderate, with a bad dye job, crippling anxiety and depression, and graves disease?
That sounds like a recipe for failure. If I somehow managed to publish that book, I could see it collecting dust on a bookstore shelf or landing in the dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish) pile.
Stop telling writers what they can or cannot write.
Don't ask for more diversity, more representation, and then turn around and - in that same breath - scold writers when they do exactly what you asked for.
And, to my fellow writers, you're not going to please everyone. No matter how many beta readers you have, no matter how many sensativy readers you hire, someone, somewhere will be offended and make a huge mountain out of a mole hill.
So, write what you want to write, and add as many colorful and interesting characters to your story as you would like.
I guarantee the number of readers you offend will pale in comparison to the number of readers who will fall in love with your story, because you wrote from the heart, and those are the stories that last throughout time.
It's day one of NaNoWriMo! Good luck to everyone participating!
(This post was originally posted to my old blog on 11/1/19. Since then, I have received a complaint because the only examples of diversity I used were either race or sexual preference, and this reader was hoping to see other forms of diversity mentioned as well. I used these two examples because they are the most common, but because I also briefly mentioned there are plenty of ways for diversity to be added in stories with characters who are all one race. I just didn't get into specifics. You can obviously have characters who are physically, emotionally, or even mentally scarred or disabled. You can make them perky, grumpy, charismatic, or sad. You can have one who likes country, and another who lives for heavy metal. One gets her clothes from department stores, the other shops at thrift stores. Diversity is everywhere, and if you feel there aren't enough books that represent the kind of diversity you're looking for, then perhaps you need to write it.)