On Writers Helping Writers:
In the last two years, diversity in fiction has become more and more prevalent. We’ve seen blockbuster film and TV hits from award winning books like The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas or Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. The positive side to this is that marginalized authors are having their stories published in their own voices. This also goes some way to removing hurtful stereotypes from the past.
But what about authors writing diverse characters when they’re not part of that diverse group themselves. Is that okay? As with all things, it depends on how it’s handled, but we’ve all seen vitriolic social media reactions toward authors who’ve gotten something wrong when writing diverse characters. Even books vetted by sensitivity readers aren’t immune to scathing criticism and (sometimes) online bullying. This response has made many people wary of writing characters who are different from them.
So many writers edge back to the traditional safe ground of writing what they know. But all this does is create fear. And we know what fear does: it cripples and blinds, muting the voices that would tell the stories the world so desperately needs to hear.
It’s okay to write diverse characters as long as we do our homework and avoid hurtful stereotypes. Here are some tips for how to write a character who’s different from you.