Today’s post is something I’m pretty passionate about, so I think it’s time to talk about it!
For most people, diversity is either something they see as a big negative when reading, or the exact opposite. Unfortunately, we’re in an age where hearing the word diversity can make us hesitant. The problem with the word today is that it is often a forced diversity. It’s pretty clear that certain characters are a certain race, gender, size, or even personality type simply because it’s going to sell better or make the story more appealing to marginalized people.
That is not why we should be diverse in our writing, though.
We should be diverse because God did not create human beings to all be the same. We are all wonderfully unique and so when writing a book that is striving to be original but also believable, diversity should be a part of that.
When I was a child, I was always looking for the brown-haired, brown-eyed girl who fought the bad guys with weapons just like the boys did. Thankfully, I had books like Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Ascendance trilogy where there were plenty of female character to root for. The thing is, people enjoy characters that are most like themselves. I believe that every little boy and girl, every teen guy and girl, every man and woman deserve to have a character they can relate to.
But on the same note, I think we can get so caught up in being diverse, that we cease to tell our own story, but instead everyone else’s. The thing is, it’s not your duty as a writer to make sure that everyone can relate and not criticize your stories. You have to tell the story that you want to tell. But, if it doesn’t change the plot at all, what’s the harm in making a character a person of color? Or of a certain religion? Or with a certain disability? In the end, all that can do is make some reader happy to know that there are characters like them.
Along with that, though, there are some things that are not being diverse. For instance:
- The strong, independent woman
- Having the token person of color
- Girl power
- A character having a disability that has no bearing in their life
And these are just a few. The ones I stated above are actually so common that they’re cliches. Using them in your story does not give you diversity points. In fact, it probably just means that you’re trying to have a successful novel and not necessarily a well-written one.
The last thing I’d like to touch on is that there is one aspect of diversity that is rarely touched on, and almost never done right. And that is physical appearance. Thankfully, we’re in an age where many different races are getting a chance to be the voice of a book, but I’m talking more about size, shape, physical disabilities, and beauty. Where are my brown-eyed characters? Where are my plus-sized characters? Where are my disabled characters? Where are my characters with acne, scars (non-aesthetic ones), crooked noses, lop-sided smiles, big ears, small eyes, and more? Where are my flawed characters? Why is everyone always gorgeous? And I mean this seriously. In nearly every book I’ve read, the characters are described as being physically attractive and oftentimes cosmetically perfect.
I struggle with this myself, so no judgement here. But I can’t help but think how many insecure people might be encouraged simply from knowing that even the people in books aren’t perfect.
So, what are your thoughts on diversity? Do you think we need more of it, less of it, or perhaps everything is good just the way it is? I plan on doing a post about the cliche of “strong, independent woman” soon, so stay tuned!